RETRO INTERIORS: What is it and How to Bring this Home


Oftentimes, we see great design aesthetics come back in style. A reinvention that appears again with a modern twist. Seeing this in the world of home decor isn’t so strange. Take a look at the growing adoration for antique finds, mid-century style’s comeback, and just recently, TIkTok’s coastal grandmother interiors

The same can be said about Retro Style, the eclectic mix of old styles from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, taking new forms. It is a huge collection of diverse ideas as “retro” embraces a variety of contrasting decor, colors, shapes, patterns, and texture. It could be a combination of chromatic hues and muddy neutrals, or mixing the post modern elegance of the Mad Men era, the cozy earthiness of That ’70s Show, and the psychedelic funkiness of Austin Powers.

RETRO INTERIORS: What is it and How to Bring this Home | CUBICOON

It’s a fun style to get into. You’ll surely stretch your creativity in striking a balance between bold tastes and your own personal aesthetics. In a time when we’re more cognizant of designing a home that could be a relaxing sanctuary, retro design can be a great way to help us reconnect with a past that isn’t as complicated as the world we live in.

To understand more about this design, let’s first start with a brief history of the Retro interior style

The retro interior design style was conceived at a time when mass production was picking up and bringing together ideas from different places. All contributing to a unified but vibrant sense of style. 

Having emerged after the war, it was also a time of hope and positivity, and that optimism manifested itself in creative works then. For the retro style, this meant the mixture of shiny leather, synthetic materials, floral patterns, bold prints, and a rejection of anything boring and mundane. 

Retro living room with a bright upholstered couch, pillows and picture frames on the wall

Photo source: Design Cafe

Through the years, this design style has evolved: 

  • The 50s-inspired retro style introduced bold and vibrant colors, chrome handles on cabinets, table legs and chairs, upholstered chairs, artificial shiny leather, and color combinations of red, yellow, pink, black, and turquoise.
  • Whereas the 60s introduced flowers, rainbows, and symbols of peace. At the same time, it was an era of rule-breaking when it comes to furniture – plastic chairs, blow up furniture, and bean bags come into play.
  • 70s, the disco era, brighter hues of green and blue took over. This was complemented by the use of natural and raw materials like wood or exposed concrete. 

Today, the 2020s take is more curated, cherry-picking from retro elements while ditching the dated aspects to fit the modern home. Depending on your personal taste, a retro-inspired home can be minimalist, simply integrating pops of color and decorative elements into its design. Or also, there’s always its maximalist approach – more colors, textures and decor.

Retro living room that's slightly minimalist with just the right touches of colors, shapes and texture

Photo source: OfDesign

Unsurprisingly making a comeback, the style’s poppy character, nostalgic vibe, and versatility is easy to make your own. Furniture and machines (cameras, typewriters, cars) from this era were also built to last. Their functional construction and beautiful design set them apart in the eyes of collectors, hobbyists, and design enthusiasts alike. 

Those who appreciate individuality and want to make a statement in their homes would love this design style. If you want to create a retro atmosphere with decor that looks familiar but still has its own original and fresh look, go for this. 

How do you bring this design style into your own space?

While stemming from past approaches, retro doesn’t have to be limited to those. You can always incorporate the modern-day era and in extension, your unique taste, into its decoration. With this, the key to this style is creating a joyful atmosphere with an unusual combination of eye-catching items. 

RETRO INTERIORS: What is it and How to Bring this Home | CUBICOON

Now that you’ve gained a better understanding of the retro style, dive into our tips and tricks to bring it home. You’ll find creative ideas that can help you strike a balance between bold tastes and contemporary style to truly make your home marvelous. 

1. Time to get some funky, show-stopping, decor 

The hallmark of retro style is embracing eye-catching pieces that come in all shapes and sizes. It is filled with vibrant colors, geometric prints, and futuristic furniture. 

To bring this style into your home, keep on the lookout for the unusual. This can come in the form oddly-shaped furniture or use of synthetic materials (artificial leather and velvet). More interestingly, include remarkable gizmos from that time: a classic typewriter, old radios, and film cameras to add more character. 

When it comes to furniture that can double as a design piece, go for bean bags, pod chairs, day loungers, chrome stools, or brightly colored ottomans. These multi-colored, multi-functional options not only enhance the look of your room but provide ample space where you need it. 

Go for unique pieces that will complement your eclectic mix of decor. You can choose to play with striking colors or intricate patterns to make it as interesting as your personality. 

Retro living room with an eclectic mix of decor, colors and patterned floors

Photo source: IDesignArch

If you’ve hesitated getting a vivid upholstered chair, floral print cushions, and chromatic plastic chairs before, you can rest assured that those unique pieces can find a place in a retro-inspired home. Use those to brighten up an otherwise minimalist room and create an interesting focal point to make each space stand out. 

Pro-tip: Don’t be afraid to inject elements from this era. You can opt for beaded curtains in doorways to use as partitions. This will add a pop of color into your home but is also a fun way to create distinct spaces for work, play, and rest.

2. Go heavy on patterns, textures, and colors

Bright and patterned wallpaper, geometric rugs, and bedding with floral motifs is a great step in adopting the retro interior into your modern home. After all, this style is all about creating a charming and exciting look by using a combination of colors and materials. 

Design a space like this by diversifying the textures and colors of your throw pillows, upholstered chairs, lighting pieces, and rug. Doing so can create an attractive space that feels youthful, fun, and artsy.

