We normally use the term ‘retro’ to describe any interior design theme that is inspired by the styles and trends of past decades. While this can imply that we can stick the ‘retro’ label to just about any era, the term is more specific to the period of time between the 50s and 80s. And since we’re getting old, we can incorporate the early 90s as well — can you believe 1990 is already 30 years ago? The term ‘vintage’, on the other hand, refers to elements that originate from the decades prior to the 50s. However, vintage and retro styles do tend to cross over quite often. With over three decades of retro styles, in addition to vintage elements borrowed from the years before it, a plethora of design ideas come to mind. And a great place to bring it all together in the living room — whether you're planning a remodel or moving into a new place.
Retro and mid-century modern designs tend to share a good deal of similarities in style. Colloquially, the latter is even referred to as retro at times. Although the two terms are different in essence, you can’t go wrong with mid-century modern furniture for your retro interior. The organic shapes and sleek lines of this style’s living room furniture provide charm in a subtle yet effective manner. Consider pairing a mid-century modern armchair with a small coffee table and a credenza of the same style to achieve a complete look.
Books and vintage items often go hand in hand in collectively creating an aesthetic that alludes to wisdom and nostalgia. And what a better way to display your selection of books than in a vintage bookcase. If you don’t have one stacked away in the basement, consider buying it at a yard sale or a thrift shop. You don’t even need to break the bank because these places will most probably sell the unit to you at a bargain. For an added touch of sophistication, you can’t go wrong with a bust sculpture on top of the bookcase.
Antique Sideboard Feature
If you’re a fan of all things vintage, a retro living room can be an ideal space to indulge in your fascination. Consider showcasing period pieces such as a gramophone and a set of vinyl records atop a vintage sideboard serving as an antique item itself. Whether you’re expanding your collection or starting from scratch, an antique shop can be your go-to source of relics — and perhaps the sideboard as well. You may also find collector’s items at thrift stores, yard sales, and flea markets. A retro chair of a complementary hue placed beside the vintage sideboard can essentially bring out its color.
A leather sofa is an ideal choice for giving your retro living room a boost in comfort as well as style. You can make it all the more vintage by going for a weathered look. Consider buying a previously owned leather sofa from Craigslist or at a yard sale. Besides being available at a bargain price, pre-owned sofas may also have that antique feel that perfectly resonates with a retro interior. Naturally, you can find a vintage leather sofa in any shade of brown. This makes it a versatile piece that you can incorporate in various retro settings.
Retro TV Stand
While you may prefer a flat-screen smart television over the outdated models, you can still maintain the 50s style by housing the appliance on a retro TV stand. If you can’t find one, a retro or mid-century modern credenza will do just fine. You may, however, want to make sure the dimensions of the unit are enough to comfortably accommodate your television. Besides the obvious purpose that its name suggests, a retro TV stand can also serve as a unit for storing or displaying miscellanies and decorative items. The aesthetic value of this period piece, however, is not to be underestimated. You can find an elegantly minimalist charm in the stand’s clean lines and curvature.
Eames Lounge Chair
An icon of the 20th-century modernist movement, the Eames lounge chair made its debut in 1956 and didn’t take long to gain popularity. The design features a two-piece unit consisting of the seat and an ottoman. You can find Eames chairs in cherry, walnut, or rosewood finishes while the upholstery is typically black leather. The contrasting colors of the chair combined with its overall shape allow it to truly stand out. In all its aesthetic glory and historical value, an Eames lounge chair can even serve as a retro centerpiece in and of itself.
Art Deco Coffee Table
Another design style you can incorporate into your modern retro living room is art deco — especially if you have an eye for The Great Gatsby aesthetics. The symmetric designs, bold geometry, and rich materials can introduce the glitz and glamor of the roaring 20s. For an injection of luxury, consider going for an art deco round coffee table with bronze or gold-plated framing and a glass surface. The bold design and charming glimmer of the table allow it to draw attention to itself while perfectly assimilating with its retro surroundings.
The 60s and 70s were huge on colorful interiors that resonated with the vibrant music and pop culture of that era. You can bring that “groovy” aesthetic to your retro living room by going for a patterned wallpaper composed of several colors. This bold design choice can even turn an understated wall into a feature. However, you may want to make sure the wallpaper design is in tune with the rest of the room. Bear in mind that it is easier to choose a wallpaper based on the interior style and palette than vice versa.
Vintage Novelty Items
No vintage living space is complete without pieces from the past. Antique items such as analog telephones and retro radios can tie a vintage room together — cementing the manifestation of the decades-old style. If you have novelty pieces that you’ve inherited from your parents or grandparents, go ahead and display them. Otherwise, your best bet at finding such antiquities is yard sales, flea markets, and most likely vintage shops. Even if the items are not functional, they are simply a sight to behold. You could showcase your relics anywhere from a side table to a credenza or a cabinet.
Geometric Patterned Rugs
Consider defining your retro living room space with a geometric patterned area rug. These design elements add texture and warmth to any interior. Moreover, the geometric patterns offer a sense of movement and visual interest while alluding to a modernist retro aesthetic. Area rugs also tend to anchor down a seating arrangement — if your retro interior is missing a certain touch, an area rug may be it. Consider using the patterned floor piece to accentuate the color of the furniture, lamps, and other elements.
If you grew up in the 80s, then you’re probably familiar with iconic movies such as Beverly Hills Cop and Police Academy. Since the retro style technically doesn’t end until the early 90s, why not bring the Axel Foley vibes to your 20th-century living room? A unique idea, for instance, can be a floor lamp with a cover made of adjoined license plates. Unless you can find one by any chance, a license plate lamp cover can easily be DIY-ed. All you need is a few license plates tied together in the shape of a lampshade and a floor lamp that you can attach together.
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