Oh, it’s so good, it’s so good, it’s so good, it’s so good, it’s so good…” At Gufram’s show in Milan this April, disco beats belted from the sound system while design insiders admired the Dance Floor rug by Parisian designers Gaëlle Gabillet and Stéphane Villard. The duo compared their collaboration with Gufram to the sublime proto‑synthpop pairing of Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder: “Just like Donna and Giorgio, we share with this company the love to play.” Surrounded by the strobing stripes of GGSV’s carpet, purple cumulo nimbus shaped upholstery and mirrorballs, the interiors world instantly felt looooooooove for ’70s design.
Daring and glamorous, fun and funky, the retro‑futuristic furniture in the pop-up discotheque was inspired by the radical design firm’s history of creating nightclubs. Charley Vezza, Gufram’s CEO and creative director, on a mission to make the interiors world a groovier place, says: “We do playful things, we do joyful things, we do crazy things, we do colourful things.” He adds: “With Disco Gufram, every floor can be a dancefloor and every room can be a ballroom.” Like many of the current wave of creatives behind the ’70s style revival, the 31-year-old Vezza has no memory of the decade that gave us a global oil crisis (twice), the opening of Centre Georges Pompidou and the launch of the movie known then simply as Star Wars. Vezza’s far-out furniture is inspired by the Linea Discoteca, a ’70s and ’80s range of seating discovered in Gufram’s archives and reinvented by Alberto Biagetti and Laura Baldassari of Atelier Biagetti, “with the goal of taking it from the disco and putting it in contemporary living rooms”. The result is five lounge-tastic seats including the silver space-age Betsy (from €6,210), the plush purple Stanley (from €10,120) and the glorious golden styling of Jimmy (from €2,490), plus the GGSV rugs (€5,710). The look: pure Disco Inferno.
Seventies style has returned in a rich remix. No baked-bean-coloured pine, no primary-colour plastics or random rainbows. The fantasy nightclub is the muse of the current ’70s luxe trend. Most designers rekindling a love affair with the decade are taking the sophisticated nightspot as their inspiration: imagine an opulent, low-lit interior where Halston-clad jet-setters drape themselves over sleek sectional sofas – less Saturday Night Fever, more Studio 54. During the same Milan Design Week as Disco Gufram dazzled, a pop-up nightspot called Chez Nina – a collaboration between Nilufar Gallery and India Mahdavi – featured Mahdavi’s lush new velvets for Pierre Frey, while Studiopepe created a project called Club Unseen, evoking “the performances of the Radical Design Movement of the 1970s” with a set of supersized pieces in a futuristic lounge. “We love the aesthetics of the ’70s as well as its conceptual and radical approach,” says Arianna Lelli Mami, co-creative director. “Unfortunately, people are not quite ready to have radical or utopian houses right now.” But, she says, they are more willing to revisit the decorative bravery of the era.
DimoreStudio, the design duo who can be relied upon to offer an intriguing take on any trend, produced a show called Perfettamente Imperfetto inspired by “the Milanese and Roman salons of the 1970s. We’re always trying to experiment with different time periods and we’re drawn to the ’70s and early ’80s at the moment,” says Britt Moran, who founded DimoreStudio with partner Emiliano Salci and designed the Parisian apartment that teams bold pattern with a curved orange sofa. “We went to the shows for Fashion Week and we saw the use of music and all the references to the 1970s. We came across some images of the Milan apartment of Gabriella Crespi [the artist-designer whose most famous furniture and lighting designs date from the ’70s, who died last year] and we loved the use of natural fabrics, bamboo and grasscloth on the walls,” adds Moran. “The colours inspire us. We were at a market one day and we came across the Opium bottle for Yves Saint Laurent. The colour of the bottle was so incredibly chic for us, so we said let’s use that as a starting point. We then came up with this kind of mustard colour we really liked for all the mouldings and created this year’s gallery space.”
The colours of ’70s luxe – for those raised on the naturals and neutrals of early-21st-century good taste – are hues to make the heart sing. The warm terracotta of the scent bottle that caught the attention of the Dimore duo is the base note of a palette that features wine red, amber, gold and purple, plus accents of dusty pink and lilac. For the ultimate ’70s luxe purple, check out the colour of one of the Stellar globe lights (from £350) by Sebastian Herkner for Pulpo – such has been the light’s success that he’s now working on a wall version and a floor version. For deft deployment of ’70s-inspired colour combinations, look no further than the Como design studio Draga & Aurel that applies print and glossy resin to vintage Italian pieces. A sideboard – with paintwork shading from rust to amber to lavender – costs €12,000. Then there’s Kartell’s La Double J furniture range (Clap chairs, £447) and Hermès’ porcelain Terrasse, Raphia and Vannerie platters (from £260), reviving clashing pattern with a vibrant modern twist. The ultimate tawny hue can be found in the Stafa lights (from €8,400), made of Plexiglas and brass by Danish designer Vibeke Fonnesberg Schmidt. “When I saw the movie Star Wars again recently, I realised I’d inadvertently borrowed a shape from Anakin Skywalker’s podracer,” she says.
