Wallpaper advertising in the Seventies: A Journey through the History of Design

Wallpaper advertising in the Seventies: A Journey through the History of Design

For a long time, 70s design was considered tasteless. Shagpile rugs, lava lamps, flares etc. were considered outdated and frowned upon. But that has long been a thing of the past - for more than 20 years now, the Seventies have enjoyed an almost constant comeback in terms of fashion, music and design. No other decade proved to influence subsequent styles more. In 2009, the BBC even called the 70s "the most fashionable decade" between the 40s and the 90s.

A decade during which architecture, design and fashion were more original, varied and individual than ever before. The 70s were a continuation of what began in the 60s as a counter-movement to the sparse, sober "bourgeois design" that prevailed during that period. Suddenly it seemed like everyone was creating their own personal style, be it Hippie, Ethno, Glam, Punk or Pop - all trends existed in perfect harmony. Just as long as it wasn't boring!


This new interest in colour and pattern had a massive impact on the wallpaper industry, too. It brought about a large variety of opulent, brightly coloured wallpapers with graphical, psychedelic or floral designs; mostly in orange, yellow, purple, brown, or light green. But this colourful wall décor wasn't for everyone. In public or municipal buildings, architects and interior designers predominately avoided wallpapers in preference of "bare walls". A purist contrast to the pattern madness in orange and brown.

In German households, white walls or wooden panelling began to dominate. Up to the end of the 60s, sales of wood-chip wallpaper continuously increased, too. A clear challenge for German wallpaper manufacturers! The industry endeavoured to counteract this somewhat boring trend by offering modern Pop Art wallpapers. As a result, the "Deutsche Tapeten-Gemeinschaft" (German Wallpaper Association) started to place ads with surprising, humorous and colourful themes in magazines like "Stern" or „Schöner Wohnen“ from 1970.


From a prisoner in front of a flowery wallpaper to a monkey in front of a banana-themed Pop Art wall décor: "Everybody has a right to their own wallpaper", or "Banish blank walls with a bright wallpaper!" were just some of the slogans. The ads were meant to draw attention to uninspiring "bare walls" and display wallpapers where they weren't usually seen. Even wallpaper-haters now realised that there was just the right design for every person and every room. A new wall décor doesn't just give a monkey cage a new lease of life - it can also refresh an old love affair. "

A second spring through new wallpapers", says the tagline under the picture of an old couple sitting on their sofa, whispering sweet nothings to each other. The Pop Art wallpaper in the background shows Cupid pulling out his arrow to reinvigorate the love these two share. And who wouldn't want to be struck by Cupid's arrow? Never before were wallpapers considered a way to improve relationships, and "There have never been more beautiful wallpapers for living rooms, bathrooms, bedrooms, and children's rooms than today..." as the German Wallpaper Association promised.


Whether you were a monkey, a pensioner or a hippie, there seemed to be just the right wallpaper for everyone. "New wallpaper maketh the man," as it says under the picture of a naked man with a large moustache and an equally big fig leaf posing in front of a green leaf-patterned paper - even for the sexually liberated man close to nature, there was a suitable design. A living room decked out completely in green becomes a treetop home, providing the best possible environment for a life on the margins of the establishment.

The plan was to convince those who were still wallpaper refuseniks in 1977 with water-tight arguments, as one thing was clear: "You need a new wallpaper in your life!" The list of pro-arguments is long: New wallpapers didn't just offer the opportunity to completely change the look of one's home - they also provided a new lease of life for both home and dweller, offered the right design for each and every personal taste, were available in thousands of colours and patterns, and considerably less expensive than moving house or buying new furniture. Furthermore, the new wallpapers were light- and colour-fast, 100% washable and much easier to apply. Wallpapering was an easy task for anyone willing to have a go. On the con side: "The whole thing costs money, puts you under pressure to choose the right design, and creates work." But really, is that a winning argument when you weigh it up against the huge number of advantages? How about giving it a try and see what fantastic changes unfold in front of your eyes? Just let the wild Seventies inspire you!

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