inspiration4 min read

Interior trends: what is retro decor style?

Rina Sawayama's retro Red 03 kitchen

WordsMegan Lambert


Retro decor is having a bit of a renaissance. With more and more of us harking back to a more analogue, pre-social media way of life, there is something that feels particularly comforting about this Golden Age living. Colourful, bold and very playful, retro decor is about combining an eclectic use of shapes, textures, and a vibrant colour palette to create a look that's as unique as the era that influenced it. A time-tested trend, retro decor will instantly create a familiar and welcoming feel. Find out how you can get some retro decor style in your home.

What is the retro decor style?

Much like modern decor and contemporary decor, the terms ‘vintage’ and ‘retro’ are often used interchangeably. But, they mean something quite different when it comes to interior design. Describing an item as vintage means it is actually old, whereas retro decor is imitative of a style from the recent past. That said, the two are not mutually exclusive. A good example are those mushroom Murano lamps that you'll no doubt have seen a lot of recently. A Smeg fridge or appliances are an example of something new but retro in style. Make sense? Bear with us. We're about to take a deep dive into the retro decor trend.

The history behind retro decor

Drawing from the fashions of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s retro decor style is reminiscent of the recent past, so there isn't a long history to speak of. That said, retro decor is unmistakably inspired by the mid-century modern decor of the 1950s and the boho home decor style of the 1970s. Interior designers like David Hicks popularised the style with his idiosyncratic designs and celebrity clientele. Reminiscent of a free and rebellious post-war era, retro decor is the trend to try if you'd like to bring some '70s interior design into your home, channel a bit of the swinging '60s or the rock 'n' roll elements of the '50s. 

Key characteristics of retro decor style

Vibrant colour palette

One of the easiest ways to give a room that retro feel is with a warm and vibrant colour palette. Warm greens through to ochre and terracotta oranges all combine to create an unmistakable retro palette. Remember, it's not about using each of these colours on your walls. Instead, consider it the beginnings of a mood board and use these hues to inform your decor, from your walls to your floors and your furnishings.

Geometric patterns 

From your wallpaper to your upholstery, geometric patterns are a key component of retro decor style. You want to think about incorporating fluent lines throughout your decor, whether that’s curved or angular. Incorporate these lines throughout your fabrics and furnishings. Think Missoni print cushions and Marimekko curtains. You can even channel those geometric patterns with your flooring by choosing retro finishes like parquet flooring. 

Take a look at our range of geometric wallpaper to get the look.

Retro furniture 

Retro furnishings are instantly recognisable for their organic, fluid shapes. Sofas are broad and elongated, upholstered in primary colours with patterned cushions. When it comes to your armchairs, look for brands like the Ercol chair, Mitt chairs, and the Egg chair. Sturdy, durable, and completely usable, just like the mid-century modern decor trend from which it takes inspiration, it’s also a very attainable look. Your pieces shouldn’t just look good but they should be functional too, like the classic mid-century console.

Retro accessories

And of course, it’s not just about your furnishings. Add the finishing touch with retro accessories. This is the fun bit. The part where you get to go trawling your local vintage stores or trawling second-hand websites to find those needles in the haystack. Whether you go kitsch retro with a lava lamp or glam with a 70s style gilt, sunbeam mirror. Lighting is a great way to achieve this balance too.

From the ‘of the moment’ mushroom lamp to the overreach floor lamp.  is another great way to channel that retro vibe in your home. Artists like Stephen Ormandy incorporate those bold colours and geometric shapes into his work, whilst movie posters or even framed records from that era will create a similarly nostalgic feel. Speaking of records, why not place a record player in your living room for a bit of that analogue retro life.