October 20, 2019 at 8:47 pm EST | by Valerie Blake
50 years of housing trends
50 years housing trends, gay news, Washington Blade
Today’s kitchens feature quartz countertops and sleek appliances, but it wasn’t always that way.

Fifty years ago, in 1969, Richard Nixon was inaugurated as our 37th president, Neil Armstrong took one giant leap for mankind, and Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson family.

The Boeing 747 was being introduced on the West Coast and the Concorde in France. For the first time, you could get cash out of a machine at the bank, hop in your Firebird Trans Am, and see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid at the movies.

While we were laughing at Monty Python’s Flying Circus, learning to spell by watching Sesame Street, and listening to the sounds of Woodstock, people were rioting at the Stonewall Inn. Thereafter, aiming to unite the LGBTQ community, Nancy Tucker and Lilli Vincenz created The Gay Blade, a one-page newspaper that evolved into our current Washington Blade. 

A 50-year anniversary is always a special event. My maternal grandparents lived long enough to celebrate 50 years of marriage. Having a 50th anniversary of one’s birth brings up visions of black balloons and over-the-hill cards. Cities often commemorate the 50th anniversary of their incorporation with parades and festivals.

The 50th anniversary of the Blade (and coincidently, the 20th anniversary of my advertising in it) inspired me to take a look at how housing has changed over the same decades and identify trends that were fashionable in each.

Consider the popular ranch house of the ’70s with its flocked, foiled and bold-colored wallpaper. Add some orange shag carpet, dark paneling and avocado green appliances. Finish with a sunken living room and a skylight or two and there you have it – housing’s response to years of sleek, mid-century modern design.

I bought my first home in the ‘70s and dutifully set about decorating with wallpaper: blue and green striped in the kitchen, silver and blue metallic in the den, a brown cow-like pattern in the bathroom, and a bedroom accent wall of green, orange and yellow plaid.

In addition to big hair and pointy bras, Colonial houses became more desirable in the ’80s. Central air conditioning, central heat and manicured lawns were essential to suburban living. Aluminum siding swathed many houses and sliding glass doors now opened to decks or concrete patios. 

The late ’80s ushered in the blue-mauve-grey palette and a plethora of chintz. When I bought a newly constructed house in 1988, the builder thought I was crazy to install wood floors in the kitchen, but apparently, I was years ahead of my time.

The ’90s brought us the decadent and the overdone. Distressed pine cabinets accented by stenciled wall borders, dried flower arrangements and roosters were everywhere. Plastic, inflatable chairs were reminiscent of balloons and collapsible Butterfly chairs could slip in the trunk for a day at the beach. Walls were painted with sponges, rags and even plastic wrap.

A resurgence of lava lamps as a nod to the ’70s graced bedside tables and every child fell asleep to glow in the dark stars on the ceiling. Ostentatious bathrooms were fitted with atrium windows, see-through fireplaces and jetted tubs big enough for the whole family. Many of those tubs have now been remodeled out of existence.

In the early 2000s, light kitchen cabinets, particularly maple, were the norm and we were introduced to dark granite with names like Uba Tuba and Absolute Black to adorn the counters. The coveted “gourmet kitchen” with stainless steel appliances became a status symbol, even for those who didn’t cook. 

The open floorplan (or open concept if you’re on HGTV) gained popularity that has yet to fade. McMansions with several types of architecture assembled like Legos dwarfed traditional homes. Tuscan décor with oil rubbed bronze doorknobs and plumbing fixtures was featured frequently. And don’t forget Joanna Gaines, who gave us shiplap walls.

So here we are at the end of the 2010s. We’ve seen a revival of mid-century styles, colored appliances, two-tone kitchen cabinets, quartz and marble countertops, and enough grey paint to cover Trump Tower. Open floorplans are still desirable, but homes are smaller (and even tiny). 

Television shows like “Flea Market Flip” have us crafting and upsizing one man’s junk into another man’s treasure. We’ve seen mancaves, converted garages, chalkboard walls and, I hope, the demise of trite motivational signs like, Eat, Pray, Love and Dance Like There’s No One Watching. (Newsflash: they probably are.)

I look forward to seeing what housing trends surface in the 2020s. Perhaps Cheryl will share the décor of her Chichi-er She Shed in the Washington Blade.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland and Viginia and Director of Education & Mentorship at RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs. 

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