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80s interior design trends that are coming back in a big way


It’s true what they say. If you wait long enough, everything comes back around again. Listen to the radio right now and it’s hard to tell if you’ve inadvertently time travelled. Contemporary bands are working the exact same synth sounds as the ‘80s. Chances are you’ll spot heaps of young folks wearing the same clothes we worked back then too. Maybe the hair’s a little less big, though we have spotted a few stray mullets...

Love it or loathe it, the decade left a big mark, and those traces are still going strong in the design world. Metricon Display Homes Senior Interior Designer Tracey Noonan says, “For many of our customers building with Metricon at the moment, the ‘80s bring back comforting memories of being a kid. It all comes down to familiarity. What feels nostalgic often feels homely.”

Nostalgia is definitely a big part of recalling the heyday of INXS, Kylie Minogue, Crowded House and Midnight Oil. But how can you incorporate the best of what ‘80s design had to offer in your dream home?

Wood works

“A key element of ‘80s interior design and decorating was using texture and pattern,” Tracey says. “Timber panelling was a big feature, and that’s something we’re using a lot again. We’re seeing the beauty of bringing out those textures, but also painting it in some really modern colours, instead of the yellowing timbers that were all the rage back then.”

Tracey points to Dulux shades that are the new Mission Brown: Norsewood, Langholm and Sandalwood. “They are a great modernised twist when used as a contrast feature wall to bounce off whiter interiors, while still adding freshness. It’s a great idea to use realistic timber veneers to add warmth, such as Elton Group Woodwall products. Walnut – planked is a favourite of ours.”

Tracey also recommends using laminated panels behind your TV unit in the living room, with timber handles on white laminate as they're back in as a cool feature. We have just used this combination in one of our newest display homes at Curlewis in Geelong.

Think big

A lot of the ‘80s look is about the building blocks. “Even the most contemporary of homes can add a twist of the '80s with a cathedral ceiling, or vaulted as we refer to them today,” Tracey says. “They were certainly popular and did create a sense of space and grandeur, though maybe lose the cedar cladding.”

Oversized fireplaces in a feature stone or bluestone tiles also work for the flooring, Tracey suggests. One of the easiest ways to go large on the look is by investing in ‘80s-style carpeting, particularly woven ones. “A Berber look and feel carpet in a neutral tone could create a real mood. Carpet Call has a great range.”

You can read more about how to select the right carpet here.

“Chunky sofas using seriously on-trend boucle fabric also give a hint of the ‘80s, especially if they have a timber frame,” Tracey adds. “Furniture often had a European influence and a very masculine feel to it back then.”

Arches are back, and we are seeing and using them in arched bedheads and bathrooms mirrors. Tiles with contrasting grouts for a grid feel are also part of the look.

Colour in

Think the ‘80s and you probably already have a certain colour palette in mind - pastels, teal and mauve. However, the colours returning from the 80s are more natural.

“Olives greens, browns and terracotta mixed with off-whites for freshness is the trick,” Tracey says. “Warm walnut timbers in furnishings and feature walls can add warmth to the space and complement the earthy interior design.”

Again, textures are great. “Go for rattan pendants for a light and airy feel, or even a more glamorous black and gold combination for your light fittings with a slightly more modern design.”

Go green

Pot plants were huge back in the ‘80s, and Tracey has seen the green come back in spades. “That’s a definite throwback, and we’re also seeing the return of macrame wall coverings and hanging baskets too,” she says.

Bringing lots of greenery into your home is a great way to breathe fresh air into your home, both visually and literally. You can read more about how to achieve the look with low-maintenance indoor plants here.

And if you want really low-maintenance, Tracey suggests, “If you don’t have a green thumb then use fake plants such as monstera to add a touch of '80s and bring the fresh feeling inside. Dried flowers have comeback, especially pampas grasses and palm leaves.”

Just say no

But not everything that was cool in the ‘80s needs to come back: here’s looking at you enormous shoulder pads. When it comes to time-warping your home, Tracey cautions against going too wild. “So ‘80s homes were notorious for overuse of pattern – pattern in the carpet, pattern in the window furnishings and usually a pattern in the wallpaper. It created quite an overwhelming interiors experience.”

A quick tip - if you see chintz bedspreads, art deco, "trendy" postmodern coffee tables or shabby chic, just say no. Think like a minimalist and remember your design styles!

Like everything in life, it’s all about moderation. The best thing about looking back is you can cherry-pick all the best bits and leave the worst behind. While legendary Italian Designer, Ettore Sottsass of Memphis Group fame created some amazing pieces, you don't need to channel his work in your home decor. You can achieve retro, 1980s interior bliss by keeping your styling simple.