That’s So 80s

Every decade has unique design characteristics, though they always overlap some.  Even if we just trace back color trends alone, we find certain colors are indicative of certain eras:

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50’s – aqua blue, candy pink, lime green and other pale colors
60’s – jade, mint green, sunshine yellow, blue and cherry red, orange
70’s – avocado green, harvest gold, burnt orange and brown

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What about the 80’s?  Do you remember?   The most common colors were mauve, forest green, burgundy, salmon, sea foam green, and pinky beige.  Eek.

That was a crazy decade.  Along with crazy poofy hair, neon colors in clothing, parachute pants, wrap bracelets, high top shoes, and scrunchies, there were also some crazy decor trends.

There is a DIY Network show called “That’s So 80’s” that features pop culture experts who talk about and make fun of design trends that were indicative of that decade.

The show is a short series that covers every room in the home from bathroom and kitchen to bedroom and den.

If you are a fan of looking back over the past, join me today as we look through some of the things that the show touches on.

1. Pastels and floral.
Not that pastels or floral are bad.  But, in the 80s they were overdone.  Notice the floral balloon valances below, paired with pale laminated oaks.


Floral overload here.  Remember how curtains matched matched either chairs, bedspreads and/or pillows?  And, many times we paired floral with plaid?


We used pink on everything.  Walls, sofas.    I think we called it dusty rose back then.


2. Specific Cabinets.
Most cabinets were done in conjunction with laminate countertops and linoleum floors.

The cabinets were usually either pale toned.


Or laminated mod.  If there was any space over them and not a soffit, then it was important to have lots of stuff on top of cabinets.  I mean lots.  I’m not saying to never put anything on top of cabinets, but scale it down to a few purposeful large items or don’t do it at all.


That’s a lot of dusting up there!

Knotty pine was also still around, left over from the 70s.

Remember the geese and other country motifs?

3.  Southwestern motif.  Done in pastels, of course.

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It may also be time to get rid of your knotty pine furniture and/or cabinets.


I do think it’s possible to do minimal accents in southwestern style in a classy way.  I mean, if it’s your heritage or something you love, maybe you don’t have to throw it all out.

4.  Oversized and overstuffed furniture.
Gone are the La Z Boy sofas that hide drink holders, refrigerators and recliners.  Well, they still make them, but they should be gone.

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My mom just got rid of hers and has a new leather set now.

5.  Faux Finishes.
Not that all faux finishes are bad, but back then it was all about sponge painting.  Remember that?  We did it at my mom’s house in pink and green.  Eek.  Would I ever do it again?  No.


6.  Carpeted bathroom.
This was marketed as luxury.  The bathroom floor gets wet, water attracts mold and mildew, carpets suck it all in.  Ick.


7.  Hunter green and mauve.     Another popular color scheme.


This isn’t exactly hunter green carpet, but it’s green.  And, well, it reminded me that we once had green carpet.


Note:  None of this is meant to be offensive to anyone.  It’s just stuff that the show reminded me of…  and I thought it’d be fun to discuss.

Oh, I should have put wallpaper borders in the list.  What other 80′s design trends do you remember?

If you lived through it, I’m sure you had one or two of these things in your home.  What was the worst design you saw or had during that decade?

Have you seen the show?  Do you like it?

What trends from the 2010’s do you think we’ll be talking about in a decade or two as being so out of style?



  1. Kristy, I have never seen that show. I remember a lot of those colors and styles. I worked in “decorated” model homes. All the mauve, etc.—- it was all there. And, those “artificial” (silk wasn’t quite there yet) green plants on the kitchen cabinets. We also had a lot of high plant shelves and niches, which would display more of that green “stuff” cascading down the wall!
    I often wonder what our “nightmare” will be?
    Oh, they still sell the oversize reclining chairs with cup holders!

  2. Ick. All I can say is I’m so glad it’s gone! been there, done that, don’t wanna go back! I did the southwest thing only my colors weren’t pastels – I tended toward the real thing! I can’t stand hunter green or burgandy to this day. or mauve. or dusty rose! Give me my all white please!!

  3. And the 00′s will be granite counters, stainless steel appliances, giant flat screen TVs, and chalkboard paint!

  4. Fun walk down memory lane-not good memories though, lol. I remember every bridal registry that I saw in the ’80′s seemed to include lots of mauve and gray. I remember a lot of stenciled walls and bird house collections.