Fun, artsy and eclectic retro living room that still keeps to a certain color theme

Photo source: Decoist

That means using design materials like glass, colorful plastic, and beautifully matching textures to recreate the flair of mid-century homes. Vinyl reds, blacks, and yellow tones are perfect choices for decorating your home. While textured rugs, 3-dimensional artwork, and textured wallpaper, create an even more intriguing space.

RETRO INTERIORS: What is it and How to Bring this Home | CUBICOON

With a lot going on, it can be tricky to create a balance. That’s why it’s essential to use some neutral color schemes and muted earthy tones that would complement these busy patterns. If you have a lot of accessories in your room, use a light-toned background so the colors won’t clash. Contrastingly, if you have a bold wall color, you can choose to incorporate some wooden elements like a bedframe to soften the look of your room.

For a modern twist, you can also lean into pastel colors which go so well with 50s kitchenware and appliances. It’s a great way to make something feel new once again. 

Photo source: Homemydesign

Alternatively, try a new coat of paint to give your old items a new life. Your small furniture pieces can be repainted in bright colors to fit into your new retro-inspired home. While carpets featuring geometric shapes or color blocks can cover imperfections in your flooring while complementing your room. 

Colorful retro living room with bright couches and a geometric patterned carpet

Photo source: Brownstoner | Colorful Retro-Inflected Style Comes to Life in Park Slope Townhouse

3. Vintage furniture and decor are here to stay

Vintage lover and antique buffs, welcome. Secondhand furniture that may once have been overlooked or seen as outdated, is essential in making any room look more retro. After all, this style is not only about the bright and the colorful, but it’s also about bringing the warm ambiance from a few decades past. 

Furniture made from natural materials like wood or cane – wooden coffee tables, bookshelves, and rustic decor – can add undeniable quality to your space. It can also create an inviting atmosphere that enhances comfort at home.

RETRO INTERIORS: What is it and How to Bring this Home | CUBICOON

During those decades, furniture was well-made and spoke for themselves. When selecting, go for function and style. Here are some mid-century modern staples that focus on organic shapes: Ray Eames’ lounge chair and George Nelson coconut chair, and Isamu Noguchi’s coffee table. Or, Hans J. Wegner’s 1963 Shell Chair that can bring the 60s feel into your living room. 

Adding these retro furniture often inspires feelings of nostalgia and adds an interesting element in contemporary homes. 

Mix it up by using decor made from metal and wicker to add more depth and texture. Don’t forget to accessorize with vintage mirror frames, table sets, and wooden picture frames too! Remember the typewriters we mentioned earlier, those will be beautiful decor. 

Pro-tip: Go for a wooden dining room to give your space a natural touch with a lavish look. To enhance this look further, use intricate lighting to create a retro look.

Retro living room with color seating and throw pillows and with natural wooden beams on a ceiling for a natural, warm touch

Photo source: Architectural Digest

4. Illuminate spaces with eclectic lighting

Speaking of lights, retro lighting is often dynamic, abstract, and always about aesthetics. You’ll have to go for bold and intricate designs that can add pizzazz to your space. Look for ones with distinctive shapes and lots of personality. 

Changing the lighting you choose to hang from your ceiling, place on your table, or set on the floor is an easy way to add retro elements into your home. You can do this by swapping your modern light fixtures for ones with metallic finishes and geometric shapes. Lampshades decorated with fringe, curving floor lamps by a comfy couch, or square shades are great retro options too. 

You can also decorate your sleek and modern kitchen with cool glass pendants accented with antique brass. The combination of these contrasting pieces makes an interesting space. 

RETRO INTERIORS: What is it and How to Bring this Home | CUBICOON

5. Adorn your home with plenty of plants

The home decor of this era included a lot of indoor plants and greenery. Plants should adorn your windows and breathe life into your space. At the same time, flowers can take center stage at the middle of the dining table or on open vases placed on shelves in any room.  

Biophilic accents like the use of earthy tones, mushroom-shaped lamps, and of course, plants, echoes the design aesthetics of the 70s. It’s a common site to see wooden coffee tables, a sprinkle of plants, intricate lighting, and comfy upholstered chairs in homes during the time.

Retro living room with colorful patterns and paintings plus flower vases in the center table for an added pop

Photo source: Luxury Lifestyle Mag

Here’s a quick guide to decorating your home with plants: 

  • Spider plant: Beloved in the 70s, they’re incredibly versatile and will put up with low light. This plant is great for beginners since it is extremely tolerant and looks great hanging or potted. 
  • Begonias: This plant came into fashion in the 60s. Begonias are meant to be noticed. With countless varieties, it adds a unique charm into any room.
  • Rubber plant: Otherwise known as ficus elastica, this beautiful plant was a popular choice in the 70s. Its shiny, structural leaves decorate any space and it’s easy to maintain. 

Learn about our guide to indoor plants. We share 12 lush choices that will surely brighten your space and are easy to take care of. 

Colorful retro living room with an eclectic mix of furniture and textures

Photo source: Homenish

6. Don’t forget to decorate with art

A retro home isn’t complete without art. Go for pieces that are bold rather than those with sceneries and paintings of still life – abstract pieces over those that are simple and well-defined.

Known for its adoration for wall art, retro homes often boast varied and vibrant pieces that add to the flamboyant look of the interiors.Other decorations like a vintage wall clock, hanging mirrors, photos of cars and celebrities of that time, and even old family photos can be used to add more character and distinct charm to your space. 

Another easy way to upgrade your space is by decorating your wall with unique picture frames. This can come in different sizes, feature interesting artwork, and arranged in a seemingly non-uniformed manner to easily create an ornate space to complement your bright interiors.

Retro-inspired living room with bright couches and a mix of patterns with a painting as a centerpiece

Photo source: Linesmag

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