The Retro Revival: A Journey Through Iconic Design Eras

Written by: Nauradika Of London



Time to read 4 min

The allure of retro styles, from the roaring twenties to the vibrant eighties, has once again captured the imagination of interior design enthusiasts. These emblematic periods of decoration are making a grand resurgence, inviting us to recognize, adopt, and masterfully blend their distinctive elements. By selecting the appropriate colors and patterns, one can harmonize these iconic styles within a contemporary context. Iconic pieces, innovative interpretations, inspired designs, and upcycling efforts all contribute to perfecting the decor, making each era's uniqueness accessible and adaptable to modern interiors.

Delving Deeper into the Decades: A Personal Journey Through Retro Styles

The 1920s/30s: The Art Deco Elegance

For me, the Art Deco movement of the 1920s and 30s represents the pinnacle of elegance and sophistication in design. It's the era's luxurious and geometric aesthetics that truly captivate my imagination. I find myself mesmerized by the boldness of this period—a time when design took a daring leap forward, marrying rich colors with intricate patterns and lavish materials to create a look that's both opulent and meticulously organized. The symmetry, the metallic accents, and the decorative motifs that define Art Deco speak to me of a glamour that was ahead of its time. Adopting this style means embracing a certain grandeur, an ambition to create spaces that are not just beautiful but also richly storied and deeply layered. The way Art Deco combines different materials and textures, from smooth marbles to soft velvets, underlines its timeless appeal and is something I strive to incorporate into my designs, aiming for that perfect blend of past splendor with contemporary comfort.

The 1940s/50s: Modern Love with Clean Lines

The post-war era, particularly the 1940s and 50s, introduces what I like to call "Modern Love"—an era that embraced the beauty of minimalism, clean lines, and neutral materials. There's something deeply calming about this period's shift towards practicality and simplicity in design. It marked a move away from the ornate to favor streamlined furniture, organic shapes, and a muted color palette that, to me, embodies a serene and timeless ambiance. I am particularly drawn to this era's emphasis on function over form, which does not mean sacrificing beauty but rather finding it in the simplicity and the utility of the piece. The natural materials and soft, neutral colors of this period encourage a return to the basics, to a less cluttered and more thoughtful way of living. It's a reminder that sometimes, the most profound statements are made in the quietest of tones.

The 1950s: Modernity Above All

The 1950s are a testament to the era's embrace of modernity, marked by bold experimentation with form, color, and material. This decade fascinates me because it heralded a new age of innovation, where the focus shifted to embracing contemporary life through design. The furniture and decor from this time, with their dynamic shapes, vibrant colors, and futuristic designs, reflect a society poised on the edge of technological and cultural shifts. What I admire most about this era is its optimism, the belief in progress and the power of design to shape the future. Incorporating elements from the 1950s into modern spaces means capturing that spirit of possibility and forward-thinking, creating environments that are not just living areas but places that inspire and energize.

The 1960s: The Pop Star Era

The 1960s, or as I like to call it, "The Pop Star Era," was all about breaking norms and embracing a bold, optimistic outlook on life. The era's hallmark was its bold colors, psychedelic patterns, and a pervasive sense of freedom and experimentation. This decade introduced the world to Pop Art, a movement that challenged traditional notions of art and design by incorporating elements of mass culture and consumerism into creative expression. I'm particularly drawn to the playful and irreverent approach of the 60s, which saw design as a vehicle for joy and self-expression. Incorporating pop-inspired artwork, colorful furniture, and unusual materials into decor is a way to capture the decade's spirit of rebellion and creativity, turning every space into a celebration of individuality and fun.

The 1970s: The Psychedelic Seventies

The 1970s, or "The Psychedelic Seventies," took the vibrant energy of the 60s and infused it with a deeper, more introspective exploration of color, texture, and pattern. This era is dear to me for its unabashed love of earthy tones, natural materials, and groovy patterns, all of which combine to create a warm, inviting, and slightly whimsical ambiance. The 70s taught us that design could be both fun and deeply personal, a reflection of our inner selves and our connection to the natural world. By mixing bold prints, adding plush textures, and choosing furniture that melds organic with geometric forms, we can bring the free-spirited joy of the 70s into our homes, creating spaces that are not only visually stimulating but also comforting and familiar.

The 1980s: Inspired by the Memphis Movement

Finally, the 1980s, inspired by the Memphis movement, stands out for its defiance of minimalist trends and its embrace of playful, eccentric, and colorful designs. This decade, with its bright "pep's" colors, whimsical shapes, and unexpected material combinations, represents a bold departure from the understated styles of earlier periods. What excites me about the 80s is its fearless creativity, the willingness to experiment and to challenge conventional aesthetics. Furniture, lighting, and decor from this era are not just functional items; they are statements of individuality and innovation. By mixing bold hues, abstract patterns, and avant-garde accessories, we can capture the exuberance and bold spirit of the 80s, creating spaces that are vibrant, dynamic, and utterly unforgettable.

Mastering the Retro Revival

The resurgence of retro styles offers a rich palette of inspiration for contemporary interiors. By understanding the distinctive features of each era, you can mix, match, and modernize these elements to create a space that is both nostalgic and refreshingly original. Whether through iconic pieces, inspired reinterpretations, or thoughtful upcycling, the legacy of these bygone eras can be beautifully woven into the fabric of modern-day decor.


Tobias Hanno, Interior Designer @