The 1960s Revival

Herman Miller Armless Plaid Sofa

During the real estate boom of the early millennium, our furniture scale grew with the economy. The bigger the arm roll, the deeper the seat depth, the more we loved it. You could suffocate in all the throw cushions covering the couch. Just like hemlines supposedly go up and down with the economy, so do furniture trends.

Right after the crash, furniture slimmed down, as did our wallets, and we had a desire for a return to a simpler time. McMansions became less desirable and rental apartments were in. With clean square lines and much smaller scale, Mid Century Modern worked for every budget. The world of interior design has spent the last several years worshipping the 1950s, and every retail furniture store stocked their warehouses with MID CENTURY MODERN.

Welcome to the 1960s. Or as I like to call it, the avocado green years. Certainly there must be avocado green kitchen appliances in the Smithsonian because everybody had them  –  pop culture icons. The term ‘earth tones’ was born in the ‘60s. It was the era of rust, clay, moss, marine blue and bark. Fabrics were very nubby with lots of texture and large plaids. Pin dot cotton velvet sectionals became popular, and aniline dyed leather in colors other than brown or black were used. Walnut was the preferred wood stain. Danish Modern strongly influenced the simply lines of exposed wood arms and legs on chairs and sofas. The polished metal frame with suspended seat and back cushions was a brand-new style.

So why the ’60s now? One obvious reason is the retailers needed a new look to encourage us to buy. But there is also a geo-political reason. Furniture companies are leaving behind importing from China, where quality control is a constant problem and North Carolina factories are re-opening after two decades of being dormant. One example is the iconic Thayer Coggin Furniture, who collaborated with then super star German furniture designer Milo Baughman, Jr., to creature the iconic look of 1960s contemporary furniture. This year, they’re doing a 50-year retrospective at the CAI showroom at the Merchandise Mart.

After years of a neutral palette of cream, oatmeal, and shades of gray (the ‘I don’t want to make a mistake’ color scheme) get ready to play with strong colors. And when you paint your walls rust to compliment your avocado green sofa, remember this – no guts, no glory.


About Merilee Elliott

Merilee Elliott is a nationally recognized award winning hospitality designer for hotels, resorts, senior housing and luxury residences. Based in the Merchandise Mart for the last two decades, trend spotting is her passion; she's a trade show junkie, sourcing innovative products in every category of interiors. Ms. Elliott's blog, "Design Cops," is a different kind of advice column that critiques the designs of our local hot places and spaces to explain what elements make it work – or not.