Suppose you want to create a room, or even an entire house, around a particular period of time. Maybe it is inspired by nostalgia for a special time in your life. Maybe it fits a collection or hobby that you have. Or maybe you just like the design aesthetic of the time.
The first step is knowing the difference between vintage and retro. Vintage uses actual pieces from the time period. For example, a vintage 60s theme would require you to search antique stores and second-hand stores for furniture and decor actually made in the 60s. Since this is neither practical nor time and cost-efficient for many people, a retro theme may be more appropriate. Retro themes use new home furniture that evokes a particular era through its shape, style, patterns, and colors. Thus, rather than using antique furniture and second-hand furniture, you would decorate and furnish your retro bedroom with new dressers, nightstands, and a bed from retail bedroom furniture stores. Here are examples of four retro styles for decorating and furnishing:
In the 1960s, there were a few cultural influences that created different aesthetic styles. One was the space age. For examples of this style, think of a classic cartoon: The Jetsons. Home office furniture and dining room furniture in that time used chrome and molded plastic with rounded modernist shapes. To create a retro space-age theme, search bedroom furniture stores for beds, nightstands, chairs, and dressers with rounded edges and chrome finishes.
Another influence in the 1960s was the counterculture created by hippies and protest movements. For examples of this style, think pop art. This art form often incorporated highly contrasting colors, such as white backgrounds with vibrant, psychedelic greens, pinks, purples, and yellows.
Although most people associate the 1970s with disco, many homes and home furniture reflected a more sedate, homey aesthetic. This was likely a reaction to the counterculture of the 1960s and nostalgia for earlier, more stable times. Homes in the 1970s used an earthier color palette, with colors like avocado green, burnt orange, goldenrod, and harvest gold. Following the earthier color palette, floral patterns were popular in the 1970s.
Home decor typically included macrame, terra cotta tile, wood paneling, and matching furniture sets. To create a retro 70s bedroom, search bedroom furniture stores for bedroom sets with simple square or rectangular wood furniture without embossing and simple wood pulls and handles. For examples of 70s retro, look to the styling of That 70’s Show.
The 1980s saw two design styles. On the one hand, Memphis design used geometric patterns, terrazzo patterns, and bright primary colors. Home furniture from this design style was geometric as well, with rectangular couches and chairs. This style was exemplified by Saved By the Bell and Pee Wee’s Playhouse. To furnish a Memphis design bedroom, look for chairs, dressers, and tables of unconventional, geometric shapes from bedroom furniture stores. Keep in mind that one characteristic of Memphis design is mismatched shapes.
Shabby chic became the other major style of the era. Perhaps in response to rampant commercialism and consumerism, shabby chic used country and Victorian style furniture, lace, and chintz to create a second-hand (or “shabby”) style. This was a forerunner of the modern-day “make do” style favored by Millennials that emphasizes re-use and re-purposing.
While the 1990s do not seem far enough away to deserve “retro” treatment, children of the 1990s are approaching their thirties and are nostalgic for their childhood style. Perhaps as a reaction to the perceived artificiality of Memphis design, the 1990s design aesthetic incorporated earthy colors like hunter green, beige, and burgundy. For the same reason, natural materials, like pine and wicker, became very popular for furniture. Similarly, although leather has been used since 2200 BC, it made a big comeback in the 1990s. Technology also began to dictate the types of furniture we used, with an entertainment center capable of holding a large screen TV becoming a common fixture in homes. For examples of 90s decorating, think about the apartments in Friends, Seinfeld, and Frasier.
As contradictory as it may seem, retro style is in style. By choosing a color palette, materials, and furniture style that is reminiscent of a particular time period, you can evoke the aesthetic of an entire era.