Home Decor

The Iconic ’70s Design Trend That’s Back in a Big Way

We tap the experts on how to transform your interiors with its big shapes and bright colors.

February 18, 2022
Photo by Erin Miller Wray

If you’ve ever added to cart a boldly striped tea towel, admired the optical illusions of Heath Ceramics tiles, or dreamed about how Marimekko’s classic Lokki pattern would look covering your couch, then you already know the power of bold graphics on a space: They add energy, vibrance and eye-popping personality. What you may not know is that many of these graphics have their roots in a style of wall art called “Supergraphics”.

Supergraphics was born in the 1960s, created by the pioneering San Francisco-based artist Barbara “Bobbie” Stauffacher Solomon for The Sea Ranch, an iconic 7000-acre coastal community in California. Conceived as a way of brightening the area’s often-foggy mood, Solomon’s high-impact combination of bold forms and primary colors have inspired artists and designers ever since, finding their way into public art (think: this pedestrian bridge in Jersey City or the punchy postcard typography of this mural in Austin’s historic 6th Street) and homes alike.

With last October’s unveiling of the renovated Sea Ranch Lodge, home to the now 93-year-old Solomon’s Supergraphics both vintage and new, the exuberant mid-century art form has re-entered the spotlight. So we decided to tap three designers, who count Solomon’s Supergraphics among their artistic influences, for advice on how to transform interiors with big shapes and brave colors.

If you do embark on this fearless design mission, one thing’s for sure—painters’ tape for straight lines (made even crisper with this tip) will be indispensable. You’ll also probably need this go-to hack for smooth arches and circles, which involves a pencil attached to a length of string. And this tried-and-true advice can help you hone in on a color palette. Still, Solomon’s hard-earned wisdom may be the most practical tool of all. “If you don’t like what you’ve done, just paint over it, anytime you like,” she says.

Pro tips from design experts

Remember that geometry is dynamic

“All throughout The Sea Ranch, Bobbie shows us how a large pattern can expand a small space, or draw the eye to an unexpected corner,” says Hopie Stockman, cofounder of L.A.-based Block Shop Textiles. “Geometry can give a space new dimension and infuse it with energy.”

While Block Shop has bedecked big surfaces like this one at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs with its spare and streamlined patterns, the studio’s home collection includes other ways to unleash super graphics onto a room.

Block Shop Textiles

The Sunwave upholstery, for example, is particularly useful for elongating a space, while the new Fireclay handpainted-tile collaboration achieves a mural effect, but with much more permanence than paint. For skeptics, try a floor runner that can roll away on a whim or a framed woodblock paper print, easily removed from its wall space.

Take all the baby steps you need, but don’t forget that maximalism is at the heart of the art form. “Gone are the days of white walls and blond-wood minimalism,” says Stockman.

A little pattern can go a long way

Los Angeles artist Erin Miller Wray’s daring work can be found embellishing everything from the exterior of Santa Monica’s Viceroy Hotel to basketball courts at her alma mater, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. When it comes to designing for the home, her spunky, Supergraphics-influenced style doesn’t stray.

“I agree with Bobbie’s belief that geometry can go beyond art and into architecture. For that reason, many people may fear large murals and pops of color in their homes, but these design choices don’t have to overwhelm a space,” says Wray. “A little bit can go a long way with these oversized designs.”

The artist insists that jumbo wall graphics can be “as subtle or as engaging as you want them to be,” and recommends limiting designs to one or two shapes for smaller spaces. “That way, you can still layer on other pieces of art, framed photos, textiles or plants to create lots of interest without overpowering the room,” she says. Blik’s Color Block removable wall decals help you get the look without commitment.

Dare to go beyond flat walls

Photo by Sam Buckley

Edinburgh--based designer Sam Buckley’s brazen-hued wall geometry is firmly rooted in the tradition of Supergraphics, but with a twist: Rather than working around architectural details like crown molding, door jambs or fireplace mantels, Buckley defies them.

“My designs don’t quite come from the same place as Bobbie’s, but there is a definite similarity,” says Buckley, who claims that by disregarding a room’s natural focal points, you can create a more complete visual statement. “This way, the viewer engages with the whole space,” he says.

The designer suggests drafting designs in sketch-pad scale in order to workshop a good balance of composition and color. He also cautions that there are other factors to consider in the final design, like light, art and furniture.

But don’t let the nitty-gritty details of this ambitious design project dampen its potentially joyful outcome. “Remember, super graphics are a celebration,” says Buckley.

How would you bring this design form to your home? Share your vision with us.

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1 Comment

cmpca March 23, 2022
I find this to be a very fun and freeing concept – especially with Bobbie’s advice to just paint over anything you stop liking. The entire post brought to mind Racheal Jackson of @banyanbridges (IG). I kept waiting to see one of her murals as I scrolled, especially some of her classic stripes!