The world of 1980s interior design is a richly complex one. From metallic accents to striking angles and curves, many ’80s motifs are surprisingly modern–even timeless–making them easy to integrate into today’s design. People who dismiss ’80s decor as tacky or outdated are missing the magic of this era. Excess isn’t always a bad thing, especially when constructed of glass and chrome. And those over-the-top pieces may be just the answer to that one focal point a room is missing. This week Mirror80 takes a look at the wonder of ’80s interior design. Proving there’s a little something for everyone when it comes to ’80s decor, here is our breakdown of 1980s interior design styles:
In the ’80s, a modern look often reflected the “less is more” approach, with minimalist spaces showcasing clean-lined furniture. Reflective surfaces, achieved with materials like mirror, chrome and glass, were used to visually enlarge a room. Gray was a popular unifying hue, as colorful artwork popped on gray walls, while dark, muted colors could combine with gray tones to reinforce a stark, modern look. Contemporary lighting fixtures added finishing touches to a modern space.
This 1980s design style is likely to make a big comeback, as it seamlessly blends with today’s modern finds, from glossy Hollywood Regency revival pieces to industrial IKEA selections.
’80s Modern Photo Credits: Left–photo by Michael Dunne; Top Right–”Ice Diamonds” wallpaper, photo by Ian O’Leary; Bottom Right–photo by Brigitte Beart/Vision International; All images from The Decorating Book by Mary Gilliatt
This is the high-end modern stuff, the designer collectibles that auction houses can’t keep in stock. When you view a Memphis-Milano piece, you suddenly realize the inspiration for that Swatch Watch you once owned. Fearless color and form combine in a display nothing short of art. The Memphis-Milano movement challenged the status quo. Italian designers like Ettore Sottsass and Michele De Lucchi took boldness to a new level with shocking geometric choices in furniture, textiles, tabletop decor, and even jewelry.
Twenty-year collector Dennis Zanone, also a professional photographer, has documented his amazing stash of Memphis-Milano showpieces (photos shown above). This is the way they were meant to be viewed–impeccably arranged in a home of black-and-white checked tile and sandy-toned hardwood floors. If you’re interested in collecting Memphis-Milano pieces and are lucky enough to score one, it can be the conversation-starting centerpiece of a room, shelf or tabletop. View Dennis Zanone’s Flickr photostream here, and join his Facebook fans here.
In the 1980s, an Art Deco revival occurred in the realm of graphic design. Clean-lined fonts with modern curves were prominent, but angles and ’20s/’30s-inspired arches also infiltrated the world of interior design in a style we call ’80s Deco. Art Moderne-style artwork, ceramic curves on ’80s modern vases, and rounded furniture abounded (think circular mirrors and black lacquered headboards with gold trim).
Glass block, mini-blinds and potted palms were other ’80s Deco staples. You may think this look belonged only in high-end spaces, but there was something darkly glamorous, even mysterious about it. Which is why it flourished in 1980s seedy crime dramas, like the hit television series Miami Vice. ’80s Deco will no doubt make a comeback with design enthusiasts who love Art Deco, and with collectors who enjoy the glammy, even kitschy quality of ’80s design. Add some neon wall art, and you’re set!
’80s Deco Photo Credits: Top and Bottom Left–photos by Mirror80; Middle Left–”Art Deco” wallpaper, photo by Ian O’Leary, from The Decorating Book by Mary Gilliatt; Right–photo by Bruce Wolf, from Decoration and Design for the 80′s by Pamela Ferguson
The ’80s Southwestern room thrived on shades of turquoise and mauve. Native American motifs on textiles and stair step-edged furniture completed the vibe. While this 1980s look is often labeled “outdated,” hipsters have welcomed its patterns and references in the realms of fashion and music. From ’80s Southwestern-themed press-on tattoos at Urban Oufitters to a wolf art revival on both canvas and T-shirt, the look is back. And the more over-the-top, the better.
Furniture in natural wooden tones blended well with this style in the 1980s, as did white pieces, sometimes in stone. See Ugly House Photos for some awesome examples of rooms with ’80s Southwestern flair!
’80s Southwestern Photo Credits: Left–”Indian Motif” fabric, photo by Ian O’Leary; Right–photo by Michael Dunne; both images from The Decorating Book by Mary Gilliatt
Traditional decor is what most people grew up with in the ’80s. While it would’ve been awesome to live in a high-rise in New York City with a room full of brand spanking new ’80s Modern pieces, the majority of families integrated newer styles with items they already had, such as antiques. In her design-fabulous article “Decor Time Machine: The 80s” (which is accompanied by many wonderful pics), Apartment Therapy writer Catrin Morris recognizes that when it came to interiors in the ’80s, few kids were living “the ‘Less Than Zero’ lifestyle.” While we love the high-end minimalist modern decor of that film, the majority of ’80s homes took a less cutting edge approach.
In fact, antique- and country-inspired furniture and accents were often the norm in the ’80s, with more formal spaces incorporating details like Persian rugs and Asian details, such as ornamental vases. Traditional decor even veered into modern territory when glossy finishes and metallic detail were welcomed into a room. Floral-print upholstery and bedding were ’80s traditional staples:
’80s Traditional Photo Credits: Top–a still from the 1989 film When Harry Met Sally; Bottom Left–”Irises” wallpaper, photo by Ian O’Leary, from The Decorating Book by Mary Gilliatt; Bottom Right–photo by Peter Vitale, from Decoration and Design for the 80′s by Pamela Ferguson
Ah…’80s Country! If you had a Laura Ashley comforter, you were a participant in this fad. While there were some designers reveling in a minimalist, rustic country look–think neatly arranged brown medicine bottles and earthy plank floors–the majority of ’80s Country living rooms likely boasted too much mauve and dusty blue, an over-abundance of wicker and dried flowers, and enough ruffles to gag a scarecrow.
But there was something quaint about that country look, and when done well, elegance even crept in. As the ’80s turned into the ’90s, country enthusiasts may have held onto their oak furniture, but they likely changed an outdated wall color or worn throw pillow, transitioning the look to reflect new charming trends, such as Shabby Chic, which encouraged a painting and distressing of wooden pieces while continuing to revel in the wonders of floral fabric.
’80s Country Photo Credits: Left–”Tulip” and “Posy” wallpaper, photo by Ian O’Leary, from The Decorating Book by Mary Gilliatt; Right–photo by Feliciano, from Decoration and Design for the 80′s by Pamela Ferguson
Thanks for joining us on our journey through the diverse web of ’80s interior design styles. Tell us which looks you are drawn to, or which ones graced the rooms in your home during the decade of excess…