Decor Time Machine: The ’80s

Like many of you, Thanksgiving has me reminiscing about my childhood years, the most formative of which were smack in the middle of the 1980s. A time that, for me, was defined by “Silver City Pink” Revlon lipstick, my 45 of “Candy Girl” by New Edition and whether or not I got the front seat in the car. But I have been trying to remember what my house looked like back then. What did my friends’ houses look like? What home decorating trends were big in Washington, DC, a city that was, by most accounts, aesthetically provincial and stylistically conservative?

I have concluded that the decor I associate with that time diverges quite radically from some common representations of 80s interior design. Other people may recall a slick, edgy style dominated by neon, geometric shapes, black leather, glass and an abundance of mirrors. But my parents and their friends were hardly living the “Less than Zero” lifestyle in Los Angeles or New York. What was cutting edge trendiness in the 80s had very little in common with my 1980s reality.

Still, my memories of the decade do evoke other elements of what we now recognize as quintessential 80s decor. Does the name Laura Ashley ring a bell?

I remember plenty of cabbage rose chintz in my wealthier friends’ living rooms. Floral fabrics layered upon floral fabrics. I think I ate dinner at more than 15 Duncan Phyfe-style dining room tables, seated on reproduction Chippendale-style chairs. There was a lot of dark wood, possibly cherry and usually refinished to a glossy sheen. Burgundy and gold were big in some homes. Pastels and mauve were big in others. I remember my suburban friends all had wall-to-wall carpeting and kitchens with bright colorful wallpaper. In my home it was all about Laura Ashley floral patterns. I will never forget my joy upon finally persuading my parents to buy me a Sears canopy bed, replete with screw-on plastic posts. It went so well with my Laura Ashley comforter.

What are your memories of 1980s decor?

1 House Beautiful.
2 The Griswold’s house in National Lampoon’s Vacation. Hooked on Houses.
3 A still from the 80s movie Mr Mom via Hooked on Houses.
4 An Arizona home in the 80s. More dark wood and dark pastels. From the always amusing and caustic website, Ugly House Photos.
5 80s kitchen with ubiquitous laminate countertops and warm-hued wood cabinets. Calfinder.

6 80s dining room from Hooked on Houses.
7 80s kitchen with oak cabinets and that fridge! All the rage in DC kitchens. Carol Raley Interiors.
8 A 1985 photo of the living room at Grey Gardens, the famous East Hamptons mansion, once owned by Jacqueline Kennedy’s aunt Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale and sold in the late 1970s to Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee. This shot came from Architectural Digest via Grey Gardens News.
9 Sally Quinn’s master bedroom at Grey Gardens.
10 Talk about a “Bonfire of the Vanities.” The living room from popular 80s designers Denning & Fourcade’s Paris residence, decorated in the 1980s. Architectural Digest via (In)decorous Taste.

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