Throwback Month

What Exactly Is a Decade Dabbler (And Are You One?)

published Apr 12, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Carina Romano; Marie-Lyne Quirion; @house_of_saxon_and_finn

Some people are entirely devoted to the looks of certain past decades. I have great admiration for those homeowners and renters who found a time period of style they love and entirely commit themselves (and their interiors). Whether they are inspired by their home’s 1920s architectural origins, or just in love with the vibes of the groovy ’70s, it’s fun to see how folks respect the past and honor retro roots. And while time capsule homes and the devotees of them will always be inspiring to me, there’s a new type of designer that’s dipping into the past to create unparalleled interiors. And I’m coining the term: “Decade Dabblers.”

What is a Decade Dabbler, you ask? It’s someone who’s absolutely inspired and energized by colors, textures, shapes, patterns, and other throwback elements from more than one of the past’s most stylish decades. Florals and wood-paneled walls from the ’60s. Macramé and oranges and browns from the ’70s. Neon, grids, and Memphis-inspired squiggles from the ’80s. Instead of meticulously applying one decade’s details across the board, Decade Dabblers pick and choose design elements that most speak to them, throw them in a virtual blender, and come up with interior looks that, while inspired by the past, are entirely one-of-kind.

There’s nothing new under the sun, and everything old is new again. Those two adages apply to every design field. So what is one to do if you’re hankering for a home that looks different? With Decade Dabbling, you can take notes from the folks below who lift fun details, play with them in different ways, add their own personality into the mix, and create spaces that are utterly unique.

Credit: Carino Ramano

This Philadelphia house combines the ’50, ’60s, ’70s, and more

Homeowner: Sue Liedke
Age of the home: It’s at least a hundred years old, likely turn of the century
Youngest/newest item in the home: “I just changed out my shower curtain for a trendy heavy duty pink polyurethane number from QuietTown, which doesn’t match the mid-century era of my bathroom, but I think it interacts with it nicely! When the sun is rising, it comes through the shower curtain and makes the whole upstairs glow.”
Oldest items in the home: “The cedar chest (which I use as TV stand, filled with DVDs I can’t part with yet) belonged to my great grandfather. And my bedroom set was my grandparents’! They bought it in the early sixties.”

Credit: Carina Romano

Sue Liedke explains that she’s a Decade Dabbler because, “I’m not a purist! I tend to seek out items that speak to me, and incorporate them into my design, whether or not they’re period-accurate.” She’s filled her South Philadelphia home with decor from many eras, particularly the 1960s and 1970s. You can see her Decade Dabbling especially well when it comes to wallpaper choices. The paper in the vestibule is from the 1950s, the bathroom and kitchen wallpaper is from the 1970s, but she also mixed in contemporary patterns found on Spoonflower that complemented her home’s style.

Credit: Carina Romano

“Ever since I was a kid I’ve enjoyed ‘old things,’ and as a thrifting teenager, I was especially drawn to late mid-century, and still am! It’s also a good fit for my house in particular because, like many houses in South Philly, it experienced a makeover around that time, so the bones of the kitchen and bathroom were ready for me to (softly) update and embrace them,” she describes.

Credit: Sue Liedke
"I also just changed out my shower curtain for a trendy heavy duty pink polyurethane number from QuietTown which doesn't match the mid-century era of my bathroom, but I think it interacts with it nicely! When the sun is rising, it comes through the shower curtain and makes the whole upstairs glow."

Her advice for designing a home that mixes different decade designs: “It’s easy to create cohesion, even with different eras represented, if you’re choosing items that speak to you,” she writes. “A house that’s too perfectly a time capsule would have an inauthentic feel. There’s something natural about an old house that’s gone through years of updates and remodels. As homeowners review what works well, what they want to keep, what they want to change, the house evolves. The same should happen with decor!”

Credit: Marie-Lyne Quirion)

This Montreal home blends the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s

Homeowners: Roxanne Arsenault and Pascal Desjardins
Decor time periods represented: “Our home is time travel, covering the late sixties to the late ’80s. We did not dabble in another decade yet — but the ’90s is right there flirting with us! It’s just a matter of years…”

“We are definitely Decade Dabblers for all the warmth of the ’60s and ’70s and for the boldness the ’80s can add to a home,” admits Roxanne. Their eccentric and colorful home in Montreal is a mix of patterns and textures of the ’70s, along with colors and shapes of the ’80s. And they created their unique home using era-authentic decor elements and furniture pieces from the ’60s, ’70, and ’80s, all found either on the internet or in thrift stores.

