When it comes to retro interor design, I immediately think old school, sturdy, and classic. While retro styling is rather popular these days (has anyone else noticed flared jeans making a comeback?!), it’s far too easy to go overboard on one trend. Whether we’re talking fashion of home-styling, it’s all about balance. Otherwise, you may end up looking like you’re living in a house that was abruptly abandoned in an era that’s now long-gone…
Hands up, if like me, you’ve ever tried passing something shabby off as being shabby chic. I mean, I definitely rocked those scratched up black painted floorboards for way too long. But, how do you achieve that effortlessly cool retro look? It can definitely be a fine balancing act when it comes to decorating your home in a retro and rustic design but it’s not impossible – and that cool and classic look is a lot more achievable than you might think.
The good news is that by following just a few small, simple rules you’ll be able to achieve this look and hopefully go away feeling inspired! So, let’s get started on those steps to achieving the retro style you’ve been looking for…
LARGE PRINTS AND FLASHY COLOURS
Are you looking for a room with a loud and funky personality rather than a cabin from the ‘50s kind of style? The key to pulling this off is, of course, to be brave. After all, a retro room will have both bold colours and large prints – it’s a flashy room so it’ll take a certain personality in order to pull it off properly.
Bright colours tend to make things pop so rather than running risk of things looking cluttered, they can actually help to make the room look more open and airy! I think @comedowntothewoods over on Instagram does an incredible job of this. I mean, just look at all of the patterns in the above photograph? There’s clashing patterns, colours and artwork but it ties it all together and as a result, the room looks bright and vibrant.
It’s all about attention to detail and colours. Going for deep maroon paired with dark emerald could leave you feeling like the walls are starting to collapse towards you – and it will feel far more like a clostrophoic basement from the ‘70s than a finely decorated living room. The first rule is, therefore, quite simple: allow yourself to use different prints, patterns, textures, and colours but remember to also keep it bright.
That way, your room will look so much more inviting and much more in line with the retro style from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s.
DECORATE WITH BOLD AND RETRO COLOURS
Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to get down to business. The different decades from the ‘50s and upwards are an explosion of different colours and styles. So, it’s best to start by thinking about the decade you prefer then work your way through your home from there.
If you’re all for the flowery ‘70s your home decor moodboard should feature elements of brown, dark orange, and mustard yellow. I, for one, am I sucker for adding pops of yellow to my home. While the ‘60s also loved nature colours, these tend to be more in the line of greens with pops of crazy psychedelic elements or pastel hues. Even bright and metallic wallpapers could be used! That way, your room could look modern while secretly being retro at its core.
Don’t be afraid to get playful and pair bright fuscia with avocado green. Warm colours such as purple and hot pink can also look amazing in a retro room. Honestly, there’s no practically no limit to what colours you can use. Seeing as every millenial is a apparently sucker for an avocado, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know that avocado green is the king of retro colours.
Whilst the baby boomers may say we can’t afford houses because we love avo-toast too much *major eye roll*…you can prove them wrong whilst also declaring your love for smashed avocado by using lots of calm green shades throughout your decor – no matter which decade you’ve been inspired by.
Another great thing about the retro look is that you can mix up the style. This means that even if you find mismatched furniture or decor pieces in a variety of colours and patterns, they can be a great introduction to your home… and help play homage to a funkier era. It’s the perfect way to add character! Your home will certainly look a lot more fun and lively with this look.
THE TEXTURES OF RETRO DESIGN
If you really love everything retro, you’ve probably fallen in love with all of the textures and patterns, just as much as the wild colour options. This is where the retro style really gets to shine; your living room may have touches of shiny vinyl, soft velvet, smooth plastic, and everything covered in carpets.
If you really want to create a show-stopping look for your guests, then go ahead and choose to include everything. This is how it was back then so nobody could accuse you of not being authentic to the era. Some interior design experts will even advise you that when it comes to textures and retro home styling more is more. So, go all in and don’t be afraid to mix bold patterns, textures and colours throughout the room!
On the other hand, if you’re looking to achieve a more modern and minimal balance then stick to combining just a few textures and colours. This creates a softer look. Whilst it may not necessarily be as crazy-funky-hippie as the true design often was, it can still be retro enough to satisfy your craving. Plus, keeping it a bit more simple, means you’ll have room to grow and change over time by adding more touches and playing with different styles at a later date.
You could start out with a bold ‘70s wallpaper paired with a retro insta-worthy sofa in green and finished off some white, simple pillows to even things out. Similarly, you could go for a softer wallpaper and team it with one of these fantastic leather sofas to get the kind of balance you’re looking for.
Picking out key focal pieces means your eyes have something to rest on and you won’t feel blinded by all the crazy colours and textures. Still, a truly retro home would have elements of funk, bold patterns, and flashy colours throughout so if you fancy taking a walk on the wild side, nothing should hold you back from achieving this look either.
GO FOR STURDY AND FUNCTIONAL
While the decades before the 21st century may have been a bit bolder than the current minimal grey trend we currently have going on, they do have something going for them which we can really envy; everything was built to last.
This is where you can unleash your love for everything second-hand, leather, wood, and hard plastic. Just like the refrigerators back them would be able to outlive any other appliances, their furniture was built to last – and you would never throw something out just because it went out of style.
Their less-than minimal approach to design might be quite different from what we have now, but their focus on durability and sturdiness is definitely something we can take a lesson from. Especially if you’re eco-conscious or simply just trying to do better by the environment in any way that you can.
Styling your home in a retro trend is the perfect reason to wake up early on a Sunday and head to a car boot, trawl around those local charity shops or even see what pre-loved items you can find on eBay or Facebook Marketplace. Whichever method you choose, when shopping second-hand, you’re bound to find a good bargain that’s built to last.
With a good clean-up and if needed, a fresh coat of oil or a lick of paint, you’ll have a loyal piece of history-filled furniture for life.
MAKE ROOM FOR RETRO APPLIANCES
Finally, you’re going to want to include some of those loveable old radios, gramophones and a rotary telephone. It can be purely for decoration, if you like, but I know that I would seriously love an original gramophone as a focus piece in my front room.
If you’re looking for vintage or retro appliances to decorate your home with, then Pinterest can be a great source of inspiration. Get pinning your favourite looks, then head to your local car boot sale to see what you can find or have a look for some modern replicas, if you want the peace of mind of choosing something that you know works. The originals 60s appliance may work if you’re opting for a retro phone or light, but if you’re thinking of kitchen appliance then I’d probably suggest going for a modern replica! Y’know, safety first and all that jazz…
Designing a home in a retro or even a vintage style can be a lot of fun – but knowing where to start can also be a bit mind-boggling. So, I hope this post has helped inspire you and give you a push to get more creative with your home styling. You don’t always have to go all out, you can still play homage to the ‘50s, ‘60s or ‘70s whilst keeping a moderately minimal looking home.