There’s classic furniture. There’s timeless furniture. There’s antique and vintage furniture. And then there’s retro furniture.
All of these terms have similar meanings — the furniture is from a bygone era — but somehow they conjure different feelings. When we think of “classic furniture,” we picture the drawing room in a Jane Austen novel. We’d find timeless furniture on the cover of a bougie interior design magazine while antique and vintage furniture makes us imagine toile and floral prints.
But retro furniture … retro furniture is a little funkier than all of its bygone friends. Retro furniture isn’t trying to be old in a classic or timeless way. It’s kitschy and it’s fun. It wears its era like a badge of honor.
When you look at a piece of retro furniture, you’re instantly transported back to the decade it represents. You’re filled with nostalgia and a sudden longing to be at a 1950s soda shop or a 1970s roller disco. You know the piece is dated, and it only makes you love it more.
This comforting nostalgia is the reason retro home decor may be dated but it’s never out of style. We’ll share 12 retro furniture trends that prove it.
12 retro furniture styles to steal from the 1950s through the 80s
Unlike antiques, which have to be at least 100 years old, retro furniture comes from the more recent past. Most interior designers will classify furniture as “retro” if it comes from the 1950s through the 1980s.
You can pick just one decade and create a stylish time capsule, or you can mix and match retro pieces from all four decades to build a style that’s uniquely your own — and uniquely modern. Mixing and matching furniture from different historical eras is one of Architectural Digest’s hot trends for 2024.
We’ll walk you through the signature design elements of furniture from each decade and share pieces that perfectly capture these retro looks.
1. 1950s vinyl and chrome
The 1950s marked the beginning of “space age” materials like vinyl, laminate, and plastic. Suddenly not everything needed to be made out of wood, and American interior designers and homeowners embraced this change.
Vinyl was an extremely common upholstery, especially for kitchen seating because it easily wipes clean, while chrome-colored metal framed the chairs and tables. You could hardly visit a diner or soda shop in the 1950s without sitting on a red vinyl stool.
Here are some examples of 1950s-inspired, vinyl and chrome furniture:
2. 1950s curved wood and plastic
New materials also meant new silhouettes. The 1950s marked the beginning of mid-century modern design, so geometric shapes reigned supreme. But because manufactured wood and plastics can be molded, rounded corners and curves suddenly became available.
You can see curved silhouettes on everything from hard furniture, like coffee tables and side tables, to upholstered furniture like accent stands. Many homes even included more playful curved pieces inspired by German Bauhaus design, like an egg-shaped chair.
These are some of our favorite 50s-inspired curved silhouettes:
3. 1950s bright colors
The 1950s was a time of optimism in America — the war was over, the economy was flourishing, and the whole world looked bright. This sunny attitude was reflected in home decor, and bright happy colors were everywhere.
Some of the most popular upholstery colors in the 1950s were primary colors — blue, yellow, and red — as well as teal and pink.
Here are some retro-style pieces that feature 1950s silhouettes in brightly colored upholstery:
4. 1960s tulip silhouette
Flower power ruled the 60s, and the tulip silhouette perfectly embodied that aesthetic. This silhouette placed furniture like dining tables and lounge chairs on a single leg that flared toward the top and bottom, much like a tulip stem.
It was the next evolution of curved wood and plastics that started in the 1950s. Instead of the straight or turned shape of solid wood table legs, furniture could now curve and flare, and the tulip table or chair leg flared in all directions.
These tulip-shaped tables and chairs show off this quintessential 60s style:
5. 1960s acrylic furniture
As people continued to embrace space-age materials, acrylic furniture became a popular alternative to glass. Cheaper and more durable, it made appearances throughout homes, from living room furniture to outdoor furniture.
When it wasn’t clear to take the place of glass, it could also be colored to take the place of plastic. Some of the most popular colors of the 1960s were orange, bright green, and fushia.
