6 Retro Trends That Are Starting to Stage a Comeback

updated Dec 10, 2019
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(Image credit: Diana Paulson)

What goes around, comes around—at least when it comes to home design. On the one hand, some seasonal motifs never die. Every fall plaid makes a comeback, and spring is never not florals galore (groundbreaking, I know). But even beyond that, there are some trends that really do resurrect themselves.

And it’s crazy, because this process tends to happen in a flash and is far-reaching, from high-end to mass market, which always make me think there’s some secret meeting where the design world gets together and votes on what to bring back. In a way, though, I guess that is sort of what happens at trade shows. If buyers see a bunch of companies coming out with similar things, they hone in on that as a trend, and then it’s all we see in stores. So I thought it would be fun to poll a few designers and study a few look books to see what vintage trends might make their way to the forefront again in 2019. These six are definitely on my radar.

1. Retro Appliances

(Image credit: Bartazzoni)

Other AT writers have mentioned that rounded shapes and bolder colors are coming back, and retro style appliances fit right into that equation. Colorful Big Chill and SMEG throwback refrigerators are popping up more and more in makeovers I see, especially in shared work spaces, event venues, and second or rental homes—where you might not need as big of a unit. Inspired by their wood burning stoves of the 1920s, Bertazzoni introduced their Heritage Series Range, which features old school inspired rounded chrome knobs, bright chrome handrails, and stainless steel trim. And retro countertop appliances with curvy lines are really becoming a thing again. Not that I condone watching “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” but they basically devoted an entire episode last season to SMEG’s cute countertop line (Kylie and Kris prefer black by the way, if you care). So these are on the rise again, and it’ll be interesting to see what other companies create their own lines of throwback styles.

2. Chrome and Steel

I think we’ve finally reached peak brass and gold saturation, as people have realized how luxe and warm these finishes can make a space feel. Moreover, it’s now easy to find affordable “brass” hardware, faucets, and light fixtures, if you can’t afford the real deal or don’t want to deal with the living finish. So, the pendulum for trend setters is now swinging back to silver, sort of. Not early 2000s satin nickel, people, think shinier than that. “Chrome and steel decor and furnishings are making a big comeback,” says designer Marina Hanisch of Marina Hanisch Interiors. “I love mixing them with brass, wood, and textured textiles to achieve a luxurious and sophisticated look.” Phew! I can still have my brass hardware in 2019, as long as I bring a little steel to the party. Fine by me.

3. Memphis Style

(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

“I see no slowdown to the re-trending of the Memphis style, particularly in hospitality and retail design,” says Melanie Raines, director of design at New Waterloo, a hospitality management and development company based in Austin, Texas. “Although I’m not a fan of Memphis and Postmodernism spaces in their entirety, I’m very drawn to the moment’s Matisse-like shapes and Yves Klein blue, and I’m still hopeful that pinks and pastels stay on-trend for a while longer.” I mean, have you seen how many geometric accent wall murals are happening in the House Tour section right now? Raines is right on the money with this, and I have been noticing a surge in that cobalt Internationalist Blue that painter Yves Klein was known for as well.

4. Punched Tin

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Want hard numbers on a throwback trend? Well, according to Pinterest, searches for tin interiors are up 563 percent. That’s staggering! I remember covering punched tin backsplashes at “This Old House” almost 10 years ago now, and it looks like they’re making their way back around. You can also use these kinds of tiles as ceiling coverings, and they come in a number of different finishes and patterns. I remember them being pretty ornate in yesteryears, and I think simpler might be better here if you want to keep them looking somewhat modern. That and a tone-on-tone neutral paint job might do the drink. You could even paint them white. In the right lighting situation, that might actually bring out their rich texture.

5. Floating Fixtures

(Image credit: Claire Bock)

Hanisch just used this amazing tessellated stone floating console from Homenature for a client, which has an ’80s bend, literally. And a lot of bathrooms these days are rocking vanities that hover over the ground, a good foot or more. Not sure if this trend has something to do with opening up a space, just making it seem lighter and airier on the whole. But something is going on here, and I want to get to the bottom of it. Maybe we’re all just tired of looking at bulky vanities, desks and consoles. Or we’re spending more on our floors, and we want to show them off. As long as you still have some sort of storage with these pieces (if you need it), I think floating furniture is a yes.

6. Mustard Yellow

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

’70s vibes have been on the upswing in design as well, and even though Pantone was feeling coral for this year, my money is on mustard. It’s not a color that will be to everyone’s taste, but boy, do yellows pair well with neutrals like navy, black, and charcoal gray. I’m not sure this is a wall, rug, or sofa color (though I’m sure it can be done and done well), but if you’re looking for a sunny accent piece, you could try a set of mustard pillows or a throw. Or even a side chair, if you’re really bold and brave.

So which of these throwback trends would you try in 2019? Any ideas on other design trends that you could see (or have started seeing) coming back?