The Best and Worst Decor Trends From Each Decade
It’s always good to take a moment to reflect on our past decisions and wonder — What in the world were we thinking? From horrible faux wood paneling to “luxury” linoleum floors, our past selves have made some shocking home decor mistakes.
They say hindsight’s always 2020, and that’s definitely so true! Thank God, our lucky stars, and Joanna Gaines herself that we’ve moved on and learned to do better… well mostly. Some tacky trends still pop up every now and then, giving the design world a fun game of whack-a-mole. Let’s take a moment of silence for the chevron and shabby-chic crowd!
Despite all of our blunders, however, we’ve managed to also find some tasteful classic design techniques that stand the test of time. These classics are still referenced in design schemes today, and it's for good reason. They’re still amazing! A good reference point in your design can totally elevate your concept and take it to a whole new level.
So, let's take the time to review the good, the bad, and the totally ugly trends that every recent decade has to offer. If you like home decor articles, check out the next one we’ve picked just for you at the end of this one! Grab a glass of Moscato, and buckle in tight because we’re going back in time.
2020 Worst - Parchment Lighting Fixtures
Listen, we know this was all over your Pinterest feeds in 2020 but folded paper light fixtures just aren't the look. In fact, should you ever find yourself in a house with a parchment light fixture, rip it down. Just kidding! But honestly, though, why would you spend money on a fixture that looks like a third-grade origami project?
Unless you are living in a Japanese pagoda, there really is no need for paper lanterns to be hanging from your ceiling. It’s exceptionally beautiful in those places but really doesn’t make sense in your midwestern ranch-style home filled with rooster decor. Sorry, not sorry.
2020 Best - Home Offices
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s the value of a dedicated workspace in a quiet spot of the house. Working from home was a challenge hardly any of us were prepared for, but strangely we all learned to appreciate it eventually! Separating your work life from your home life is essential!
When you're in your house all day, it's so much easier to keep a positive mindset when your desk isn't wedged beside your bed or in a kitchen filled with snacks. In our expert opinion, this trend will keep rolling on throughout the decades. In fact, home offices are commonly found in older homes. It just goes to show that what goes around, comes around!
2010 Worst - Chevron
Chevron took the world by storm in the 2010s. It’s as if it was the first time anyone in America saw geometric stripes before! We’re not saying chevron started out that bad, but by the end of things we were so tired of chevron rugs, bedding, wallpaper, floors… you get the picture.
Thankfully, the pattern got its 15 minutes of fame and is now only found in the Walmart clearance aisle. Now you know where to find it if you’re in the mood for an eye-crossing pattern to completely overwhelm every room in your house! Don't say you weren't warned...
2010 Best - Open Shelving
While the 2010s gave us Katy Perry and Ed Hearty, it also gave us the miracle of open shelving. Ditching closed-cabinet built-ins for open and airy displays in the living room and kitchens let us show our prized china and sparked widespread interest in every interior designer’s favorite trendy pastime -- shelving decor!
We’re sure this trend will be around for years to come because there are entire stores dedicated to selling tiny chachkies that we just love to cram on those shelves. We seriously just can’t get enough. Even the most minimalist among us incorporate this practical trend into their homes without all the knick-knacks.
2000 Worst - Edison Light Bulbs
We’re not sure if it's that dingy and overdone "turn of the century aesthetic" that turns us off from this trend or that barely-there lighting ambiance that people loved about Edison bulbs, but whatever the case, we're not a fan. Not only are they totally useless, but also outrageously expensive!
If you’re still rocking these atrocities, there’s a 100% chance you have horrible crow’s feet from all that squinting. Try swapping them out for some nice and bright LED bulbs! Yes, we know that the swanky coffee shop down the street has these bad boys hung in each corner, but you're better off leaving this trend to the hipsters.
2000 Best - Stainless Steel Appliances
Stainless steel appliances are probably the best thing to happen to residential kitchens since the invention of the microwave! We finally ditched those horrid black and white finished appliances and swapped them for a nice sleek metallic finish. Not only does stainless steel give you a neutral foundation to decorate your kitchen, but the material is super resilient!
Unfortunately, along with this trend, we all had to spend thousands of dollars to remodel our kitchens. Hey, you win some and lose some right? To be fair, these appliances are germ-resistant, long-lasting, and incredibly easy to clean, so the time you save on labor pretty much pays for itself.
1990 Worst - Earth Tones
In the late ‘90s, everyone got together and decided that brown, beige, and tan were the colors we should all run with from now on. 39 shades of brown... Truly groundbreaking. Along with that came all the other earth tones, too! They really came together and gave us something great -- a home that just looks like dirt!
