12 Retro Decor Elements that are Back in the Spotlight

“Sooner or later, everything old is new again.” It’s a quote written by author Stephen King and a sentiment that’s been in used in song lyrics, but it sure applies to home decor too. Decor trends that were once thought to be “out” are now staging a comeback and finding a place in design magazines and home interiors from coast to coast. Much like that old disco shirt in the back of the closet, you never know how long you’ll have to hang onto an outdated decor trend before it sees a resurgence in popularity. That said, there are quite a few that are having their second moment in the sun, so these are the 12 retro decor elements that you can safely highlight or reinstall in your own home.

Hairpin Legs

View in gallery

Prized for its look as well as its use of less material, the hairpin leg has been popular in handcrafted furniture for some time but is now making its way into more and more mass-market pieces. It was developed back in the 1940s by the designer Henry P. Glass for outdoor furniture, but subsequent refinements have let to its use in chairs and stools as well as tables of all kinds. Here, a row of bar stools from Ceragres shows how modern and stylish they can look.

Houseplants

View in gallery

Wildly popular in the 1970s, houseplants have fallen out of design favor over time but are now seeing a comeback. Whether this was fueled by the quest for a more healthful home or by the recent popularity of the Jungalow trend, houseplants are popping up in all styles of decor. It’s a good thing too because they do help improve indoor air quality and boost your mood because they bring a little bit of nature into the house.

Globe Pendant Lighting

View in gallery

Reports of plummeting popularity for midcentury modern styles are premature because lots of elements from that era are still in high demand, like globe pendant lights. Designs now have all kinds of tweaks that make the basic style more interesting, from added elements like these from Kreo, which have teardrop-shaped bases in red metal. This particular design emphasizes the retro feel, while other styles use multiple globes for larger suspension fixtures, or encase the globe inside an artful structure.

Wood Paneling

View in gallery

This is most definitely not the wood paneling of your mother’s childhood. That stuff was made from plywood or pressed fiberboard which came in large sheets with faux vertical gaps between the wood-look “planks.” Today’s wood paneling is genuine and is more likely to be installed horizontally rather than vertically in many cases. Perhaps boosted by the popularity of shiplap, today’s wood paneling options run the gamut from that farmhouse chic choice to highly polished sleek versions and rustic, reclaimed wood styles. Also, it’s often used as an accent wall covering and not always for cladding an entire room.

Pastels in the Kitchen

View in gallery

If you grew up in the eighties, you probably owned a pastel-colored polo short or button-down collar shirt because those were the colors of the decade. Along with the preppy trend, those colors faded into obscurity for quite some time, but are now gaining as a retro design element. This kitchen shows a pink accent wall, which gives the whole space a retro feeling, even though it is a largely contemporary kitchen. Be prepared to see more old-fashioned hues come into play as a sense of nostalgia sweeps through decor.

Statement Kitchen Appliances

View in gallery

After decades of stainless steel dominance, kitchen appliances are seeing a big change. Standout features like colors, fancy knobs in a contrasting metal, and old-fashioned designs are surging, especially in high-end kitchens. Of course, that doesn’t mean these appliances are truly old-fashioned. No, they certainly have all the technologies available to make cooking the most effective and efficient possible. It’s an interesting marriage of new and old that seems to be taking hold in a very high-tech era, where people are craving something different.

Chrome Accents

View in gallery

Brass, gold, rose gold and copper have been the trending metals at some point in the past few decades while chrome fell out of favor, But no more. Some of the newest designs are featuring this shiny finish that adds elegance and a rather upscale flair to products.  This bathroom, featured in the New York City Holiday Showhouse, sports all-chrome accents and trims and it makes the whole space very glamorous. Paired with sophisticated shades of gray and sleek surfaces, this a very luxurious bathroom.

Wallpaper

View in gallery

A far cry from the old wallpaper and border trend of the eighties (thank goodness), today’s wallcoverings are artful, bold and often more like murals than run-of-the-mill wallpaper. Modern wallpaper colors can be very vivid and the prints are mostly large-scale, thanks to the advent of digital printing that allows for creating big images. You won’t find any dainty, small flower designs among current offerings, although old-school chintz prints are trending, especially in fashionable dark colors.

Terrazzo

View in gallery

In its heyday back in the 1920’s terrazzo was a very popular type of flooring that also went by the wayside when it comes to popular design trends. This durable, poured surface is also making a comeback, but this time as a material for other types of design elements. Here the material is used for a bathroom vanity top, but it can also be used for kitchen islands and all kinds of home accessories. It’s firing up as an of-the-moment material whose design is also being replicated on textiles and wallcoverings.

Bamboo, Rattan and Wicker

View in gallery

Brought back to the fore by globally-inspired design as well as Jungalow fans, furniture made from these natural materials — bamboo, rattan and wicker —  continues to gain market share. The handcrafted feeling that comes from these pieces is part of the appeal, as is the natural, textural look. The key to making a room with this type of furniture look fresh is to not be all matchy-matchy.  Mix in selected chairs or accent tables, but don’t go the route of a full matched seating set or you’ll end up looking like grandma’s place in Florida.

Fancy Pants Moldings

View in gallery

While crown moldings have never really gone out of style, they generally have been more often found in traditional decor or more staid types of transitional spaces. Now, more elaborate moldings are being used in contemporary homes, but they are not as carved as the more traditional varieties. This kitchen has a super deep crown molding but the smoother style and lack of a complex decorative design make it a modern choice for a contemporary space.

Geometric Prints

View in gallery

Along with bold wallpapers come the bold graphics of design eras gone by. Although graphic motifs can be incorporated most easily through textile changes, tiles are one of the areas where they are beginning to dominate. This triangular design is from Tile Bar, but there is an endless array of these types of designs, from angular to curved. Whatever you choose, these graphic looks can be used for an accent wall or for a full floor if you’re feeling super bold.