The 1980s Home Decor Furniture Guide |
The 1980s Furniture Design Guide

The 1980s Furniture Design Guide

From shabby chic to the Memphis Design movement

Written by –
Jess Ng
on June 22nd 2018
Born and raised in the UK, Jess is NONAGON’s resident historian turned marketer turned writer, drawn to Hong Kong by the lure of dim sum breakfasts and bustling city life. A foodie who loves to cook, food occupies 70% of her brain 90% of the time. When not eating, Jess can typically be found buried in a book or obsessing over making NONAGON’s Instagram #feedgoals.

Shoulder pads, leg warmers and perms are the 80s fashion trends everyone knows and loves (to hate!), but how is your knowledge of 80s home decor? From shabby chic to Memphis design and the Circle Chair, it’s time to take a trip down memory lane with our 1980s Furniture Design Guide.

Memphis Design

Conjure an image of 80s home decor in your mind and I guarantee you’re seeing bold colors, geometric silhouettes and all things laminate. Welcome to the delight that was known as Memphis design.

1980s Home Decor: Interior living space decorated in the Memphis Design style |
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Named after the Memphis Group founded by designer Ettore Sottsass in Milan, the Memphis design movement was a reaction against the straight-laced mid-century modern and minimalist trends of the 60s and 70s. Instead, Memphis design leaned more towards bright colors and prints, often with a hefty dose of kitsch for good measure.

Defining traits of Memphis design include the use of terrazzo, the Bacterio ‘squiggle’ print, and experimentation with geometric design forms.

While the Memphis Group’s ventures may have been considered commercially unsuccessful, their design style did attract a cult following. The set design of ‘Saved By The Bell’, for instance, was heavily influenced by Memphis design. Designer Karl Lagerfeld loved it so much he bought the entirety of Sottsass’ first collection.

Shabby Chic

On the opposite end of the design spectrum, the 80s saw a step back to country basics with the whole shabby chic look.

To get this look on lock, think antique lace, vintage florals and an overload of Laura Ashley. Chintz was also big at this time, complete with many a ruffle and bustle of course.

In many ways, shabby chic can be seen as the original iteration of kinfolk. Characterized by a make do and mend mentality which focused on thrift shopping and up-cycling, it was the perfect antidote to 80s yuppie culture.

Glass Blocks

We can’t talk about 80s decor without mentioning glass blocks.

Remember those square shaped blocks of wavy glass? They were the 80s way of obscuring a clear visual line into private spaces.

1980s Home Decor: Contemporary salon design by The Archers with 80s inspired glass block wall |
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Aesthetically speaking, they injected a little futuristic new age charm to a space. And it seems like they might even be making a comeback thanks to the stylings of LA-based creative design group, The Archers. At least we’re skipping out on the neon this time round!

Iconic Chairs

Much like the previous decades before, the 80s saw no shortage of iconic chair creations. From the minimalist functionality of the Plywood Chair to the structurally striking Bel Air Chair, this decade had something for everyone.

1980s Home Decor: Costes Chair designed in 1984 by Philippe Starck |
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The Costes Chair is a particular favorite. Designed by Philippe Starck in collaboration with Italian design brand, Driade, it boasts a curved high back and three leg structure. It’s sleek, simple and, most important of all, timeless.

1980s Home Decor: 80s bohemian Circle Chair designed by Hans J. Wegner |
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Calling all boho lovers! The 80s was also the decade Hans J. Wegner designed the PP130 Circle Chair. This design refines the 80s love for all things geometric into something a little more laid back and casual with macrame aesthetics.

Indoor Plants

Oh, you thought the Insta-obsession with greenery inside the home was a new thing? Well think again, because this trend has been on the interior radar since at least the 80s.

1980s Home Decor: Vibrant 80s living room with green indoor plants and tropical decor |
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Perhaps this decade should be thought of as the invasion of greenery. Whether trailing from hanging planters, perched by the bathtub, or tucked into the corner, there was no getting away from the indoor house plant. Popular species of note were the Rubber Tree, the Fiddle Leaf Ficus and the Snake Plant.

What do you think of 1980s home decor?


For more nostalgia make sure to check out the rest of our ‘Furniture Guide’ series. So far, we’ve covered design trends from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Also don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for your daily dose of interior inspiration!


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