Meg’s ’80s Flashback in Chicago

updated Feb 19, 2019
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(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

Name: Meg Gustafson
Location: Uptown — Chicago, Illinois
Size: 800 square feet
Years lived in: 3 months; rented

For a short few months, Meg has lived in this familiar space—a high rise in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, on Lake Shore Drive. The building was built in 1959 and Meg’s grandma lived in this exact unit for years. In 1978, Meg’s parents took over and began renting it out. Now it’s Meg’s turn to enjoy the space, bringing it full circle and even hanging some of her grandma’s art on the walls. But that isn’t the only thing you’ll learn about her space—Meg is completely invested in her thoughtful and accurate ’80s era decor.

(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

From the minute you step across the threshold into Meg’s high-rise apartment, you can tell you’re in for a gnarly treat. Meg has filled every corner with ’80s-era furniture and decor and has shown great restraint when it comes to what’s inside. Stop into any thrift shop on any corner in any city and you’re sure to find heaps of ’80s treasures. But Meg knows when to say no and only brings home the necessities. Meg does a wicked job mingling modern conveniences (’90s-present), like her slim television, coffee grinder, and iMac, into the overall ’80s feel.

Any one of these items, like the see-through landline phone in the kitchen or the round white dining room table, might look tacky or out of place in any other space—but here they come together to transport you into the bright, quirky world of the 1980s. Throw in the fact that the building is right on Lake Shore Drive and has a killer rooftop patio, and it’s obvious that Meg totally has it made. No duh!

(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: ’80s High Rise

Inspiration: Good and bad ’80s: I like the PoMo stuff, the pop art stuff, and of course, everything Memphis. My favorite designer/architect lately has been Alessandro Mendini of Studio Alchimia (where he worked with Ettore Sottsass and Michele De Lucchi). I’m mostly in love with his patterns which can be seen in wall art and inlays on his cabinets, etc.

About eight years ago I found a book in the recycle bin at work, and “The Hot House” has been a huge inspiration ever since. I’ve matched paint colors from pages of it, and created a Sottssas totem using a lamp shade that looks like a sculptural element on the book’s cover. Yoko Honda’s artwork inspired the mural, design help from Darcy Paige Designs.

My favorite 80s blogs include: Mirror80, Supreme Interiors, Palm & Laser, Graphic Minded, zonkout, Aqqindex

Favorite Element: Neon. White on off-white grid on the west wall by Darcy.

Biggest Challenge: Not buying everything ’80s at every thrift store.

What Friends Say: Wow you really committed to this crazy idea, huh?

Biggest Embarrassment: The cream, I mean “linen” colored walls my mom won’t let me paint over. 🙂

Proudest DIY: I’m pretty proud of my dinky little Sottsass-inspired totem, which is made from found objects, including a roll of tape and a plastic Kleenex box and two glass lampshades. In the recent move I decided to carry it instead of packing it up and I chipped the top as we arrived. I’m still mad at myself.

Biggest Indulgence: The Unison Home ‘sprinkles’ pillowcases were a huge splurge, but I love them. Also the Spider Chair.

Best Advice: I’m not sure anyone wants my advice about ’80s.

Dream Sources: Some bargain basement ’80s vintage store in Italy (that probably doesn’t exist), the Miami Vice set design shop, or anything by Camille Walala, Dusen Dusen, Eric Trine.


(Image credit: Emma Fiala)


  • Woman in B&W and The Drake/Chicago skyline circa 1978—My Grandma’s drawings
  • Coat Rack -10-year-old Target purchase
(Image credit: Emma Fiala)


  • $50 splatter paint couch from CL with ikea throw pillows
  • PoMo Spider Chair, unknown designer
  • spray painted console table, from The Rebuilding Exchange
  • Kartell stool, homemade Sottsass totem
  • homemade cat tower using a found drop cloth already splatter painted
  • Mannequin guy from the internet $15
  • Memphis Design Exhibit poster, 1983 in Chicago, $7 at a yard sale
  • propeller ceramic art, Irvin Carsten
  • TV shelf — IKEA with wheels from Ace Hardware
(Image credit: Emma Fiala)


  • Neon – Fishtail Neon Shop
  • Mapplethorp photos
  • Table & Chairs – all from Craigslist
  • Radio – Found in the trash at City Hall
(Image credit: Emma Fiala)


  • Clay Hickson of Tan & Loose Press print
  • Robert Venturi, copy of Eclectic House Series, 1977, PoMo arches
  • Wire art – Rich Salamander
  • Phone – eBay


  • Grid bedspread – Target
  • Pink and blue pillows – Unison
  • Grandma’s deco dresser, record sleeve photo of my favorite Italo singer, Savage
  • Geometric Tibetan rug – Craigslist
  • Grandma’s 1950s fashion designs in the walk-in closet (she worked as a typist for many years and then as a fashion design at Leslie Fey in the 70s. She lived in this apartment for many years, starting in 1978.)
(Image credit: Emma Fiala)


  • Nagel scored at a thrift store for $25
  • Keith Haring blocks – my friend Sasha’s 90s “vintage” store, Kokorokoko

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Thanks, Meg!