What is Retro Interior Design?

Retro interior design incorporates modern furniture, psychedelic colors, and a mix of new and old. While retro design doesn’t revolve around one period, the mid-century modern era comes into play.

A retro style can give your home a fresh and fun look. Here’s the history of retro interior design and tips for adding it to your space.

The History of Retro Interior Design

Retro interior desgin

The term “retro” means a style of the distant past. And when it comes to retro interior design, the 1950s – 1970s play a significant role. 

During the mid-century modern era, architecture went from more ornate Victorian and grand neoclassical styles to simpler homes such as prairie and ranch. Along with the new, streamlined, minimal architecture came a streamlined interior look. The furniture was long and low, geometric, and light fixtures and decor followed suit.

But retro style doesn’t only encapsulate mid-century modern. Instead, it often weaves in other interior design styles such as Art Deco, Hollywood Regency, and bold colors of the 1970s.

Vintage Interior Design vs. Retro Interior Design

The difference between retro and vintage interior design is that retro design comes from the recent past, while vintage interior design may come from 100+ years ago. Designers primarily base retro spaces on mid-century modern styles, while vintage designs may incorporate a softer, more antique look.

Retro Interior Design Tips: Get the Look

Retro-style interiors can be minimal or maximal, depending on your preferences. Here’s how to get the look.

Add Some Mid-Century Modern Details

Since retro interior design borrows elements from the 1950s – 1970s, incorporate at least one key mid-century modern detail in each room. For example, you can choose a sleek velvet couch, retro appliances, or psychedelic wallpaper. 

Mix Styles and Eras

Because retro style is about creating a cool atmosphere and not being historically accurate, don’t worry about having all pieces from the same era. Instead, find your inspiration piece for each room and incorporate items from other periods. Make your space a mix of old and new.

Opt for Bold Colors

The bold colors of the 1960s and 1970s can make a statement in your design. Use multiple colors or pick one to sprinkle throughout the room. 

Some popular design colors from the 1970s include:

  • Avocado
  • Navy Teal
  • Sweet Potato
  • Harvest Gold
  • Tomato Red

Use Geometric Prints

Whether on a rug, wallpaper, or throw pillows, geometric prints give your room a retro look. 

Make a Statement with Lighting

The mid-century era brought some of the most timeless and interesting light choices. 

Add mid-century modern lighting if you prefer a minimal room but want to make a statement. Consider a sputnik chandelier, mid-century pendant, or overhead light with a lampshade.

Examples of Retro Interior Design

Here’s a look at how these homeowners and designers incorporated a retro style into their spaces.

Retro Style Living Room

Retro living room decor
Kimball Starr Interior Design

The 1950s and 1960s furniture in this living room gives it a sophisticated but retro look. The light fixtures add interest, while features like the white trim, fireplace, and hardwood floors add a modern feel.

Retro Style Kitchen

Retro kitchen decor
Hannah Dee Interiors

The use of multiple styles shows up in this retro-style kitchen. While the cabinets and farmhouse sink give this space a country look, the avocado-colored accents and tile floor add a vintage feel. If you want a retro look, combine your favorite interior design styles.

Pink Retro Bedroom

retro pink bedroom
Last Detail Interior Design

While not everything in this room is mid-century modern, the color scheme gives it a mid-1900s vibe. The bright pink and green are a feminine vintage color combo. The combination of retro and modern furniture creates a relaxing setting.

Modern Retro Dining Room

Retro modern dining area
Caisson Studios

The mid-century influences are apparent in this dining room’s chairs, accent wall, and light fixtures. But, the flooring, color palette, and table offer a sleek look, giving the room a contemporary style.