Credit: Marie-Lyne Quirion

It’s not only vintage elements in their home, though. Both art lovers, the couple folds in contemporary artwork throughout the home’s rooms, mixing and blending with throwback looks. And they admit to having contemporary, updated appliances like a dishwasher, washer and dryer, etc., that they try to hide or disguise so as not to take away from the vintage vibes.

Credit: Marie-Lyne Quirion)

Their advice for creating a beautiful home that embraces more than one era’s design styles? “Our advice would be to respect each element of your decor, not for one to overpower another. You have to choose a focus, and then work over it to create a balance. A mish-mash is exactly the contrary: too many colors, textures — too many things that want your attention. But you can definitely go all the way and add so many details if this is respected. It’s a balanced intensity.”

Credit: Marcello Peschiera

This Miami apartment takes design cues from the ’60s, ’90s, and the Art Deco era

Renters: Dani Klarić, her boyfriend Bello
Youngest/newest item in the home: Transparent speaker. “It’s a Swedish see-through speaker that I solely got because of the unique design!”
Oldest items in the home: The original 1980s Post Modern pink bedroom set. “This set lives in my guest room and I adore it with my whole life. I actually stumbled upon it at an estate sale and ended up falling in love with it. Now the plan is to hold it for my kids one day!”

I buy and collect house items from different eras. My love for vintage design is so strong that I started to decorate homes for my clients inspired by these eras,” writes Dani, explaining why she, too, is a Decade Dabbler. The home she rents with her boyfriend was inspired by the Art Deco era, but also shows hints of style from the 1960s through the 1990s. She says she was even inspired by mid-century designs, too. No decade is off-limits, in Dani’s opinion.

“As an eclectic interior decorator, I believe that there is no way to go wrong with mixing different styles and eras. If anything, that’s what I find myself doing the most with my projects. There’s nothing more beautiful than seeing multiple design styles merge,” she writes. So how does she keep her home and the homes she designs for clients from looking like a hodge-podge of mismatching elements?

“The easiest way to create harmony, especially when merging interior design styles, is to choose a specific color palette (three to eight colors) and stick to it!” Dani advises. “Decor, in my opinion, is something very personal so I always recommend to stay true to yourself and your taste! Always add personality into your interior style. You can do this by blending designs from different eras. For example, you can add modern wall art to contrast antique style furniture pieces or add accent pieces like a mid-century modern chair next to a traditional living room sofa. It’s all about balance and choosing similarities in design like colors, wood tones, lines, and scale to pull it all together. Lastly, you can always make sure to balance these styles out by placing more than one piece of the same style in a room so that it doesn’t look out of place!”

This Maryland rental mixes mid-century modern design with the ’70s and ’80s

Renter: Anna Liles
Age of the home: 1973
Decor time periods represented: Most of the furniture is from the ’60s, ’70s, or early ’80s

Anna hasn’t let renting her home, this 1973 house in Maryland, get in the way of being a Decade Dabbler. “I absolutely love to mix different styles from different times. I use a lot of modern, current textiles such as linens, throw pillows, and rugs to keep our home fresh,” Anna writes. “I mix them with the classic clean lines of the 1960s, the super graphics and fun of the 1970s, and the Post Modern shapes, and colors from the 1980s. I think they can all work together when the pieces and accessories are thoughtfully chosen. I also like the fact that it’s sustainable to mix styles from different eras. Most people can’t afford to change out all of their home decor every few years.”

In Anna’s opinion there are really no decades that don’t go together when it comes to blending decor from different eras. “Nowadays I honestly think you can pretty much mix anything if you have certain elements that tie the room together. I love that you can incorporate family heirlooms with more modern pieces. I love the personality and warmth that comes with mixing different textures, materials, and styles,” she writes.

Anna explains that one of the ways to blend different decor styles together successfully is with accessories. “For instance a bold rug and some bright pillows can really modernize vintage furniture. Rooms can have unexpected elements but they should feel cohesive. Sometimes it’s a color scheme that brings it together, sometimes it’s the mixing of similar shapes, styles, or patterns. Don’t be afraid to mix your different pieces. It might not always work but you might be surprised. If you don’t love it you can always change it up. Be brave!”


This piece is part of Throwback Month, where we’re revisiting vintage styles, homes, and all kinds of groovy, retro home ideas. Boogie on over here to read more!

Correction: An earlier version of this post mistakenly said Sue Liedke’s house is from the 1970s. It’s actually at least a hundred years old, likely turn of the century, according to Sue. We’ve updated it to be more accurate.