For the past two decades, vintage design has meant one thing and one thing only: Mid-Century Modern, with its tapered legs, sleek profiles, and lots and lots of wood. To be fair, it’s a gorgeous aesthetic—there’s a reason “Mad Men” took off, beyond the whole Don Draper thing.
But these days, other decades and designs are getting their contemporary revival as well.
“Every generation looks to the past for inspiration,” says Justin M. Riordan, founder of Spade and Archer Design Agency. But, he adds, we’ve taken our parents’ design schemes and put our own spin on them. And, more often than not, these new/old decor looks are winding up in the space where we can flaunt them most prominently: the living room.
We asked our stable of design pros for the inside scoop about which vintage living room trends are getting a much-warranted modern update. Are you on board with bringing back these looks?
1. All-natural furniture
Photo by Vincent Greene Architects
As today’s home decor has veered into tropical territory, it’s no surprise that designers are looking to keep things natural. These days, expect to see ’60s- and ’70s-style earthy materials taking over our living rooms.
“Wicker and rattan—oh, yes!” says Mina Fies, the founder and CEO of Synergy Design & Construction. “This vintage staple has been given a makeover. The key is not to overdo it. Too much, and it dates the room.”
Instead, choose one or two complementary pieces as accents, Fies recommends. A rattan armchair and matching side table placed on opposite sides of the room balance the space.
Other up-and-coming natural materials include bamboo and cane, which bring an island vibe to any living space.
“Designers love the texture,” says designer Tracy Lynn. “It evokes a cool, coastal, and bohemian vibe.”
“Do you remember the ’80s style from ‘Scarface,’ full with gold and black marble?” she asks. “Gold is coming back.”
This glitzy metal pairs well with dark, dramatic colors. Black is, of course, an excellent choice, but you won’t go wrong with deep hunter greens or inky blues.
And if you’re scared to dive in the deep end of the golden-hued pool, try small accents first. Until this trend catches fire, you can still find thrift stores full of funky gold tchotchkes. Hurry, though.
Photo by David Marquardt Architectural Photography
Imagine, if you will, a luxurious home in 1975. At its center, a recessed square filled with connected couches—probably swathed in an eye-assaulting burnt orange or avocado green.
As much as our parents loved them at the time, these dated-looking conversation pits eventually became “a sure way to lose a sale,” Fies says.
But what was once a “complete turnoff” is now regaining popularity, Fies says. You can thank our seemingly collective move toward social spaces—the open kitchen, outdoor living rooms, and, now, the conversation pit nestled in a sunken living room.
Of course, today’s conversation pits take a more subtle approach. Choose neutral colors for your couches and accent with bright pillows to create an inviting, cozy space perfect for late-night chats.
4. Graphic artwork (a la ‘Memphis design’)
Photo by Turner Pocock
The “Memphis movement“—that anti-minimalist, arguably tasteless design scheme from the 1980s—has been sneaking back into our interiors for a couple of years now. Don’t worry: Designers don’t think the mismatched, hypercolorful furniture and quirky, sculptural pieces will come back in full swing. But graphic, Memphis-esque artwork is becoming a bona fide trend.
“In addition to clean-lined furniture, an impactful and unique piece of art is being used to add a dramatic focal point to the room,” Lynn says.
To make a serious—and slightly retro—statement, choose a work with bright, bold colors, and integrate the shades throughout the room.
5. Mid-Century Modern furniture (still)
Yes. Yes, we are.
“This trend is still on hype, and will be present for the next three to four years at least,” Brut says.
In fact, this year’s Stockholm Design Week featured reissued, modernized versions of a number of midcentury classics, and mass furniture producers like West Elm and Crate & Barrel continue to follow suit.
6. ‘Coke glam’
Photo by Jerry Jacobs Design, Inc.
C’mon, you know exactly the kind of ’70s look we’re talking about. And if you don’t, just add the movies “Blow” and “American Hustle” to your watch list.
“I feel like it’s the next step after Mid-Century Modern,” Riordan says. “We’re talking about mirrored coffee tables, deconstructed lines, gold everything, and every earth tone you could possibly think of. Hello, harvest gold! Good morning, sunset orange! Nice to see you, avocado green!”
Of course, this look isn’t for everyone. But if you’re a risk taker, you’re sure to make your living room the talk of the block.
7. Brutalist design
Photo by Incorporated
Brutalism (which originates from the French word for “raw”) came about after World War II, when housing and government buildings were composed of raw materials such as concrete and steel. By the 1970s, brutalism had made its way into our homes in the form of industrial metallics and furniture that mimics the rough surface of concrete. But its popularity was short-lived, Riordan says.
“The style is making a strong comeback now because of some Mid-Century Modern fatigue,” Riordan says. “Where Mid-Century Modern is clean, brutalist is dirty. Where Mid-Century Modern is buttoned up, brutalist is lettin’ it all hang out.
Scrub your memories of those horrible days spent peeling off glue-on paper; today’s choices are easier to install. And they’re also more glamorous.
“Wallpaper started making a comeback in powder rooms and smaller spaces a while ago,” Fies says. “Now we are seeing statement walls and beautiful designs in living rooms. The new choices aren’t Grandma’s flowery walls and borders—they are sculptural, textured, and gorgeous.”
Rachel Stults contributed to this story.