Recalling a first design position and the changes in interior design since

by Patricia Cove
Posted 6/17/21

Like so many other time periods of the past, the late 70s and early 80s had their particular hallmarks when it came to styles and design.

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Recalling a first design position and the changes in interior design since

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In the early 1980s, while teaching high school English, I also worked part time at a furniture store in Montgomeryville called Jonn’s Contemporary Interiors. The entire store was divided into individual room settings, or vignettes, that were assembled to replicate the perfect living room, bedroom or den. Like so many other time periods of the past, the late 70s and early 80s had their particular hallmarks when it came to styles and design.

The center of the huge showroom held a grand tile atrium that included the prerequisite design feature of the time — a “sunken living room” — replete with a sleek-lined sofa sectional, brass and glass cocktail table and high gloss wall system. Every piece of furniture had that 70s shine, and the color of the moment was black. The design services were complimentary, along with your purchases, and your finished living room might include a mauve, three-piece sectional with a multi-tiered cocktail table and black lacquer, four bay wall unit that would house your record player and sound system.

The sales staff, who were all “designers, “were also young, ambitious, and tons of fun! Working with that group has always been a wonderful memory. I so looked forward to the weekends, when I could join them in our showroom camaraderie, sell beautiful furnishings and practice my design skills.

All of these memories came rushing back this past weekend, when I saw an advertisement for a modern living room design from a contemporary company called Roche Bobois. Back in the late 70s, Roche, as we called it then, was a relatively new company that manufactured the most dramatic, cutting edge, of-the-moment designs. Every designer dreamed of incorporating a Roche piece within their next living or dining room design scheme. European in origin, the styles were so sleek, so avant-garde, and so expensive, that if you were lucky enough to own a piece, you were considered the hippest of the hip. At that period of time, everyone wanted modern, and Roche provided it in spades.

Although Jonn’s Contemporary Interiors has long since closed, Roche Bobois is still manufacturing and selling very high-end contemporary furnishings. The colors are a bit more neutral, with lots of grays, taupes and creams, and lacquer case goods are still a fixture within their room settings. Their upholstery has become a bit more “bulbous” in nature, almost cocoon like, in response to the desire for an enveloping comfort in furniture and room settings during the past year.

Accessories within a modern space are minimal. An “arc” floor lamp, low laminate or lacquer cube tables, and one or two pieces of modern art are all you really need to complete the space. The addition of a short shag area carpet in a complimentary color can delineate the seating area, and “ground” the space. Window treatments are “invisible” if used at all, and recessed lighting sources can be functional as well as ambient if placed on dimmers. You can also safely include those ubiquitous throw pillows that seem to be the brunt of some jokes as of late, but they can still add required pops of color that provide much needed interest to an otherwise pretty staid room setting.

I often think back to those days at Jonn’s Contemporary Interiors. I was young, fell in love with design and met other designers who I still consider friends today. And although I am now surrounded with brown furniture and traditional upholstery, I still appreciate the modern lines of all of those contemporary manufacturers and am still eager to see what will come next!

Patricia Cove is principal of Architectural Interiors and Design in Chestnut Hill and can be reached through her web site: www.patriciacove.com

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