Retro interior design has found a resurgence in modern design. So it begs the question, what is retro? The great thing about interior design is that it can be whatever it means to you! Learn what “retro” typically means to us, along with some helpful tips for the avenues you can take with it.
“Retro” by definition means “imitative of a style, fashion, or design from the recent past.” This definition helps us determine what is typically considered retro. Generally, the “retro rule of thumb” is to imitate design styles from at least two decades ago but not yet four decades ago. So today, technically speaking, 1979-1999 would be this generation’s “retro”. Typically today’s home-owning and renting generation refers to retro as the 1950’s-1970’s.
The 1950’s to the 1970’s is the most popular “retro” period of time. A renaissance of design occurred during that era; technology was being developed left and right, families finally felt financially secure enough after the World Wars to decorate their homes, and capitalist America was at its most thriving. We saw this happen in the 1920s, or the “Roaring Twenties,” when capitalist demand became the highest it had ever been in the United States. When demand increases, design and innovation increase as well.
The best thing about retro design is that it’s subjective! There is no right or wrong way to do it. There are many directions you can take with retro design: color palettes, ratio of old pieces to new, motifs from your favorite retro decade, and more.
Retro design doesn’t fit into the cookie cutter trends happening right now. This means you can take your time finding the perfect pieces, experimenting, and mix and matching. By searching for retro pieces where you wouldn’t typically shop, you have a better chance at a more unique and original home design. Try out garage and estate sales, thrift stores, scouring sites like Facebook Marketplace, eBay, and Etsy, and joining social circles of collectors from similar time periods.
A great way to introduce retro design to your space is with small hints of it in your decor. Pick a wallpaper or contact paper that fits your desired era. For example, a black and white checkered contact paper backsplash in your kitchen could reminisce a 1950’s diner. Choose lighting and rugs that are flexible with your style, then build around the broader pieces you’ve already collected.
When you think of the 1970’s, do groovy flowers, lava lamps, earth tones, and feathered hair come to mind? These are key aspects of what made the 1970’s such a stand-out decade. When you’re deciding how to decorate your home, think about your favorite aspects of your era of choice. Lean into the 1950’s diner, the 1960’s British Invasion, or the 1970’s hippie era. By choosing a “theme” of sorts, it helps you narrow down what sort of pieces to look for to build your look.
Retro design is all about appreciating what has already been done. But you have to remember, it’s YOUR home! Your home decor should reflect your interests, your personality, and how you like to live. Don’t put too much pressure on fitting into a certain decade if it limits the comfort you feel when you curl up on the couch at the end of the day.
Nostalgia is comforting, which is why retro design is so popular! With this useful information, makeover your space with unique and original pieces. Retro not quite the style for your apartment home? Read one of our expert articles on Boho Design and Mid-Century Modern Design.