The popularity of this rich, earthy palette has opened the door to a revival of the leather sofa and classics like the CH102 sofa – designed by Hans Wegner for Carl Hansen & Søn in 1970 – are finding contemporary fans (CH103 sofa, from £7,251). Aside from hide, the key textures of ’70s luxe are lacquers and glossy resin finishes, velvets, metallics and… faux fur. Yes indeed, the shag is back. Just this year, Zinc Textile co-founder Justin Marr launched the Husky range of three-inch-pile fake furs (£170 per m) for interiors. “It has always been a look that resonated with me personally,” says Marr, who launched a range called 1973 three years ago, celebrating his fascination for foiled and digitally printed fabrics. “I was born in 1969 and had no adult life during this epic era, so I don’t quite understand why I’m so fixated with the architecture and design from the decade.” After years as an aesthetic outlier, he is delighted that many of his contemporaries in interiors now share his passion. “I used to have to find vintage furniture for our photography. Now manufacturers are reissuing designs they originally launched in the ’70s.” Among his favourite revivals is Pierre Paulin’s 1975 Pacha (from £1,499), named after the Ibiza nightclub that opened in 1973, which was originally produced by Artifort and has just been reissued by Gubi.
When most of us think of ’70s seating, we visualise those archetypal low-slung, modular sofas designed in the first half of the decade. Several are still the darlings of interior designers: Roche Bobois’ Mah Jong modular settees (elements from £1,000) designed by Hans Hopfer in 1971, the year of Cher’s Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves; Cassina’s Maralunga sofa (from £4,470) created by Vico Magistretti in 1973, when Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was released. And then there’s the quintessential ’70s settee, Ligne Roset’s Togo (from £1,360) designed by Michel Ducaroy in 1973, the year when David Bowie’s The Jean Genie climbed to number 2 in the UK charts.
Michel Roset, Ligne Roset’s managing director, remembers the launch of this groundbreaking sofa. “It was an exciting time. May 1968 [when civil unrest was sparked by student protests in Paris] had changed our society in so many ways. It was a world of new possibilities: travelling, finding independence, exploring identity and individuality,” he says. “I was listening to Simon & Garfunkel, Janis Joplin, The Doors and Pink Floyd. It was just before the arrival of the Sex Pistols and Sid Vicious and I was entranced by the sense of freedom and anarchy.” The innovative all-foam Togo, a sofa created for progressive lounging rather than polite perching, captured the vibe of the times and was an instant hit. “The ’70s were all about hope and individuality – daring to be different.”
British interior designer Daniel Hopwood, whose projects are known for their after-dark colour palette and cocktail-lounge cool, describes a growing appetite for interiors anarchy among his clients. “The thing you have to understand about the ’70s is they weren’t playing it safe – they were naughty,” says Hopwood, who has created interiors for hedgefund managers, a nightclub owner, foreign royalty and actors. “What they want… it’s beyond good taste. It’s daring. They are ready to leave behind safe design for something experimental. It’s not that earnest Scandinavian look they are after.”
The design world’s vogue for ’70s luxe marks an interesting moment. “I think it’s part of the rediscovery of that era’s radicality and seeing how it can be incorporated into these equally strange and changing times we find ourselves in now,” says Adam Nathaniel Furman. “I must say, I am a total sucker for ’70s design.” The artist-designer, who trained at the studio of Ron Arad, has become the go-to guy for thoughtful and spectacular, historically inspired installations. His Gateways – star of last year’s London Design Festival – was a giant set of arches at King’s Cross composed of a kaleidoscope of tiles, partially inspired by “the sports centres and public transport of the era”. For this year’s Milan Show, he produced a limited edition of oversized ceramic vessels (from €3,600) in collaboration with Bitossi Ceramiche, all in an eye-popping ’70s colour palette.
In the 2018 remix of ’70s style, the unexpected guest artiste is statement passementerie: extravagant, super-long silky fringes and tassels. Fringes cascade down the sides of Munna’s velvet sofas ($7,310) and armchairs; iBride launched the limited edition Crépuscule fringed drinks cabinet (€3,800) in Paris this year; Houtique’s Wink lights (£445) have lavish pink-trim eyelashes; and Hi Thanks Bye’s FO floor lamp ($1,100) boasts a glossy black moustache. Ahead of the game as ever, Milanese architect and designer Cristina Celestino created a fringed sideboard (£6,790) as part of her Sipario cabinet collection for Durame in 2016 – the same year as she designed The Happy Room for Fendi at Design Miami. The VIP lounge incorporated all the key elements of ’70s luxe – the slightly space-age rounded shapes and rich finishes alongside long, low-level seating – plus an element of jaw-dropping opulence. Sofas and cocktail chairs were finished with fur “skirts” and a folding screen incorporated panels of resin-covered mink.
The secret to this sexy ’70s look is glamour – setting the decadence dial to 10. For those who aren’t yet on board with faux fur or fringes, a good starting point for an instant hit of ’70s style is statement lighting designed by Gabriel Hendifar, co-founder of New York design label Apparatus. “It’s always the right time to revisit the 1970s,” says Hendifar. “There’s a specific blend of sophistication and lounge-y lushness that feels enduringly relevant.” Act III, his latest collection, references a box inlaid in the Persian khatam style, which his grandmother brought with her from Iran to the United States in 1979 as a political refugee. Light years from the poptastic fun of Gufram, Hendifar’s Talisman 8 pendant light ($9,800) – with agate, jasper or jade bead detail – merges “futurist fantasy” and Middle Eastern ornament. It’s not cautious good taste. It’s bold and audacious ’70s design of the ilk that has got interiors insiders singing along to Donna: I feel looooooove.