Transparent 1970s staircase and furniture made from PLEXIGLAS®

© Evonik Industries AG, Konzernarchiv Hanau

Focus on individuality: New designs for 1970s homes

Whether transparent, printed or reflective, new PLEXIGLAS® variants were a popular element in interior design in the 1970s, being used for transparent staircases, colorful lamps or for multi-colored wall cladding.

The adage of 1970s interior design was under no circumstances to have the same designs a neighbors and friends. Homes were meant to reflect the owner’s personality and break new ground in terms of interior design. Materials such as PLEXIGLAS® ensured that there were virtually no limits when it came to implementing the design ideas. The brand acrylic glass from Evonik, which at the time was still known as Röhm GmbH, was already available in numerous variants and colors and with different surfaces.

From Röhm & Haas to Evonik

PLEXIGLAS® was invented and registered as a brand by Röhm & Haas in 1933. Prior to this invention, the company, which was founded in 1907 by the two young entrepreneurs, Dr. Otto Röhm and Otto Haas, focused on enzyme-based products for the leather and textile industry. After the Haas family departed from the group of shareholders in 1971, the company was renamed to Röhm GmbH. Hüls AG acquired the company in 1989, and a merger with Degussa took place in 1999. Today, the PLEXIGLAS® brand is part of Evonik.  More information on the history of Röhm GmbH can be found on the Evonik history portal.

An alternative to wallpaper

Huge rhombus shapes and flowers in loud colors – if one thing can be said about 1970s wallpapers, it is that they were truly striking. Using wallpaper was not the only option to decorate walls, however, as new PLEXIGLAS® variants also offered many fresh opportunities for wall design. PLEXIGLAS® XT sheets, for example, were printed with unique patterns and then installed as wall cladding.  One advantage is that the printed patterns were not only temperature-resistant, but also abrasion-proof and durable. PLEXIGLAS® sheets were therefore the ideal alternative option for bathroom walls, as they were capable of withstanding moisture and heat – unlike conventional wallpapers.

Another innovative guise of the brand acrylic glass was used in wall design: mirrored and reflective PLEXIGLAS®, which is known today as PLEXIGLAS® Reflections. It was available in six colored versions along with a colorless version. The reflective elements gave the impression of larger and more spacious rooms. In addition, the sheets could be produced in a multitude of shapes and sizes. Unlike conventional glass mirrors, “PLEXIGLAS® mirrors” could be cut to size using circular or band saws, and it was even possible to shape the material into curved forms. There were therefore virtually unlimited possibilities for unique and customized designs.

Similar to reflective PLEXIGLAS®, illuminated ceilings, illuminated walls and lamps made of the brand acrylic glass were used to enhance the room ambiance. Much like interior accessories today, these lamps created a special atmosphere in addition to providing illumination. PLEXIGLAS® was the ideal material for this purpose as it has light-conducting properties and provides glare-free lighting by distributing the light across the entire surface.

Two-layered PLEXIGLAS® sheets

PLEXIGLAS® Bicolor, which was cast in two layers, was the preferred option for producing residential lighting solutions in the 1970s. The product was introduced on the market in 1971. PLEXIGLAS® Hi-Gloss is an example of two-layered PLEXIGLAS® still in use today, although the second layer is usually colorless.  This creates an exceptional depth effect, making colors even brighter and more luminous.

Translucent room dividers

Artificial lighting was not the only option to make rooms appear brighter. Room dividers, which were previously used to create separate areas in a room, made the spaces appear darker and smaller, but could now also be produced in translucent versions. Thanks to transparent and translucent PLEXIGLAS® sheets, it was possible to turn a single room into several rooms without lessening the effect of natural light sources. This option was particularly popular in open-plan offices, where it was used to separate individual workstations from one another. It was also useful for dividing larger living spaces into smaller sections, such as for dining areas.

Staircases as transparent as ice

Even staircases and handrails had to be made from specific materials in the 1970s, to ensure they blended in perfectly with the overall interior design. Instead of using massive and dark materials, many home owners therefore opted for staircases and handrails made from transparent PLEXIGLAS®.

As the steps were manufactured from transparent PLEXIGLAS® blocks, people with vertigo will certainly have had a hard time climbing these stairs, as they could see right down to the floor below. For those who were less courageous but did not want to go without the extraordinary appearance of transparent PLEXIGLAS®, steps made of wood or other materials could be clad in PLEXIGLAS® sheets or combined with handrails made of PLEXIGLAS® rods.  Staircases made this way were certainly unusual and truly eye-catching.

The great variety of interior design options offered by PLEXIGLAS® enabled home owners in the 1970s to add a hint of individuality to their living spaces. And PLEXIGLAS® is still used today to create rooms with extraordinary design: 

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