This Was the Biggest Trend the Decade You Were Born

published Feb 20, 2019
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(Image credit: Reagen Taylor)

For every home trend that people are obsessed with today (patterned cement tile, industrial lighting, brass fixtures), there are hundreds that we’ve long forgotten about. But like fashion, design is cyclical, and many of the choices that people loved back in the day are bound to make a comeback. Check out some of the iconic moments of the past 90 years or so, and see if your birth decade’s “in” is on the upswing again.

Thanks to culturally defining broadcasts like President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “fireside chats” and Orson Welles’s production of “War of the Worlds,”the Golden Age of the radio took off in the ’30s. At the beginning of the decade, more than 40 percent of households had a radio; by the end of the decade that number more than doubled. Often housed in highly embellished wood cabinets or consoles, radios were treated like a piece of fine furniture and served as a focal point in a living space. Smaller tabletop radios could be just as eye-catching, with Art Deco shapes and numerous dials. Some were made of wood, while others were made of Bakelite and other brightly colored plastics.

When World War II ended in 1945, the home became a cheerful place again. Led by Dorothy Draper, designers embraced the country’s newly optimistic outlook by bringing bright, happy patterns into the home, particularly florals. Garden-inspired wallpaper especially boomed, popping up everywhere in the home—even the bathroom.

In retrospect, it seems a little odd that a bomb could influence design, but nuclear science and the atomic bomb were a huge touchstone in American culture. Many accessories during this decade were inspired by the shape of the atom itself. George Nelson’s 1949 Ball Wall Clock helped kick off this trend, inspiring other clocks made of metal or wood featuring spokes and burst-like designs.

Lucky you if you were born in the “Mad Men” era! After years of living in prim, buttoned-up spaces, homeowners began to loosen up in the ’60s, embracing more organic shapes and displaying accessories all throughout their house. It’s no surprise wall units with lots of open shelving became popular during this time—it gave people the opportunity to show off their favorite vases, art, and other collectibles.

Today’s boho trend has nothing on the all-out eclecticism of the ’70s. One of the most iconic examples of this: shag carpeting. At the time, wall-to-wall carpeting was a relatively new invention, and people were eager to experiment with it. Love it or hate it, this ultra-soft, ultra-textured floor covering—in vivid colors like mustard and pea green—was a must for anyone who wanted to show off their rebelliousness and creativity.

The ’80s were all about excess, and that even extended to window coverings. Forget the curtains you think you know: These drapes stretched floor-to-window, were trimmed in ruffles or lace, and were often accompanied by valances and blinds. And if you were really stylish, they were stitched from chintz fabric.

If you grew up in the ’90s, there’s a good chance you remember the feeling of sitting in a rickety, kind of creaky wicker chair at some point. Blame the shabby chic trend that started in the ’80s or the country’s fondness for country chic: Either way, people seemed to really love making their living rooms look like a Southern patio.

You, too, probably had them in your dorm room: white Christmas or “fairy” lights draped around a window, over a bed, or by the door. No matter the time of year, it seemed everyone had a strand plugged in somewhere. Inexpensive and easy to decorate with, these little bulbs gave a space an ethereal glow.