Toadstools and macramé and orange couches, oh my!

My husband was telling me about one of his colleagues, who, several years ago, had purchased a showhome, built in 1982. This large house has great “bones” – high ceilings, a giant kitchen, numerous bathrooms, and a big yard. The only problem is that it was built in early 1980s glory, and all of the expensive add-ons were, to express it mildly, dated. For example, this man was looking at painting all the extensive oak featured throughout the house. Remember when oak was where it was at? Apparently painting over oak feature walls and built-in cabinetry is quite an expensive and time-consuming undertaking.

The whole conversation made me contemplate changing fashions in home décor. When I first moved out, everything was in that late Nineties colour scheme of forest green, dark blue, and burgundy. That was a change from the earlier fashion of country florals and pastels, which had organically developed from the afore-mentioned oak features and bird-of-paradise bedspreads. But when I was a child, it was all about leftover décor from the Seventies.

Oh, the Seventies: era of disco balls and sparkly jumpsuits, plaid leisure suits and giant moustaches, chest hair and Farrah Fawcett hair. It was a strange time for fashion in general, but the trend in home décor was really something else.

Halloween 1981 001

Please ignore the fact that I’m dressed as a culturally-insensitive gypsy for Halloween. It was a very popular option back in the day. I was thrilled to wear blue eyeshadow up to my eyebrows, but that is beside the point. I would like you to note the following details: the brown fridge, the crockpot, the Tupperware, the mug tree, and the little ceramic frog that held a scouring pad in its gaping mouth. These were things that were common to many houses in this era, but see if you can note something that made our kitchen particularly special: the wallpaper. That cheerful wallpaper had a pattern of fruits, kitchen supplies, and, oddly enough, wine bottles.


You’ll note the stacking stools in the background. They were of the orange and brown floral that was such an important part of Seventies decorating…

littlehouse 001

…as you can see. Wood panelled walls, along with that couch, were the epitome of suburban 1970s décor. Didn’t everyone have that couch, or an iteration of it in the Seventies? If you didn’t have that plush beauty, likely you had this one:


There are so many details that I would like to point out here; the couch is the least of them. The hanging candle balls in the cast-iron candle holder. The lamp. The ashtray shaped like a toadstool. Ceramic ashtrays alone seem so quaint – no one smokes in the house anymore! – but a TOADSTOOL ashtray? Toadstools were a very important image in Seventies decorating, but not as important as macramé.

Oh, the ubiquitous macramé owl. Most bathrooms had at least one hanging on their walls. In my house, we had an abundance of macramé hanging plant holders that suspended our dangly spider plants from the ceiling.

Do people still have hanging houseplants? I love to garden but I don’t love houseplants; the only ones we have in the house are two cacti and one succulent, and those live in the boys’ rooms and are their responsibilities. When I was growing up my mom had dozens of plants: finicky African violets that would die if you got water on their fuzzy leaves, giant ferns in barrel-sized pots, miniature trees, ivies, and, of course, the hanging spider plants. It was a lot of work to take care of all those plants, I imagine. Not as much work as it would be to macramé the hangers or crochet every afghan and decorative pillow cover in the house the way my mother did, mind you. But still.

I’m sure one day my grandchildren will look at photos of my house and wonder what Grandma was thinking with those paint colours, and who in their right mind would have chosen that style of countertop? In the same way I might look askance at a wall mural of a sunset or an in-house sauna, my grandchildren will probably wonder why I installed a rain shower, or who in their right mind would think it was a good idea to buy stainless steel appliances. But I stand by my decorating decisions, just as our parents stood by their brown and orange floral or plaid couches, with the simple explanation, It was the style at the time.


3 thoughts on “Toadstools and macramé and orange couches, oh my!

  1. I could hardly wait to comment! Oh, the orange, brown and yellow of the seventies. How well I remember our “goldenrod” cabinets and cream, yellow, and brown linoleum in the kitchen. Then recently I was struck by a memory, and it seemed we’d had a brown refrigerator, but I wasn’t sure. Later came across a picture of me at about two years old with the brown fridge in the background. I felt vindicated, but also wondered why anyone would want a large appliance in the color of, well, poop.

    We didn’t have the macrame plant hanger, but my grandmother did. I loved it.


  2. I did, I did have a plush beauty just like that one, and then Matt and I used it in two apartments before we finally binned it. I once took a craft class at the library with a bunch of other kids where we made the macramé owl. And the frog with the kitchen scrubber – yes yes yes. I don’t remember toadstools, but that’s likely just my failing memory. And someone gave us forest green and burgundy towels for our wedding. Sigh.


  3. These could basically be pictures of my own childhood home. I had no idea every single thing, down to the ceramic scrubber-holding frog, was so ubiquitous. I think it’s safe to say that NO ONE misses the 70s. SHIVER.


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