Name the era. Loud colors, statement wallpapers, unconventional shapes, clashing everything? You guessed it ... we're talking about the '80s. Unless you've been living under a rock for the last few years, you've probably noticed a resurgence in the retro aesthetic. Iconic for so many reasons, both good and bad, '80s style was experimental to say the very least. It embraced everything unique and characterful about design, with lots of colors, patterns, and shapes to boot.
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Taking its references from the bold designs of the '60s and '70s, and combining them with art deco style, the '80s were all about doing things differently. If the decade was personified, it would be the center of attention. One of the more popular and well-known movements of the time was Memphis design. Originating in Italy, the Memphis Group (also known as Memphis Milano) was an Italian design and architecture firm founded by Ettore Sottsass. Repetitive patterns in bold, neon colors were signature characteristics and have stood the test of time when referring to the '80s.
Of course, with every movement comes a rebellion that goes against the status quo, and chintzy florals were exactly that during the '80s. Laura Ashley helped popularize this trend in the '50s, which paved the way for the rise of shabby chic in 1989. The latter style, started by Rachel Ashwell, celebrates florals and distressed finishes. It's a look that some design enthusiasts have continued to embrace in new ways, like with grandmillenial style.
The good news is that if you like the look of '80s-themed rooms, there's no shortage of inspiration to draw from. But to get you started on the right foot, here are 10 retro decorating ideas that promise to be a fun trip back in time. And if you're hungry for more, check out these interior designers' favorite trends from the beloved decade.
10 '80s-Themed Room Decor Ideas
1. Bold Graphics and Patterns
If you're actually a "more is more" person, welcome to your dream living room design courtesy of none other than Kelly Wearstler. During the '80s, interiors showcasing graphic patterns were all the rage. In this maximalist setup, Wearstler has managed to nail the look, weaving patterns and colors together effortlessly. From the mint green block pattern on the walls and the black and white polka-dot sofa to the coral-colored accent chairs and the decorative zebra print bowl on the coffee table, this space has no shortage of visual interest and retro flair.
2. Color Blocking
Color blocking is the art of taking two contrasting colors and pairing them together in a block format. Of course, this is not a trend that was limited to the '80s, but the era saw more than its fair share of color and metallic sheens showcased in creative and playful ways. Follow the lead of this bathroom designed by Utkan Gunerkan and try out the painting technique in your own space. If budget allows, consider installing a similar old-school pink tile — it really completes the nostalgic scene.
3. Abstract Details
Want to keep the look minimal, and yet pack a punch? Make like Jordan and Russell of 2LG Studio and hand-paint abstract details around your door frames. Abstract art that emphasized colors, patterns, lines, and organic shapes was commonplace in the '80s and is easily transferable to interiors today without going too over the top. If in doubt, stick to wavy lines à la this whimsical pastel-colored dining room.
4. Vibrant and Bright Colors
Looking for the perfect '80s color palette? Look no further than this dynamic setup spotted on Yinka Ilori's blog. Full of neon shades and pastel hues showcased on the walls, ceiling, furniture, and decor, this living space is a technicolor oasis. The graphic wallpaper pattern — which is part of the Lick x Yinka Ilori Maximalist Brights Collection — ties everything together in a delightfully modern package.
5. Neon Lighting
You can't talk about '80s decor without mentioning neon signs and LED lighting, which have been making a comeback in recent years. For example, Ilmio Design used a purple light rod to illuminate the clothes rack in this quintessentially retro hotel room at the Spanish retreat Paradiso Ibiza. The vivid suite, complete with pop art and Memphis design-inspired wall decor, is a lesson in bringing a little luxury to the era.
6. Upcycled Furniture
While '80s bedrooms were all about statement furniture and loud colors, a lot of this was achieved by DIY projects that involved upcycling existing furniture and getting crafty with paint and textiles. In this colorful makeover by Amy Exton, an upcycled headboard, revamped nightstands, and spray-painted secondhand lamps go a long way to achieve the look for less.
7. Bold Artwork and Decor
If you're unsure about adding color to the walls, use artwork to give a nod to the '80s instead. Look for wall art and decor showcasing wavy or graphic lines, neon colors, and geometric shapes. Pair it with a tiled side table, vinyl records, a boombox, and tubular neon lights for the full retro effect.
8. Acrylic Furniture
You'll often see lots of references to art deco style in '80s design, often with a sleeker and less ornate feel. Enter Lucite (or acrylic) furniture and decor. To this day it's still a popular choice, and not just when trying to evoke a sense of nostalgia. Interior designer Patricia Bustos opted for a clear coffee table in this all-pink living room, which allows the rosy color scheme to be the star of the show, free from any and all distractions.
9. Statement Rugs
In the late 1980s, indie electronic music made its way from the sunny shores of Ibiza and into pop culture worldwide. With that, the acid house style seeped into interior design too, with decor becoming even bolder. And what better way to bring some '80s dance culture into your abode than with a statement rug? This one by Henry Holland in collaboration with Floor Story would do just the trick for a modern spin. Bonus points for the checkerboard wall and the vivid pops of contrasting color.
10. Geometric Shapes
Strong geometric lines and shapes are also signature characteristics of the '80s that have made their way back into the world of interior design — and this Memphis design-inspired living room by Jen Talbot Design is a picture-perfect example. From the uneven, checkerboard pattern on the walls to the angular sofa and ottoman to the boxy, lacquered media console, this setup is like taking a wild trip down memory lane.