Since 2020, stylists and designers have noted a shift from the clean and fettered Mid-Century Modern/Atomic Age style to a curated Maximalism eclectic look that mixes colors and textures, and favors collage walls, collections, and house plants. It's a boho style that has many roots to 1970s trends. Who knew my choice decorating style had a name and is now the latest thing?
And who better to inspire us for fabulous decorating than the ones who knew it best, the 1970s designers at Sears and Roebuck, purveyors of the everyday American look.
Again, thanks to Christmas.MuseTechnical.com for procuring, scanning, uploading, and making searchable these catalogs and more.
To sell that everyday American look, Sears used a kitchen set fully furnished with cabinetry, hardware, flooring, lighting, appliances, and accessories, all conveniently available for purchase in the very same catalog. Kitchen sets allowed the consumer to dream and imagine it in their own home. When people were included in the catalog and magazine ads, they were depicted smiling as they loaded their state-of-the-art dishwasher, or gazing out the window at their equally picture-perfect yard and gardens, while standing at their gleaming new sink.
Let's take a look at some of the fabulous kitchen sets featured in 1970s Sears catalogs and, if you look closely, you might recognize some familiar coordinates! What does your dream kitchen look like?
This 1970 kitchen featured in the Fall/Winter catalog has lots of texture in the form of brick, linoleum, and wood (and the look of texture in the wallpaper) but is unified by avocado green, dark stained wood, and white brick. It might be considered jarring to today's eyes that are used to grey, beige, greige, grey-blue, slate grey, and white made popular by the modern farmhouse style, but we can look to the past as color is reintroduced to our homes. Looking to the wall on the right, there is a wall collage of "old-timey" wooden kitchen tools and a house plant.
This model kitchen is also from 1970 (the Spring/Summer catalog), but is a bit more monochrome, primarily yellow and brown. It is still visually interesting to the eye with the wide variety of textures: bead board cabinet doors (a style called Mediterranean in later catalogs), brass door and drawer pulls, terracotta tile floor, "brick" on the wall, wooden ceiling beams, and decorative curlicue metal grill over the window. The stylistic lighting, while impractical for an actual kitchen, highlights the moody, rich, and Mediterranean/Spanish look of the time.
By the 1973 Spring/Summer catalog, full-scale model kitchens were replaced with smaller setups with, sadly, fewer accessories and architectural details. Still, plenty of textures and colors are visible: window curtains in different arrangements, floral and striped wallpaper, linoleum flooring, and wood grained appliances. On the bright side, Sears' very own kitchen coordinates start appearing on countertops. Festive Fruit, Merry Mushrooms, and, in the black and white ad, what looks like Bewitching Butterflies. For more on the other kitchen coordinates, visit my blog post One Pattern for Stove Top and Table.
A couple years later, in 1975, the Needlepoint kitchen coordinates make a guest appearance in the Grandee II Style display kitchen on page 1052. In all kitchens, the dark cabinetry has different types of recessed panels and heavy brass hardware, or none at all. On the wall, brick and loud wallpaper patterns still lend visual interest and texture, with contrasting curtains. Now, though, appliances are available in unassuming black or wood finishes in an effort to blend in.
By the end of the decade, some kitchens grew a bit more subtle. While appliances and walls were still yellow and brown, cabinets could now be stained lighter, countertops might be off-white or solid color, appliances in ivory or off-white make an appearance, and wallpaper and curtain patterns become smaller and less bold. This shift foretells the coming "country" look of the early to mid-1980s.
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