How Do I Choose the Best Retro Decor?

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  • Written By: Nicole Etolen
  • Edited By: M. C. Hughes
  • Last Modified Date: 03 September 2019
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The term “retro decor” refers to household decorations and furniture that imitate styles from past decades. Typically, a style is not considered retro unless it reached the height of its popularity at least 20 years ago. This can refer to the styles of the 1940s through the 1980s, although there is some debate over whether items from the 1920s through the 1930s are considered antique, retro, or both. Choosing the best retro decor depends on which decade you want to emulate, and whether you want authentic items from the decade or newer items simply designed to look retro.

The first step in choosing the best retro decor is coming up with an overall design plan. Decide whether you want all the decor to come from a specific decade or would prefer to mix and match for a more eclectic look. You can also designate different eras for each room if you prefer, such as a 1950s-style kitchen and a 1970s-style living room. While it may be helpful to sketch out your plan, a simple list of what types of items you would like to put in each location is generally sufficient.


After deciding which theme you want to go with for each room, decide on your budget. The cost of retro decor can fluctuate significantly depending on the authenticity of the item. An authentic 1950s pastel-pink stove, for example, can cost thousands of dollars, while a newer one designed to look like the original may retail for significantly less. If your budget is small, it may be more economical to compromise on the authenticity of larger purchases such as furniture and appliances, and supplement the look with smaller authentic pieces, such as wall clocks, kitchen accessories, or photographs.

Try looking through old magazines or photographs from friends and family members for inspiration on how to emulate your chosen decade. Color schemes varied quite a bit throughout the years, with the 1950s focusing primarily on pastel colors like pink and powder blue, while the 1970s featured more ruddy earth tones such as deep browns and mustard-yellow shades. Different types of symbols played a large role in different decades as well. Atomic symbols were very popular during the 1950s, when concerns about nuclear war were weighing on everyone’s minds, while peace symbols reached the height of their popularity in the late 1960s and early 1970s, during the Vietnam War.

When shopping for retro decor, consider searching through yard sales, flea markets, and thrift stores to find authentic pieces at relatively low prices. Don’t forget to search your own attic for treasures that you can use. Pull out all your stored collectibles from past decades and see if any of them fit your theme. Ask older family and friends if they have any items that you can use as well. Photographs from your chosen decade make nice personal touches that complement the overall retro decor.



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