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17 September 2014
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1960s lounge


The 1960s were all free love, flower power and pop music but, as the saying goes, if you remember it, you weren't there. The previous decade's love of American design was replaced, as Swinging London became the centre of all things groovy.

1960s patterned fabric

The modernism of past decades had rejected historical influences so, in a spirit of rebellion, 1960s plundered the past for inspiration. The result is a ragbag of styles culled from all over, including Victorian and Edwardian, the 1920s and art nouveau. But it was not just about replicating past styles; everything was given an irreverent twist to make it all its own.

Pop art and op art both had a firm footing in the 1960s. Artists such as Andy Warhol and David Hockney with their pop art references to mass culture (soup cans, comic strips, images of icons like Marilyn Monroe) crossed over into interiors, and on to murals, wallpaper and posters. Similarly, op art with its use of pattern and colour to simulate movement found its way on to everything from furniture to wallpaper. Artists such as Bridget Riley, who works predominantly in black and white, became the vogue. Whether you choose the hippy ethnic look or plastic space age, it will be far out.


  • plastic and PVC
  • disposable, throwaway
  • multi-purpose furniture
  • low-level
  • revivalist
  • fun, witty


  • art nouveau - the whiplash lines and stylised flower shapes were revived in the 1960s and metamorphosed into psychedelia
  • space age - capsule and pod-shaped furniture
  • travel - ornaments, rugs and anything brought back from hippy pilgrimages to India and especially Morocco
  • cinema - the line between fantasy and reality is blurred as rooms were based on film sets; scenes from films such as Help! and Barbarella were recreated in magazines like House and Garden, showing readers how to get the look

The names

  • Verner Panton - multi-purpose furniture in moulded plastic in sculptural shapes
  • Terence Conran - Habitat opened in 1964
  • Joe Colombo - designer who created the 'central living block', which had compartments for living, eating and sleeping
  • Giancarlo Piretti - furniture
  • Piero Fornascetti - ceramics
  • Peter Murdoch - created the disposable paper chair, covered in op art designs, laminated and intended to last three to six months

At the time

  • 1963 John F Kennedy assassinated
  • 1963 Berlin Wall goes up
  • 1967 2001 Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick
  • 1967 Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles
  • 1969 first moon landing

Panton chair, lava lamps, lips shaped chair, pop art

Get the look

  • Open plan - make your house as open plan as possible. Use sliding doors and moveable screens to partition off rooms; one room should flow into another.
  • Wood - is disregarded for furniture but pine is used to panel walls and particularly ceilings. Use tongue and groove and leave it unpainted for a sauna room feel.
  • Floors - you've got to have a shag pile rug - the bigger the better.
  • Colours - go for vibrant colours such as bright red, purple. Deliberately clash colours, for example, team tangerine orange with fuchsia pink. Black-and-white is also a typical colour scheme.
  • Furniture - go for plastic or transparent blow-up furniture. Choose 'S' and egg shapes, and anything that looks futuristic and space age. Pick up junk shop furniture, especially bamboo and wicker items, from any period, and paint it in bright colours. Flat pack furniture was also a 1960s phenomenon.
  • Wallpaper - must be psychedelic - look for vinyls in reds, purples, oranges with swirls and paisley patterns.
  • Bean bags - create a laid-back chill-out room with mattresses on the floor, bean bags and loads of scatter cushions to make a conversation pit. Or else sit cross-legged on the floor in the lotus position.
  • Bedroom - tent your bedroom with drapes made from saris, lay an Indian cotton bedspread over your bed, cover the lampshades with beaded fabric for that hippy-harem look.
  • Fabrics - look for fabrics with huge repeat patterns in an art nouveau style or with the graphic images of pop art. Fashion designers like Mary Quant and Christian Dior started designing for interiors as well and some of their fabrics can still be found today.
  • Lighting - choose from mesmerising lava lamps, neon-fibre optic lamps which change colour, Moroccan-inspired lamps or the ubiquitous paper lampshade.
  • Symbols - pick up a paintbrush and do your own psychedelic mural. Use paints that glow in the dark, or a black and white op art mural. Or try giant target 'Mod' symbols, or your own Warhol-inspired poster.
  • Accessories - add tongue-in-cheek accessories: display military uniforms on tailors dummies, Busby hats, and Victoriana such as coronation plates and royal memorabilia.

What to invest in

  • Verner Panton furniture
  • Peter Ghyczy furniture
  • Eero Aarnio furniture
  • lava lamps by Mathmos - the original manufacturer opened in 1963

Where to see it

  • Design Museum, London
  • Planet Bazaar, London NW. Tel: 020 7387 8326
  • Stuff & Co, Nottingham. Tel: 0115 989 1780
  • Focus on the Past, Bristol. Tel: 0117 973 8080
  • B2, Manchester. Tel: 0161 834 1113

Further reading

  • Sixties Design by Philippe Carner (Taschen)
  • Sixties Source Book by Nigel Cawthorne (Quantum Books)
  • Miller's Collecting the Sixties (Miller's)
  • Sixtiestyle (Middlesex University Press)

Image copyright:
Patterned fabric image courtesy of Rusty Zipper vintage clothing
Lava lamp image courtesy of Sound Station

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In Lifestyle

Period style - other eras
1950s period style

Elsewhere on


Elsewhere on the web

Andy Warhol Museum website
Top art including Bridget Riley
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