Monday, 14 September 2009

The brown decade

Reviewing a recent book on interior design, Pia Ingström pauses to reflect on Minna Sarantola-Weiss's remarkable study of Finnish everyday life in the 1970s:
The most common 70s flashback is directed towards a certain type of pop music, or it's about politics, Finnish-Soviet trade and the Taistoists (or in some circles, the wonderful Finland-Swedish feminist avant-garde).

But Sarantola-Weiss writes about everything else. Then as now most Finns wasted relatively little mental energy on Marxism-Leninism, and didn't keep a "home Russian". 'When the 1970s are seen from the point of view of everyday life and consumer culture, the decade is coloured by optimism. Life was more secure and more predictable than before. The rising living standards meant a better quality of life for the vast majority.'
The 1970s were the decade when the paradigm shift of the sixties was adapted to everyday life. The newly-arrived residents of the concrete suburbs would learn to live urbanely and consume the newly-found affluence, wash new kinds of textiles, dance new dances, cook new dishes. Furnish with new furniture - brown Manchester leather sofa sets, for example. "Brown connects both with the earthy agrarian society and with the dark, safe world of the bourgeois home. A calm and honest colour," writes Sarantola-Weiss.

And on the sofa a hirsute man with a permanent wave (male fashion was also changing), an electric mixer in the kitchen and a Jopo bike in the bike cellar.

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