Unfortunately, those ‘90s earth tones became 2000’s earth tones and now you can find them at Walmart right next to the chevron home decor in the clearance aisle! All we're saying is that this color scheme is pretty uninspired compared to other palettes. It's time to leave the earth tones behind.
1990 Best - Minimalism
Minimalism! Yes, finally a home decor trend that doesn’t involve cluttering up every square inch of your countertops, wall space, and shelving. This revolutionary concept forced us to be intentional with the pieces we picked for our spaces and consequently gave us a carefully designed space where everything has a purpose.
Seriously though, gather all your stuff and throw it away. Rather, sell the best pieces for an extra dime and donate the rest. Tell everyone you’re going minimal -- you’ll thank us later! Trust us, you do not need 50 mugs filling your kitchen cabinets. We know you wash the same two in rotation each week.
1980 Worst - Dark Cherry Wood
We finally moved on from stained oak and moved on to dark cherry wood. While it was a reprieve from those dated oak cabinets, is the dark cherry that much better? No, It’s totally not. Instead of coming up with a creative alternative, this wood is just a side-step maneuver for those who couldn't give up their oak cabinets.
What made this trend so awful was the sheer amount of it that people voluntarily incorporated into their space; they went insane! From complete dining sets, floor-to-ceiling cabinets, kitchen islands, and rocking chairs to toilet seats (we're not kidding), the cherry-wood fans had absolutely no shame. It darkened up the room way too much!
1980 Best - Patterned Wallpaper
While we’ve spent the past 10 years soaking our walls with fabric softener and ripping that wallpaper off our walls, let’s take a moment to appreciate it! Patterned wallpaper, if used tastefully, brings a depth in design that homeowners didn’t quite know how to achieve before it became the hot new trend.
A standout in this generation of wallpaper is floral print wallpaper. It was loud and vibrant or soft and elegant and it was a great way to introduce patterns in any space, and we would argue for its comeback. Despite the modern designers advocating for ripping down the wallpaper, we know there are plenty of people out there spamming the #WeLoveWallpaper hashtag with every remodel.
1970 Worst - Bizarre Colored Kitchens and Bathrooms
There came a time in the 1970s when the typical color schemes for bathrooms, kitchens, and any related rooms weren't unique or colorful enough to satisfy groovy homeowners who thought that the best way to spice up their spare was with clashing backsplashes, cabinets, tile, and appliances. Nothing was safe!
Completely neutral spaces feel hollow, so it's essential that pops of color are incorporated into these spaces to alleviate the lifelessness. This can be achieved with indoor plants, tasteful patterns, and feature walls. Let's just say that a pistachio-colored bathtub doesn't provide the same comfort, and anyone who had to rip out one of these bad boys should be duly compensated.
1970 Best - Rattan and Macramé
We’re not sure what people were thinking during the ‘70s, but they got a couple of things right -- rattan and macramé. Rattan and macramé are amazing textures that add a unique style to our designs and are quite timeless. Take a look at your local furniture stores, online shops, and resellers to see how prevalent these piees are in modern homes.
The cool thing about these two trends is that the best pieces are found in quirky antique stores! There’s nothing like some real, authentic rattan to spice up your space without being an eyesore. You can even update it regularly with fun colors and cushions without breaking the bank! It's never been so easy to remodel.
1960 Worst - Wood Paneling
Before we were peeling wallpaper from our poor, poor walls, we were ripping off wood paneling. The problem with most wood paneling from the ‘60s is that it’s trying to be something it’s not. Everyone was going for that dark intimate look, but it was more 'schoolhouse rock' than 'sweet-and-sultry.'
The biggest mistake made by wood paneling was that there was no sheetrock installed behind it! When you rip it down, you’re just left with studs, insulation, and a mountain of regret. If not regret, then annoyance at your ancestors who decided wood paneling was the right move. Good luck paying for that reno!
1960 Best - Groovy Patterns and Colors
There’s something about those retro ‘60s patterns that make you want to stare at them for hours… Oh wait, maybe that was the point? Not only were these bright and vibrant wallpapers and color palettes unique, but also multifunctional! Any space in the house was used as storehouses for the grooviest of vibes.
However, you don’t need psychedelics to appreciate those bold prints and vibrant colors. The wallpaper alone is enough to make homeowners feel like they're tripping through reality, and that's in high demand nowadays given the economy and a slew of pandemic-related setbacks. Maybe these paint jobs will come back around sooner than you think!
