CREATE YOUR OWN 1970s INTERIORS – ON A BUDGET!

Flooring

Carpeted Pits & Platforms

Both types of built-in seating, the conversation pit and the seating platform serve the same social purpose; the difference is simply structural. Seating platforms (above) are constructed on top of the floor, while conversation pits (below) are built in advance, beneath the surface. Consisting of carpeted areas in multiple horizontal levels, these pits and platforms are most often found in living rooms and are designed to seat a large number of people.
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Serving as couches, endtables, and room dividers, pits and platforms are the only “furniture” really needed in a room. Look how the platforms in the above image are used to break up the space of a large room, and create multiple seating areas.
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In addition to living rooms, bedrooms can also be suitable candidates for pits and platforms. However, pits and platforms are usually used for more social areas. Along with a bed, this pink conversation pit even includes a sink:
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Though pits and platforms are essentially steps (steps that you sit on), they rarely contain actual staircases. The below ski resort is ingenious. Building staircases into your platforms also allows you to continue the same platform onto multiple floors of your home:

Here’s another view of the seating platform with the arrow supergraphic from a previous post:

Modifications

The below seating platform includes drywall which allows for a two-toned color scheme. It doesn’t look quite as comfortable, but it melts into the wall and ceiling nicely. Additionally, check out the bed and couch that have fabric/cushions which camouflage into the color of the carpet:

The five rectangular prisms at the top of the next seating platform are really cushions upholstered in black fabric. They are lightweight and easy to move, making the levels of your platform itself modular:

If you look closely, you can tell that the next living room’s seating is actually half carpeted platforms, half-upholstered couches. If the yellow rug in the center was also red-orange, it would barely be distinguishable from some of the seating platforms at the beginning of this post:

Not a true platform or pit, the below image is simply wooden furniture upholstered in carpet on a flat floor:

This room’s platform does not fulfill the same seating-role as most platforms; instead it exists as an open play area:

Construction

Conversation pits are not exactly a do-it-yourself project unless you are a professional. Platforms are much easier (and cheaper) to build as they require no alterations to the existing floor. A good compromise between the two is to build a raised platform with a hollow in it, as pictured below. Whatever you choose, you need to be aware of your local building codes and general safety.

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Citations by Section

In order of appearance, the images in the first section under “Carpet Pits & Platforms” are from: Living for Today (1972), unknown, The House Book (1974), unknown, and Ugly House Photos (1974). The images in “Modifications” are from: The House Book (1974), unknown, Better Homes and Gardens Decorating Book (1975), unknown, and Sunset Children’s Rooms & Play Yards (1980). The first image and the text blocks in “Construction” are from The House Book (1974) and the remaining images are from this website (2005)- look at the link under “Riser Construction.”

Additionally check out this amazing post on pits and platforms by Ouno Design.

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Supergraphics – Painted Architecture

“Paint is usually seen as a passive ground,” complimenting a room’s furnishings but never overpowering them (Blowing the Lid Off Paint, 2007). Supergraphics however, fulfill the opposite role. Sharing fundamental similarities to a mural (ie. a painting or other work of art executed directly onto a wall), supergraphics differ by being (1) linear and geometric, and (2) by covering more than one architectural plane. For example, the mural on the left, though “linear”, is in reality a rectangular block of colors that is limited to one wall. A supergraphic’s edges would be the lines themselves, and cover more than one flat surface. Above: a supergraphic. Left: not a supergraphic.

The other distinctive feature of supergraphics is that they (3) ignore roadblocks and boundaries. If something is “in its way,” it is likely to just paint itself right on over it. Being liquid and all, supergraphics can cover almost anything; furniture, trim, blinds, doors, and floors are no exceptions. I like to think of a supergraphic like D.W. Read from PBS Kid’s Arthur when she doesn’t wait for her grandfather to get out of the way as she paints his hen house (watch the 10-second clip here).

According to the American architect Cesar Pelli, “colors themselves can become architecture.” Supergraphics are like a sculptural “installation constituting only a depth of a few millimeters of paint” (Blowing the Lid Off Paint, 2007).

Even though supergraphics usually follow a linear path, they can be broken up. Part of the fun of supergraphics is deciding what to avoid and what to paint over. Painting over an architectural feature will deemphasize it, while pausing the supergraphic to allow a feature to exist paint-free will make it stand out. To illustrate this principle, consider the vents below:

Additionally take notice of the next photograph; this supergraphic starts on the ceiling, drips down the trim, includes the venetian blinds, skips the cabinetry, and continues onto the kitchen floor below. The sink basin has also been painted red to repeating the supergraphic’s color scheme. Think: “less is more.”

Though supergraphics are traditionally thought of as paint, the effect can be enhanced with carpet or fabric. These are not as elegant or easy to install, but they are certainly worth the effort:

C. Ray Smith – who coined the term supergraphics in 1967 – had a strict definition which excluded any graphics with identifiable elements (like numbers or letters or things that have eyes). Pictured below: “not” supergraphics. This distinction however, has been argued against by other supergraphic “experts.” (I will be using the word loosely in this blog.)

 

And as an important side-note, the term “supergraphic” has recently come to mean any LARGE-SCALE graphic. These “supergraphics” are often commercial (think billboards), or are painted outdoors on the sides of buildings. No one should use the term THIS loosely. Beware!

Installing a Supergraphic in Your Home

As you might imagine, painting a supergraphic is barely more difficult than painting a room solid, and much less difficult than installing wallpaper or fabric panels. All you need is painters tape and a roller (which is all the above kit contained). If you are trying to cover surfaces other than drywall, obviously the process becomes more demanding. However, Family Creative Workshop Vol. 19 (1975) has some semi-useful tips and illustrations on how to sketch and measure out a basic supergraphic. Until my copy arrives in the mail, these low-resolution scans from PopuluxeBooks will have to do.

Additional Readings

Karly Hand and Erin Williamson over at Design-Crisis.com have a brilliant post about contemporary and historical artists working with supergraphics. (It even includes a few images from the 1970s interior design book Living Spaces!) For a more thorough understanding of the roots of supergraphics, I would like to recommend reading John McMorrough’s “Blowing the Lid Off Paint” in its entirety (2007). Published within the book Rethinking Representation, this article can be found on google books. And keep reading Supergraphic Strategies for posts about arrow-shaped supergraphics and supergraphic-like headboards!

Citations

The citations for the above images, in order of appearance, are as follows: Home Planning and Design (1973), Living for Today (1972), Better Homes and Gardens Decorating Book (1975), Living for Today (1972), Better Homes and Gardens Decorating Book (1975), Better Homes and Gardens Decorating Book (1975), Decorating With Confidence (1973), Bloomingdale’s Book of Home Decorating (1973), Home Planning and Design (1973), Living for Today (1972), LIFE Magazine (1968), Decorating Ideas Under $100 (1971), unknown.

The citations for these additional images: Australian Better Homes & Gardens (1979), unknown, Better Homes and Gardens Decorating Book (1975), unknown, The Practical Encyclopedia of Good Decorating and Home Improvement (1970), Living for Today (1972), unknown, Better Homes and Gardens Decorating Book (1975), Better Homes and Gardens Decorating Book (1975), unknown, unknown, Living for Today (1972).