Take one look at CB2’s new Kara Mann collection, the popularity of checkerboard motifs and windowpane prints, and the curvy silhouettes of many sofas and consoles, and it’s easy to see: ‘80s home decor style is back in the spotlight. When you think of this decade though, you might think of words like over-the-top, bold, and even loud. Sure, the ’80s had cotton candy pastels and primary colors, glass block walls, and chunky furniture, often all under one roof. That doesn’t mean that certain trends from this time period can’t be adapted for more contemporary interiors, though.
Shelby Greene, studio operations stylist at Living Spaces, finds the ‘80s style to be nostalgic and fun, which can bring comfort and a little bit of whimsy into a home. The key to working ‘80s trends into your space? Don’t overdo it.
“Start with larger neutral pieces and build from there,” says Greene, who suggests peppering in ‘80s-inspired accessories on bookshelves, mantles, and coffee tables. Not all ‘80s trends are created equally, though. If you want to channel this aesthetic, these are the trends pro designers say you won’t regret introducing into your home.
It’s clear (heh) that Lucite is making a comeback, and it’s an easy ‘80s material to bring into your interiors. “Lucite can lend itself to any design aesthetic, from traditional to modern and everything in between,” says designers Matthew Wetzel and Dona Thomas, co-principles of Thomas Matthew Designs. Visually, the decorating duo loves the see-through material because it doesn’t take up much space, and it reflects light, which helps to make a room feel less cluttered and more open. “Lucite is great for small spaces that need additional seating, shelving, or table space but don’t have the real estate for bigger, bulkier items,” they say.
The key to modernizing this material is mixing it in with woods, metals, and upholstered items. Try clear dining chairs or even a clear coffee table alongside other more substantial furnishings.
Bold pops of color
The ’80s were packed with punchy colors and hits of pastel hues. If having colored walls, carpets, furniture and decor is your jam, go all out. If you’re more on the minimalist end of the design spectrum though, you can still incorporate some ‘80s vibes using carefully selected colorful accents.
Designer Gunnar Larson says the all-white everything trend has been a full force for the past few years. That bright backdrop, however, is actually perfect for experimenting with color. “Building on all-white decor with pops of colors and funky, bright color shapes is so fun and easy,” says Larson. “Tape out some free form shapes on the wall and grab some pink or green paint and give that wall a pop!”
A great rule of thumb when introducing color is to pick three main shades and use that palette throughout your space, suggests Greene. Try a fun combination, like blue, red, and black, as seen in the Chicago apartment above. If painting is too much of a commitment, consider geometric wall art instead, which can easily be swapped out if your aesthetic changes.
The Memphis Design movement began in 1980 as a rebellion against 1970s minimalism and straight lines, and its creator, Ettore Sottsass, was certainly inspired by Art Deco’s geometry and the color palette of Pop Art. “Memphis Design is making its way back with large geometrically-interesting furniture pieces, curved edges, color blocking, patterns, and bold neon elements,” says Greene. She loves this style because of its bold, unique look. Turning your home into a Pop Art museum is a little bit of a gamble though, especially because authentic Memphis pieces can cost a very pretty penny.
For Greene, the best way to channel this look is to add a geometrically-interesting mirror, table, or even vase to one or more of your rooms. Not only will these pieces add interesting shapes to your spaces, but they will also make for great conversation starters when entertaining regularly becomes a thing again.
In the ‘80s sofas were low, deep, and bold. Whether covered in florals, vibrant velvets, or funky checks, comfort was the name of the game when it came to seating, and this is something that’s surging again—and frankly worth considering, according to Greene, if you’re in the market for a new couch. Mid-century lines might be clean, but they certainly aren’t always as comfortable as a slouchy sectional that’s straight out of the 1980s.
“Low deep sofas are very popular today with plenty of room for company and lounging,” says Greene. “They’re great for people that want to curl their feet up and relax, almost like [they’re getting] a big hug from the seat.” Instead of doubling down on the ‘80s look here, for the sake of longevity, it might be best to choose something solid in cotton, linen, or velvet for your upholstery.
Brass is one material from the 1980s that just won’t quit, and it’s for good reason: Brass brings a lot of warmth, character, and subtle shine to space. To keep brass current and modern, Wetzel and Thomas recommend mixing it with other metals. “Try working it into your home with light fixtures, faucets, or metal trim on your coffee table,” they say. “Mixing brass with dark tones will make for a rich and mysterious vibe while mixing brass with lighter tones will add a modern freshness to your space.”
Designer James Farmer says the tone of brass you choose is key for a stylish look that will last. “It doesn’t have to be polished and shiny,” says Farmer. “Antique or French brass is fabulous in any decade on hardware, nail heads, or light fixtures.”
Remember those appliance garages and rolling kitchen cabinets from the 1980s? Well, the tambour wood that made those pieces possible is back, and this time around, this material is sleeker and chicer than ever. “Tambour is functional and space-saving,” says Larson. “What I love about the design and look of it is that it is so sleek and modern yet boasts texture and pattern in a simple way.”
Wooden accents never really go out of style, which makes tambour an attractive ‘80s trend to bring into your space. After all, tambour is really just composed of closely set wooden strips, making it very similar to beadboard, another home style staple. You don’t have to save tambour accents for just the kitchen either. Try incorporating tambour wood into your space with a roll-top desk, a corner shelving unit that can double as a bar, or even on the front of your fireplace.