Favorite Decor Trends from Every Decade Since 1920
Each decade has design highs and lows. Which ones should stay in the past, and which can you use today for inspiration and DIY projects in your home?
Art Deco really had a moment with terrazzo — a glossy-finished stone amalgamation of granite, marble, quartz, glass or other materials poured together for a confetti-like appearance. While it was most often found poured as a floor (and enjoyed a ’70s-era revival), it has found a home more recently on countertops and backsplashes, some with wild and inspiring color combinations.
While the 1930s were marked by the Great Depression, it was also a time in America where the glamour of the Roaring 20s and the Art Deco movement inspired interiors. Pole lamps decorated with beaded-fringe shades often flanked sofas or side chairs upholstered with jewel-tone velvet. Upholstering ottomans or seat covers for dining chairs would be a starter DIY project — and jewel-tone velvet furniture, such as sofas and chaises, are all the rage again today.
Somewhere in the mid-1850s, an Englishman named Frederick Walton inadvertently discovered the earliest type of linoleum by leaving open a can of linseed oil. Mixed with a bunch of other ingredients, it made a relatively inexpensive, versatile and easy-to-clean flooring product!
Soon, homes everywhere had it in various colors and striking patterns. Like every trend, it hit a zenith, fell out of style and eventually gave way to wood floors.
Still, some vintage trend lovers advocate for preservation if you have it. And it’s still an inexpensive and versatile option to install in homes today.
Note: If your home has old linoleum, test it for asbestos before you remove it. Disturbing the linoleum can release asbestos fibers into the air, which is a serious health risk.
1950s: Pastel Tile
The little pink houses of post World War II were often built from a kit — the ultimate DIY! And inside almost every one was a pastel-tiled bathroom, alternating pink, yellow, powder blue and mint green, often with black accents.
That tile is nearly indestructible and highly sought after, so if you’ve got it, leave it! Some people make a hobby of sourcing out-of-stock stock mid-century tiles or find reclaimed pieces from demo projects. Now some companies are offering made-to-match new tiles — or you can just pick a brilliant, beautiful new color in similar or updated shapes inspired by the old styles.
1960s: Entertainment Centers
No, not the kind you put your TV on. With the boom of the 1950s and swinging 1960s, home entertainment became a priority: Tricked-out patios and grills (sometimes adjacent to a swimming pool) and loungey living rooms with fondue pots on the table and well-stocked bar carts in the corner invited people to gather and engage in conversation.
1970s: Cork Floors
Cork flooring came onto the market and into homes strong in the 1970s, most likely for its earthy feel and color. But cork flooring has remained — and even enjoyed a trendy surge —thanks to the desire for eco-friendly materials. Cork is sustainably harvested, biodegrades and costs a little less than bamboo or hardwood floors. It makes for one of the easiest flooring installs for home DIYers, too.
One thing the ’80s were not short on? Opulence.
Bold colors, patterns, textures and accents — the ’80s had it all. When it came to metallics, it was brass or bust. And it’s back! It once graced everyone’s fireplace grate — maybe toss a vintage one, unless you love it. But embrace brass elsewhere: plumbing fixtures, light fixtures and even home décor and accents, such as those cute little vintage brass animals which look right at home on any bookshelf.
1990s: Wallpaper Borders
Wallpaper borders hit it big in the 1990s. We can’t say the trend had much staying power, other than needing a lot of elbow grease to scrape them off. But some of the elements of wallpaper borders can be repurposed into today’s homes.
Botanical prints, for example, were huge in the ’90s. Whose kitchen didn’t have an ivy border? Now you could move to a large-scale, all-over floral patterned wallpaper on a single wall. Want ’80s borders at chair-rail height? Install an actual chair rail or wainscoting and paint it your favorite color.
2000s: Accent Walls
Raise your hand if you had a dark red accent wall in your living room or dining room in the early 2000s. We see you. Solid-color accent walls are definitely moving out of favor, but they can still work if done with some flair. So if you’re aching for an accent, perhaps consider a mural in geometric shapes, which feels current and fun. When done right, it could be a lasting art piece.
2010s: Industrial Equipment
The influx of remodeled old factories into industrial-style lofts and the incorporation of industrial materials hit big-time in the early 2000s and 2010s. Savvy homeowners sought larger-scale, more hard-lined furniture to complement their spaces. So repurposed industrial or factory equipment became popular, old wooden pallets and metal tools among them.
Combining those two materials is a factory mainstay, called a nutting cart, which most often got turned into a coffee table. While some of those sensibilities have faded, nutting carts and other repurposed factory or farming pieces can still find a home in lofts or modern farmhouse-style homes.
Dollhouses have enjoyed moments throughout history as a decorating accent, and not just in little kids’ room. Sometimes people display dollhouses that are miniaturized versions of the actual homes the dollhouse owners lived in as children.
Now they appear to be making a big comeback. Kits are back on the market, as are miniature furniture pieces and accessories. Social media accounts featuring miniature collections draw tens of thousands of followers.