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.

The Retro/Vintage Period

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.

Here is a link to some very good books on Vintage/Retro style.

The Style

  • 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
  • At the time

  • 1951 Festival of Britain
  • 1955 Ruth Ellis last woman to be hanged in Britain
  • 1956 Marilyn Monroe marries Arthur Miller
  • 1963 John F Kennedy assassinated
  • 1967 Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles
  • 1969 first moon landing

    Get the look

    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.

    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.

    Floors - you've got to have a shag pile rug - the bigger the better.
    Rugs - floors would have been overlaid with a large rug in geometric patterns. These were often handmade by artists such as Duncan Grant (of Bloomsbury Group fame).
    Fireplaces - fireplaces should be rectangular and bold. Surrounds were often tiled in pink, green or beige. They were made of concrete and not many survive today.
    Colour - 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.
    Cupboards - cabinets, wardrobes, etc should be in pale veneered wood and simple shapes in keeping with the light, airy feel.
    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.
    Lighting -choose from mesmerising lava lamps, neon-fibre optic lamps which change colour, Moroccan-inspired lamps or the ubiquitous paper lampshade.

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