If the 1950s were heavily influenced by America, then the 1960s could best be described as the decade of Swinging London. London became the centre of the fashion, design and cultural world. Towards the end of the 60s the hippies gave the world flower power, free love and some great music. Timothy Leary encouraged us to ‘tune in, turn on and drop out’, and they say that if you can remember the Sixties you weren’t really there. But let’s turn back the clock and look at the designs, colours and items you will need if you are dressing a sixties themed set.
In With The Old
Every generation needs to rebel, which was why the 50s saw a rejection of the old ways and the embrace of the new and modern. In order for the 60s generation to rebel they needed to turn the tide back again. Sixties style is hard to categorise, since it drew on designs from other eras. 1920s, Victorian, art nouveau – all were given a new groovy twist. Subversion was in, stuffiness out.
One of the most famous artists at this time was Andy Warhol, whose pop art paintings made reference to mass consumption, and the cult of celebrity. Warhol and David Hockney dominated the art world, and influenced interior, textile and wallpaper designers. Briget Riley’s black and white art became extremely popular. The emphasis was on wit, subversion, and counter-culture, with twists of the space age, Far East and art nouveau. Confused? Everyone was. But the mixture of whacky colours and shaped was never meant to be coherent. That was too square. Indian textiles sat alongside Camden Market cast offs and one psychedelic whole was created. Somehow. Sixties style is about putting eclectic items together in a relaxed and stylish way, to create a mood.
Sixties Design Giants
When considering classic Sixties designers, look out for names such as Terence Conran, who opened Habitat in the mid sixties; Giancarlo Piretti, who designed furniture; Piero Formascetti, ceramics designer; and Verner Panton who created iconic 60s sculptures out of plastic.
Get The Look
There are several design elements you must keep in mind when designing a sixties set:
Pine was huge in the 60s. Pine tongue and groove cladding was used extensively to cover walls and ceilings. Tables and chairs, bookcases, bedside tables, cots, bathroom cabinets, sideboards – just about every piece of furniture was made of pine at some point.
Thick pile rugs, Indian rugs and animal skins were a must.
Whilst cheap pine furniture was ubiquitous, cane, wicker and bamboo also came into vogue. Wicker chairs and lampshades were extremely trendy. Blow up furniture made a brief appearance and is a good way to add a large fun sixties signifier to a set. Transparent furniture was popular, particularly glass tables and see through plastic chairs. Beanbags were fashionable, as were bamboo bead curtains. They are both very effective 60s signifiers.
Think Bedouin tent. Drape Indian fabrics and saris from the ceiling, and decorate with deep rich colours. Indian bedspreads, huge cushions, incense and a Tiffany or Lava lamp make a good basis for a hippy bedroom. It was also the trend at one time to drape a scarf over a lamp to diffuse the light give an intimate hippy mood. Candles also became a fashion accessory in the sixties. The bedroom space was very much a self-consciously designed recreational space.
Wallpaper and Textiles
Colours should be vibrant, and clashing. Reds with pinks, purple and green, orange and cerise pink. Black and white designs were popular too. Vinyl wallpaper was all the rage, with repeating patterns, paisley and swirly designs. For textiles, think brown and orange or purple and green Indian throws and shawls. Psychedelic and mixed bright colours were popular in clothing fabrics. High-end design saw Mary Quant and Christian Dior move into the interior design market too. A poster of Warhol or other modern artist, is a very quick shorthand way of indicating the era.
Reproduction Tiffany lamps, lava lamps, wicker lampshades and Chinese lantern paper lampshades will all denote a sixties interior.
Terence Conran at The Design Museum
Bridget Riley at The Tate