Ugly is as ugly was: The horrors of 1970s design February 02, 2005|By Annie Groer, Washington Post Among this year's crop of coffee-table tomes -- celebrating four centuries of French armoires or the sun-drenched colors of Santa Fe style -- scurries a most welcome garden-party skunk.
The book "Interior Desecrations: Hideous Homes From the Horrible '70s" is a full-throated rant against the decade of shiny op-art wallpaper plaid upholstery and long-haired rugs in a palette dominated by orange green and brown everywhere brown.
For 176 pages most featuring eye-jangling photos in full color that actually appeared in well-regarded design magazines of the era author James Lileks ridicules an aesthetic he lived through and loathes. In prose by turns vulgar blasphemous and hilarious he takes no decorating prisoners.
From deep within a 1915 Arts and Crafts home the author describes as extremely tasteful and entirely kitsch-free the Minneapolis Star Tribune humorist wrote the following about '70s interiors: "This is what happens when Dad drinks Mom floats in a Valium haze the kids slump down to the den with the bong and the decorator has such a desperate coke habit he simply must convince half the town to put up reflective wall paper. ..."
It seemed so normal at the time that Lileks said his own tasteful unmedicated mother performed a "fashion upgrade" on the living room of the family rambler in Fargo N.D. even as young James now 46 sat around in bell- bottoms and Earth Shoes watching "Hee Haw."
The shag carpet he lamented during a recent phone interview was "an unusual brown where if you ran your hand through it it turned a light brown. A sofa was added characterized by an unusually florid design that made the rococo period look like Mondrian. It was beige white black brown orange and cream with flowers that would have come to God in a fever dream. As though we understood there was something wrong about it the pattern was instantly covered with thick translucent plastic to protect it."
Very little in the book (Crown Publishers $23.95) is protected which is too bad. Sunglasses or blinders would have helped in viewing rooms he captioned as "the visual equivalent of granulated glass in your eyes."
Lileks starts at the front door. One entrance hallway is a symphony of black-and-white busy-print wallpaper and checkerboard floor tiles and it segues into an adjoining chamber covered in brown yellow black and white stripes and dots. Another foyer boasts a curved stairway with vertical abstract printed paper he likens to "a close-up of one's intestinal lining.... You can be sure the designer chose this scheme because it 'drew the eye upward. ' Of course one could say the same thing about the Hindenburg disaster."