Throwback Thursday: 1980s Style

As has been noted in posts about trends, what’s old often becomes new again, with trends constantly cycling.  When you look back at the trends of the past you can get an idea of what’s popular more frequently and what conditions might lead to certain elements becoming popular again.  That’s why we decided to start this Throwback Thursday column, to look back at the design of decades of the past. Last time we looked at the interior design trends of the 1970s.  Today we’re going to take a look at the style and trends of the 1980s and how they’re influencing today’s designs.

The 1980s Style

Loud and proud, the height of 1980’s style hasn’t necessarily aged well.  Look back at old family photos and you’ll likely wonder what everyone was thinking (in terms of interior design and fashion).  But at the time those spaces were just following the popular trends. Here are some of the more notable elements of ‘80s interior design.

‘80s Color Palette – influenced by the aesthetics of Miami Vice the ‘80s color palette has a neutral beige background with pops of electric teal, pink, and other neon colors.  Pastels of mauve, coral, and seafoam green were also popular. Bathrooms were pink, and appliances were harvest gold.  Say what you will about the ‘80s, but you can’t deny that they were colorful.

Memphis Design/Terrazzo – created by Ettore Sottsass in 1981 the Memphis Group was and Italian design firm that specialized in making furniture, fabrics, and other decor and art objects with a postmodern aesthetic.  The key elements of Memphis design – pop art influences, asymmetry, and bold graphic shapes in primary colors – go hand-in-hand for many people with ‘80s style. We’ve already covered the basics of terrazzo here, and while not directly tied to Memphis design, the two have enough in common aesthetically to be grouped together.

Southwest – tied to the pastels popular in the ‘80s, southwestern influenced design was popular and could be seen in living rooms across the country.  In the 1980s southwest style was interpreted as pastel-hued sunsets, bleached cow skull paintings and flame stitch patterns. Without the convenience of Instagram and Pinterest, the ‘80s version of southwest style was likely filtered through the decor of Tex-mex restaurants and Taco Bell before reaching homes.

Country/Florals – a big name in interior design in the 1980s was Laura Ashley.  Her book, Laura Ashley Book of Home Decorating was published in 1983 and created huge demand for her traditional/country style home furnishings.  Even in the city people were living in pastoral inspired spaces. This style transformed into the shabby chic style still popular today, and the Laura Ashley subdued florals were a big part of this aesthetic.


A Modern Take

Almost all of the hallmarks of 1980s decor are currently having a moment.  They’ve all been given a bit of a modern upgrade though. The bold, electric colors have been toned down to softer pastels while the pastels associated with ‘80s southwest style have taken a more earthy turn.  Terrazzo is back in a big way but has a slightly more sophisticated look than its predecessor.  Elements of Memphis design like bold graphic shapes and primary colors are reappearing in home decor, but true Memphis design is showing up more in museums and showrooms than real interiors.  The pastoral country style and subdued Laura Ashley florals of the ‘80s have transformed into ship-lap driven modern farmhouse and large, bold florals.  Here are some interiors that we think best represent a modern take on ‘80s design elements.


For some the ‘80s may be a mythical time that happened before you were born.  But for many the ‘80s feels like it wasn’t even that long ago, which probably contributes to ‘80s design elements being so popular.  People remember the good and the bad, and are bringing back all of the best parts while leaving the bad ‘80s design where it belongs.  Which parts of ‘80s style would you add to your space? Or do you think the ‘80s are best left in the past? Let us know in the comments!