  5. stenciling has come along way, but i remember my mom stenciling stairs and borders in a very country apple motif, etc….. country was very very country then.

  6. Oh my gosh, that brought back so many memories :D My mom did lots of stencils. I think that’s why I had a hard time adjusting to the idea that stencils were becoming popular again. Another thing I remember was that everyone had toilet covers. Yuck, yuck, yuck!!!

  7. I’m shuddering at the thought of the 80′s but still laughing at the same time. I’m not sure if I’m blurring the 80′s into another decade but I remember rust & blue small prints & plaids together. Or was that the 90′s? I hated wallpaper border then & still now.
    Speaking of stuff on top of cabinets…I have a unique & gorgeous collection of copper & iron decorative pots with some very subdued (no patterns) Tuscan pottery I brought back from Italy. I put them on top of my cabinets here because I love the look & the collection, tastefully arranged I might add. My walls are 10 feet tall so there is plenty of room. My daughter keeps trying to take them down & I keep putting them back up. She hates it, I love it but I live here, not her…which I keep trying to remind her. My house has a Santa Barbara/Tuscan architecture design. Do you think this is not “the thing” to do or what? I would appreciate your honesty.

    • I think that sounds perfect. As long as it’s not busy. I saw a gorgeous inspiration photo of just large colored glass jars in pale blues and greens on top of cabinets (like the old mason jar colors). I plan to do something similar here. I know it sort of breaks the rule, but the point is not so much to never put anything on top as it is to not have a ton of small things that feel busy nor fake greenery. I think one thing you can do is all similar shapes or all similar color tones – it reduces the busyness. But, it sounds like you have a very reigned in collection up there.

  8. This is was fun to look back and see. We still have a few 90′s touches in the house and I can’t wait to get rid of my laminate counters and whitewash cabinets. Yuck!!

    I’m interrested to hear what type of things we should stay away from now so our house won’t be so dated 10 years from now. Redoing this house has shown me how expensive whole house home decorating can be. I’d love to see timeless things.

    • I was thinking about doing a post on this topic, actually. Great question. You not only have to think about timeless, but also about how easy it will be to decorate around. Meaning, tile is always around, but in what colors and what materials? Well, you wouldn’t want anything with a pink undertone or it will be difficult to put with anything yellow based (most beiges are) and that will be years of frustration. The most neutral timeless flooring is wood flooring. Wood has always been around, is considered a true neutral when placed on the floor and looks great. So, without listing out everything, a good rule of thumb is to make sure it’s not too trendy (happening right now but hasn’t had a long history) if it’s a fairly permanent element, and what undertones it has and how it will work with your current decor and future decor. In general, stay away from pinky undertones (see this by comparing things similar in color), stay away from trendy finishes like border tiles, stay away from finishes that are indicative of past three decades as it will automatically date your home, and make sure all undertones of finishes work together. Hope that helps a little.

  9. Thanks Kristy on the “top of the cabinets” response. I don’t think it looks too busy with all the spreading around room it has. No greenery up there for me either.
    Wanted to mention, when I was searching online constantly for a house to buy last year, some of those photos you posted of the 80′s were very similar to what I saw. I kept thinking, these people need this updated or at least staged in order to sell. I realize with the depressed real estate market that might be difficult for many, but it makes all the difference in selling quickly or not. Great subject matter & happy you did this.

  10. OK that is not only hilarious but sooo true, all the stuff you mentioned. I remember having bits and pieces of that stuff. Yuck! I have always hated forest green and maroon for a reason maybe its because it brings back bad decor memories. haha The pastel southwestern motif always made me gag a little… and apparently still does hahaaa

  11. Oh man, sponge painting. My mom was crazy about this when I was little. Thank god she came to her senses and painted over it!

  12. How about tropical themes and palm tree prints on everything! in pastels of course. And gold and glass? classy. Rattan furniture and pink flamingos. Everything Miami vice. It was also popular to frame posters. In shiny gold of course!

  13. Wow all of these rooms were exactly my childhood home! My mom decorated in southwestern AND mauve! Plus there were florals everywhere. This was a fun post!!!

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