Battier Homes and Gardens, 70s Style

Retina-burning color schemes, shag carpeting you could lose a small child in, and wall art with demonic influence... Such was the decor of the 70s. Here at The Thrift Shop Romantic, I always say you can learn a lot from the past. And in this case, it's sort of like learning from the lessons of World War II-- we need to understand what happened, so it never, ever happens again.

To be honest, the books that I'm about to show you did have some fairly liveable rooms in them. Rooms with, perhaps, trendy colors of the time, or with a distinctive 70s feel to them, but they were still rooms that were comfortable. Practical. The Everyhouse.

Then there are the ones I'll highlight today.

Open up the Better Homes and Gardens Decorating Book, and one of the first lessons you get is on color...

This is what chicken pox would look like if it were interpreted as a living room. The book tells us:
"Warm colors, the tangy tones of sun and earth, bring vitality and light to shadowy rooms. Red, yellow and orange, set against subtle wood and grass cloth sufraces, make this room bright, alive and exciting."

I'm not exactly sure where the grass cloth surfaces are here, but maybe it's just the vibrating glare that's caused me to miss them. All I see is a color scheme which makes a McDonald's play area look "restrained" and "understated." Note the lonely animal print pillow on the couch, echoing the circles in the wall art. It's like a poor leopard kitten got lost in the middle of the Mojave desert at sunset. And it's frightened.

Next we have our first example of questionable artwork...

The book reads as follows:
"Mushroom stools alternate lively hues in this scheme. When you choose cool colors like this, it's a good idea to warm them a bit with a touch of color from the sunny side of the spectrum."

Which is apparently where the malevolent, man-eating lion yarn-art in argyle comes in. Somehow the sly, hungry look on its face doesn't convey "sun" and warm good cheer to me.

Note how the narrowness of the ledge makes it impossible for it to be used for actual.. oh... sitting. Or leaning... And the stools are so high up under it, you probably couldn't get your legs under the ledge, anyway. Impractical AND mystifying.... just what the modern 70s woman looks for in decor!

Well, let's move onto the kiddies' room.

Here the caption reads:
"For the nursery set, but especially for the mother, this room is delightfully fresh."
Fresh, and already inhabited by trolls, it seems. Look- there's one now, coming to steal the baby away to their daisy-covered mound!...

Look at the expression on that doll's face. Any child growing up in this room is going to need serious therapy. And possibly allergy shots. I wonder what the color of that fabric is, "Pollen 109"? And dig that kelly green paint on the antique rocker. Yes, indeed, the Victorians were really big on woodwork the color of a billiard table, let me tell ya.

Well, maybe you're looking for new ideas for a zingy livingroom scheme. How about bringing your guests here?...

This room has it all. Orange, hot pink, lime green, florals and stripes... Won't your best chums Alice and Peggy just think this is to DIE FOR? Especially that wall art! Let's get a closer look at that, shall we?

Nothing says cutting-edge decor and good taste like a cartoon marker drawing of a sad, sad child. It's just one of those pieces that you never get tired of looking at.

And then there's this example of a den.

The caption urges us to look at the "striking window treatment," but me, I can't take my eyes off that carpet of dried tobbaccy. You can't even see where the chair meets the floor, the weeds are so high. Wait a moment, I'll get my push mower and be right back.

Ah, but even more treasures await in Creative Decorating on a Budget:

This book is after my own heart-- demonstrating creative ways to make your home look expensive without spending a lot of money. And how do they suggest we do that? Well, one way is here...

In the section "Furniture Flair at a Fraction of the Cost," they tell us the secret to the, er, successful room above:

"For table-top, cut a 60-inch circle out of a table tennis top: use leftover wood for shelf of serving buffet. Set table top on a 2-foot chimney flue liner and support with iron brackets. Cover laminated plastic."

Okay, so let me get this straight. You can't afford a table. So you buy a TABLE-TENNIS TABLE and cut a huge circle out of it. And also buy a chimney flue liner. And brackets. So, er, HOW is this cheaper?

Presumably if you already have a table tennis table, little Timmy and Susie are going to be pretty disappointed when they decide to renact Chris Everett or John McInroe's last match, and they're missing a giant sphere out of the center. And I'd be taking bets on who the first guest would be to fall off those wicker tuffets. I'm putting my money on Great-Aunt Celia after her third Pink Squirrel.

Lastly, we have a hand-made headboard, designed to bring us many nights of restful slumber...

Okay, I'm not resting. Is it just me or does this headboard look... violent? Like eventually there will be heads on those pikes?

Well, with visions of the Elizabethan justice system, that pretty much wraps up this Sunday's post.

Happy Spring to you, my friends! See you again soon.


white o'morn cottage said...

Now there's a bed to have insomnia in! Great!...Pam

Amy said...

I actually like the first one but the rest? hmmm yep I'm with you, they're likely to give someone nightmares. You've gotta wonder what was going through their minds back then...

Michaele said...

Oh my goodness, those are GREAT! Horribly great! Sometimes we figure out what style we *do* like by exorcising all the ones we DON'T! Thanks for sharing!

Lidian said...

I am always wary of the word "tangy" in retro books, cookbooks or decorating books - it just never works out.

You are so funny! I love reading your take on this sort of thing.

RecycleCindy said...

Oh boy you’ve got to love some of those absolutely crazy 70s decors. And some of those colors are just hideous. But that was the 1970s, we loved it then or at least some of it back then. Thanks for the fun and entertaining walk down this colorful memory lane.

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Sorry, Pam, if your sleep is restless this evening. :)

Amy- I can see where the first one (toned down slightly in the color palette) would work well today. Some things, however, really shouldn't have a resurgence.