1950 Worst - Red Vinyl
Choice of fabric makes or breaks a space, especially given the nature of the room you’re decorating and the color scheme. What do you think of when someone utters “red vinyl?” We guarantee a vintage diner is the first thing to come to mind. Don’t get us wrong, we have nothing against diner chic as long as it’s in an actual diner. But for your loft downtown apartment? No thanks.
There’s something to be said about vinyl as a durable and easy-to-clean material, yet it’s definitely not the envirtonmentally.-friendly option. And using it as a focal point of your living room decor is not the move if you want your home to be taken seriously. Please don’t make your guests sit on plastic!
1950 Best - Pastel Colors
1950s pastel color palettes were simultaneously a blessing and a curse for designers. We absolutely adore the unique take on kitchen designs and appliances because it allowed homeowners to make their private spaces completely their own. However, too much of a good thing rarely works out in your favor.
Modern designers are taking a page from 1950s catalogs to round out their kitchens and bathrooms with pastel pops. Thankfully, you won’t see a head-to-toe bubblegum pink kitchen nowadays unless you’re watching a complete kitchen remodel on HGTV, yet many designers are releasing colored appliances rather than just stainless steel for a more modern take on retro decor.
1940 Worst - Linoleum
Linoleum and vinyl have similar pros and cons. While they’re flexible in terms of color, style, cleaning, and durability, yet they’re constantly on sale at thrift stores and garage sales. Take a gander at Facebook marketplace to get an impression of how divisive this material is. At least it’s biodegradable!
Unfortunately, linoleum is actually making a comeback in 2020 as Millennials (who shop for their pets more than themselves) realize that sweeping up fur is so much easier with this material. Sounds like linoleum is too good to be true, and that’s because it is. The material may stay attached to your floors for decades, it doesn’t age very well. From discoloring to water damage, it may not be as convenient as people say.
1940 Best - Floral Textures
Okay, okay. We know that we hounded on patterned wallpaper before, but florals were a big part of the best decor decisions of the ‘40s. They should be in an entirely different category from chevron walls or psychedelic prints because they can make any given space feel more expensive with the right application.
Obviously, some floral wallpaper resembles your grandmother’s couch more than the inside of Buckingham Palace, so a designer’s eye always comes in handy for these tricky decisions. It’s best to apply any wallpaper with a light hand so as to not overwhelm your space. Take a page from HGTV’s book and choose a feature wall or two to display your favorite florals.
1930 Worst - Dull Monochrome
This ‘30s decor trend sounds odd on the surface because what’s wrong with a neutral room? Isn’t that what minimalism is all about? Yes and no. Minimalism isn’t about making your space as boring as possible. You should want your space to say something interesting about your or point to a unique aspect of your personality.
Let’s just say that the same dull tan shade across the board doesn’t make your space stand out. Even if that’s not your goal, monochrome can be done with different shades of the same color. Creativity is key, especially in the design industry! While you shouldn't copy other people's designs, inspiration is yours for the taking!
1930 Best - Art Deco Radios
The radio has key ties to the early 20th century and has been a leading source of entertainment since its invention in 1895. The wireless device rose to fame in the ‘30s as the Depression loomed and families were reliant on the contraption for receiving national news and fantasizing about a better future filled with glitzy social gatherings.
Art deco radios are timeless pieces that reflect a generation. They were so useful that many families incorporated them into their decor as more than a device but as a sleek piece of furniture. With the advent of wireless headphones and music streaming services, you’d assume that the radio would be over. Good thing all the music purists out there have breathed fresh air into the record player-cassette tape-and-vintage radio market.
1920 Worst - Baroque Aesthetic
A tasteful use of floral wallpaper can make you feel like you’re living in a castle, but the entire Baroque aesthetic should be left to the royals. It’s not that it’s ugly, but context is important. Your suburban single-family home is not the same as a five-star restaurant or Broadway theatre. Know your place.
The ‘20s were defined by consumer spending, capitalism, and living it up at lavish parties with rich men, flappers, and enough glitz and glam to blind you for a few days. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to transfer a little of that glam into your home, but going completely Baroque will leave you completely broke!
1920 Best - Cocktail Carts
Bar carts aren’t an intrusive piece of decor because the decades since 1920 have solidified it’s spot in homes as a practical piece of furniture more than just a lavish splurge piece. While they might not be staples of the office or tea parties any longer but they continue to be key players for entertaining guests.
Entertainment was its primary function throughout the 20th century. As the Great Depression struck and the Cold War loomed, partying at home or in the office with a glitzy cocktail cart was by far the better (and more affordable) option. Countless films throughout the century depicted these humble accessories at home and in the office. At this point, they’re a part of American history!