Here are some of our favorite pieces of 60s-inspired acrylic furniture:
6. 1960s global design
Interior designers in the USA have often taken inspiration from European trends. The mid-century modern style that dominated the 40s through the 60s originated with German, Danish, and Scandinavian designers.
But during the 1960s, Americans started looking elsewhere for inspiration. That’s when Indian and Morrocan motifs made their way into our home decor. You can see the look in the decade’s woven textiles, carved wood furniture, and intricate lighting.
These pieces incorporate Indian and Morrocan motifs:
7. 1970s earth tones
Time flies. Trends change. By the 1970s, everyone was over bright colors and space-age materials. The environmentalist movement started to take off, and it was reflected in interior design with a return to earth tones.
The highlighter orange and green of the 1960s became a muted harvest orange and olive green in the 70s. Mustard yellow, brown, and terracotta were also popular shades. You can hardly create a 1970s retro design without incorporating these colors.
Here’s our favorite furniture in these quintessential 70s colors:
8. 1970s rattan
Along with earth tones, people looked for ways to bring more natural materials into their homes. Solid wood furniture returned, as did other natural elements like stone tabletops, macramé planters, and wicker and rattan seating.
Rattan has made a comeback recently with organic modern design, but this material reached peak popularity in the 1970s. These pieces exemplify the 1970s love of rattan:
9. 1970s shine
The 1970s were all about earth tones and glitter. The disco era inspired people to add a little sparkle to their homes — often side-by-side with their earth-toned upholstery.
The most popular material for adding shine was chrome. And it would make appearances in the form of a chrome lamp on the bedside table or a chrome bar cart in the dining room. Unlike the chrome of the 1950s that was paired with vinyl and plastic, 1970s chrome furniture was often paired with earthy materials like dark brown wood.
Here are some pieces of furniture that show off 70s-style chrome decor:
10. 1980s pastels and bright colors
If you hear 1980s, and you think of squiggly patterns and bright colors, then you’re thinking of Memphis design. While it may sound like a style that emerged in Memphis, Tennessee, it actually started in Milan, Italy.
It was meant to be the opposite of the practical design choices of mid-century modern, which believed that form should reflect the function of an object. Instead, Memphis design put form first. It created objects that were more fun than functional.
While not every home embraced form over function, many 1980s spaces adopted the bright colors of this style. Peach, teal, and mauve were some of the most popular colors of the decade, as were primary colors and highlighter brights.
Here are some pieces that show off the most popular colors of the 1980s:
11. 1980s mirrored furniture
Mirrored furniture brightened homes throughout the 1980s. An evolution of the disco-inspired chrome of the 70s, 1980s mirrored furniture often incorporated crystal, mirrored surfaces, and metallics for the ultimate shine.
This decade was a time of excess, and maximalist home decor was popular. So when people added mirrored furniture to their homes, they went all out.
These pieces show off the maximalist shine of 80s mirrored furniture:
12. 1980s Southwest-inspired design
For the 1980s households that didn’t want to go full sparkle, Southwest decor was a popular alternative.
It brought a rustic and natural feeling to 1980s homes and often featured the bright shades that were already popular, like teal and bright orange. The geometric patterns of Southwestern textiles also paired beautifully with the patterns of Memphis design.
Here are some examples of Southwest-inspired decor that would have been popular during the 1980s:
Enjoy decades of style in retro design
Whether you’re drawn to a particular decade or you want to mix and match your favorite pieces, retro furniture will turn your space into a blast from the past. This nostalgic style allows you to travel back in time with every piece that you add to your home.
Retro furniture is deliberately outdated, but not out of style. These pieces are so quintessentially 50s, 60s, 70s, or 80s that they’re instantly recognizable. So keep the aesthetic of each decade in mind as you shop.
You can hunt down retro furniture that’s authentic to each decade or you can find high-quality modern pieces inspired by the past at your local Coaster Furniture store. Pick the pieces that take you back in time and you can create a home design that’s super nifty, groovy, out of sight, or totally rad.
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