Kings of Chelsea

Changing trends in 20th Century Interior Design – Part 2 – 1960 -Present

In the decade after the joyousness of the 1950’s and the optimism of a peaceful and increasingly wealthy world, the 1960’s pushed the boundaries of Interior Design even further, against a backdrop of psychedelia, counter-culture and youthful uprisings. The bright colours and alternative materials of the 1960s such as plastics and chrome resulted in riots of imagination that previous generations would surely have dismissed as outlandish and possibly even in bad taste. But there is no doubt that it marked a turning point in the idea of an interior as an art form – more often than not there was a highly sculptural quality to the most progressive interiors – “plastic” also in the sense that forms could be bent and moulded.

The 1970s are often dismissed as the “decade that taste forgot” but interestingly this was also the period in which the real advent of commercial Interior Design took place, and members of the public were encouraged to create and curate their own interiors using items from shops such as IKEA and Habitat, both of which really expanded aggressively during this decade. “Good taste” was propagated at mass scale, and the concept of “design” was well and truly established. There were some revolutionary ideas at this time coming out of Italy in particular in regards to architecture and domesticity, but this was a real niche area.

By the 1980s, demonstrable wealth was a virtue, and Interiors became a status symbol as much as accessories such as a car or mobile phone. This was quite an aggressively masculine period of design, with the advent of “hi-tech” and the use of steel, black leather and industrially themed interiors as well as the rise of minimalism. Money could be shown by the brands you had at home, and certain designers and manufacturers cam to the fore – this was the decade of Kartell, Starck, Cassina and their contemporaries. Etore Sottsass and the Memphis group provided a counter to this with their colourful and playful anti-design.

It is hard to look back at the very recent past and identify trends with parameters at this point, but what is already clear about the 90s and 00s is that eclecticism and revivalism are at the core of the Interior Design concepts. Cherrypicking small details from periods of the past and using them where appropriate indicates a very knowing and self-referencing approach. As a global discipline Interior Design has also meant that it’s now possible to go to different countries to see the same or very similar interiors anywhere – the rise of “hotel lobby” design, which has also served to subdue the idea of regionalism, previously a core concept in architecture and design. While there are outstanding and benchmark projects, there is also a morass of similarity, and a this stage, it’s hard to see a definitive “look” within this period.

“Starchitects” who have returned to the principles of the 1900s and designed immersive interiors where all details have been considered – Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Jean Nouvel, Tadao Ando, David Chipperfield to name a few. These are the giants who influence and dictate taste and style. History will decide who remains significant over time, but it does seem clear that whichever decade is studied, it is the more prestigious and individualistic projects whether at residential or commercial level, that come to dictate our understanding of what was happening around that time.