Michaele- I think the 70s was a real test time-- new materials, new colors... Hopefully, we learned something from it. :)

Lidian- I think you have a point about "tangy". It is perhaps the food and color equivalent of "unique fixxer upper opportunity.":)

Cindy- it's so funny to read where they talk about using colors next to each other on the color wheel. Everything I'd ever learned about color was in choosing opposites, complimentary colors. But not in the 70s, oh no! :)

Greg said...

Wait, I thought "Cabbages" was the funny blog?! OMG, my EYES!!!

Must you make us relive the 70s over and over? JK, this stuff is comic thrifting gold, it is. Bright goldenrod gold. I have to say I applaud their willingness to play with color...

...but somewhere things just go badly awry. That lion thing is downright EV-ILLLL...and even the daisy print (which would be quite cool with the scale reduced by a third) is sort of frightening, especially when coupled with the head pikes. AHHHH!!

(I can't help be reminded of the hand-carved cradle Homer carved for baby Bart: Can't sleep: clown'll eat me.)

And what, I beg you, is the point of the sad children art school. Mom had/has one of those, and I always thought it a little creepy. Was her obvious misfortune meant to make us feel better about our station?

Chicken pox, ack, I had them thrice! You slay me. : )

Greg said...

Actually, our sad eyed painted was all done in muted, sad earthtones, in a faux oil fashion.

This one looks like she was your Raggedy Ann's best friend and just finished reading the post about poor Ann's fate.

Marybeth said...

Jen..those lovely stools are made of 2 wheels welded together. Those were the envy of every hippy home. Between painting decorative bricks & boards for bookcases and even giving the wheels a "lace" paint job your home could be the envy of any college student or one who thought you has a little decorating creativity! I actually did this with wheels!! Marybeth

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Greg- Ha, yep, I remember the "Can't sleep, clown'll eat me" thing. In fact, I lived that.... though that story might be one well-suited for "Cabbages," now that I think of it.

I will be sending you a sad, sad child artwork for Christmas. I bet you can't wait. :)

Marybeth- AH! I see it now! That makes sense. I actually kind of like the stools, (bet they were massively heavy, though). It's really the lion art that scares me. I'm sure someone's sweet and beloved grandmother made it, and it holds great memories for someone. But yikes...)

Rosemary said...

Didn't like the 70's decor in the 70's, and still don't like it.
Thanks for sharing. When I got married in 1976, we had a beautiful burnt orange, brown, and avocado green couch. My mom had gold shag carpeting, that you could lose stuff in.
What were they thinking?

Marybeth said...

Jen, I'll bet the lion art is latch hooked... kinda' reminds me of the happy-hands-at-home kind of art that we did in those days..scary this thoughts and memories of yesta-year!!! Marybeth

Sindhu said...

Hi Jen:

You have got a gift in my blog pls collect it.


Mitzi said...

Great post! I am getting ready to do some similar ones with my early 60's BH&G books. I actually like a lot of those 60's rooms though, unlike these that just tend to hurt... I do like the headboard though, maybe I have an S&M fetish I am repressing? ;)

Anonymous said...

I have been laughing my ass off! Damn, girl!Since I'm 61 years old, I remember this time well. It was just wrong! Thanks, I needed that.

Chyna said...


That is hilarious!!! For the one with the wonderful window treatments and the dried tobaccy carpeting. I didn't notice the nasty carpet until you mentioned it. My poor eyes managed to skip over the horror of the room and hone in on those treatments. I love them! The carpet that no vacuum on this earth could ever clean, EEEEKKKK!

chyna said...

You'd be a sad child too if you had to live in those rooms. Maybe it was to contrast with the "happy" colors used thru out. I've never understood the sad child artwork either, and yet my generation is looked down upon for having so many problems. Wonder why? LOL

Rose Mary said...

It's just too scary, isn't it? I was a teenager in that wonderful era (LOL) and wonder how we ever managed to come out of it without serious eye damage from all that ultra bright color.

Once, thinking we could improve on what we were living in at the time, my hubby and I went to look at used mobile homes. Back then the 'newer' used ones were from the 70s. One had a kitchen done in that lovely purple and lime green that was in one of your illustrations above. It also had a room that had not only purple and lime shag carpet on the floor, but on ALL OF THE WALLS!! We couldn't get out of there fast enough--and went home satisfied with our own humble abode:)


Blog Lady Dee, Blog Lady Elle said...

The nursery reminds me of my bedroom. I picked out the same wallpaper at 13. It's still on the wall--the folks weren't much for redecorating. The best part about it was my room was the brightest room in the house. The rest of the house is early very 50's dark dark woods. I still do love the orignal pastel tile in the bathrooms though.

Thanks for reminding me of home.

Blog Lady Dee

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Rosemary- you totally described the house I lived in growing up. I STILL haven't recovered from the orange.

Marybeth- you crack ME up.

Sindhu- thanks so much, I will check it out.

Mitzi- I need to stop by and check out what you've been up to. :)

Sharon- thanks so much for visiting and glad you've gotten a laugh and some memories brought back.

Chyna- you're too funny-- and I think your theory about the art leading to the need for therapy might just be right!

Rose Mary- I SO don't picture you with a 70s trailer. No, no, no, it's so much better you have the Cordwood Cabin!

Dee and Elle- glad to stir up images of home!

Anonymous said...

Love Cabbages and Kings, too. Your blogs are a lot more fun than watching my face wrinkle. Now I'll just call them "laugh lines."

Sher said...

What a Snidely Whiplash kind of look on that lion's face! Looks like he just ate Dorothy...

Anonymous said...

I get such a kick out of these kind of old books and magazines! I wonder - what were they thinking?!? But then... it just makes me wonder in twenty years, what will people be laughing at that we think is excellent now?