Is 80s interior decorating back?

A perfect storm of social and political events took place in the early 1980s that completely changed the way people lived and dressed. It was the era that waved goodbye to Mid Century to 1970s furniture and beckoned in a national love affair with traditional Country House style. Peter York and Ann Barr wrote the Sloane Ranger’s Handbook and Min Hogg was the launch editor in November 1981 of The World of Interiors magazine. Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles, Brideshead Revisited was on the telly.

The history bit

After the futuristic and relaxed design vision of the 60s and 70s, it really was a rather seismic change. People up and down the country suddenly wanted a slice of 18th and 19th Century design.  For those who follow trends, it was once again cool to sport a Georgian Irish linen presse. Heritage and aristocracy were in.

Made in Chelsea

In the 1980s, no self-respecting Fulham townhouse would have been seen without a frontage of chintzy Austrian blinds (the ruched and frilly sort!)  Serious ‘curtainage’ was a decorative priority and were made with Victorian-inspired fabric swags and tails. As you can imagine, all of this kept curtain makers’ sewing machines whirring day and night. Interlining was the watch word (still is). Fabric and wallpapers pattern matched (courtesy of companies such as Laura Ashley) and decorative borders were rife.

Signs and symptoms of 80s interior style today

Ben Pentreath

Whilst I think the design approach in 2018 is more eclectic and layered, a return to traditional interior decorating popular in the 1980s is emerging. As a nation, we are perennially captivated with the romantic notion of grand country house living, which in the end proves an influential driver of what people want in their homes. The popularity of the ITV series Downton Abbey is set to reward viewers further with a feature film in September 2019.

Here are the signs and symptoms of a return to traditional interior decorating – 80s style:


With the spotlight on recycling, there is renewed interest too in antiques and how they enhance a decorating scheme. These days it is perfectly acceptable to mix and match eras when it comes to antiques – the main things is that you love the pieces. Blog rewind to a previous post on Styling with Antiques.

Hilary fisher
18th Century creamware charger with manganese border, c.1780 with 19th Century amethyst glass serving bottles, Fisher London Antiques
George III hall chair at Howe on Charis White Interiors blog
George III Hall chair from a selection found by Howe


Borders are stealthily making their way back into decorating schemes … Cole and Son  have a lovely range as do Adelphi at Tissus D’Helene. The person who really had the vision and saw the ‘return of the border’ is Jane Cumberbatch when she launched these gorgeous stripey coloured borders a few years ago. I gather that Jane has plans for new designs, so watch this space …

Brown furniture

Image: Jennifer Barron Interiors/Pinterest

Experts believe that brown furniture is firmly back in the spotlight. Interior designer, founder of eliská design associates ltd and member of the British Institute Interior Design (BIID), Eliská Sapera says: “Brown furniture is back! Beautifully made brown furniture, mixed with contemporary pieces, make a room ‘pop’.  The patina of wood against colour is spectacular and inviting.  My advice would be to always buy the best quality you can afford.”

The Winter Art & Antiques Fair Olympia returns from 29 October until 4 November where 70 of the UK’s top dealers will be selling everything from diamonds to dining tables, clocks to ceramics.  For more information, visit  


Colour and pattern are the interiors mots du jours, just as they were in the 1980s. There is so much out there. These days there are no hard and fast rules as to whether you choose to mix colours and patterns together or indeed actively choose to be ‘matchy, matchy’.

The colour palette which reflects this season’s newest colours is perfectly represented for me in this wonderful 1986 advertising image by Iving Penn for L’Oreal. Spiced Honey recently launched by Dulux, to the fabulous greens launched by Little Greene in collaboration with The National Trust to the new 9 colours by Farrow & Ball –  all have echoes of the 1980s. The new hues are more interesting and complex but think of the ‘Book Room’ reds and pinks through to the forest greens and mustard colours of the 80s. There is a link!

Image by Irving Penn for L’Oreal. Pinterest.
Back to the 80s? Preference Red – one of the new 9 at Farrow & Ball
Testing Farrow & Ball’s range of 9 new colours 2018. Photo: Charis White at #thewhitehouseinreading
A new take on 80s interior decorating. Black and white painted hardwood floors, glorious green gloss lampshades (note that Andrew Martin has just brought out a new range of plain gloss wallpapers in delicious colours), painted white frame.  Image: The

Curtain treatments

Pelmets are the new swag and tails and are becoming increasingly more elaborate in shape. Just love the slightly floppy nature of this pelmet and curtains with pool of blush pink Ophelia fabric from Kate Foreman.

Curtians and pelmet in Ophelia by Kate Foreman

Four-poster beds

A contemporary four-poster bed in a country house setting where the plain panelled walls offset the pattern on the bed. Fabric, Osmunda Frond Azure by Soane.

Lamps, side tables, fabric,

Gallery walls

Pictures and prints are very much part of the English Decorating look. Hanging can be relaxed and random or in very neat rows. This is a lovely wall of Russian art I came across in the summer at the Art & Antiques fair in London.

Russian art gallery wall by John Barkes at the Art & Antiques Fair 2018 on Charis White Interiors blog
Russian art from John Barkes. Photo: Charis White


Trimmings in all their forms are now being specified by interior designers for blinds, to curtains, cushions and upholstery. Blog rewind to Bullion Fringe – A set piece for a previous blog post on passmenterie.

A selection of colourful trimmings at Colefax & Fowler
Piping, box pleats and bullion fringing. Pinterest, unknown photographer/designer


Scallops are the new darling shape of interiors. Not since the 80s have they had so much attention.

Scallop edged flatwoven rug by interior designers Salvesen Graham in collaboration with bespoke rug maker Jennifer Manners.
Scallop edge slip cover by interior designer Rita Konig
Lampshade, Matilda Goad
Slip covers are back, giving new life to a handsome antique chair. This beautifully made one comes courtesy of Holly Matthis Interiors in Houston, Texas.
Scallop canopied bed in Ripple Stripe Raspberry, with headboard and lighting,


Always useful in a decorating scheme but again, like in the 80s, they are taking centre stage and often becoming the main decorating motif. I like them horizontally on a wall and tonally, as here at the Fornasetti exhibition in Rome this year. Reminds me of how Anoushka Hempel used them in the 80s and 90s.  For more stripey inspiration, you might want to follow on Instagram @MsPutneystripes (who wonderfully styles herself ‘stripe addicted’) –  if you don’t already!

Striped wall at the Fornasetti exhibition, Palazzo Altemps in Rome. Photo: Charis White


They really do finish a divan bed nicely. Off the peg ones from high street stores are OK (but maybe consider customising with trimmings). However, if you have the budget, getting one made really makes a huge difference. Alternatively, you could take inspiration from the lovely styling in this bedroom by and turn an antique lace tablecloth into one.

Turn an antique lace edged tablecloth into a valance. Bedroom by 


Anna Spiro is an Australian interior designer (represented at Lorfords in London) who completely gets to grips with mixing colour and pattern.  ‘Round and Round The Garden’ is one of Anna’s wallpaper designs. I would suggest that the choice of wallpaper designs is so much greater now than it was in the 80s.

Wallpaper by Anna Spiro, Sydney Harbour Paint Company.

Thank you

Thank you so much for reading. I hope you have come away inspired with lots of ideas and have maybe even started to look at ‘borders’ afresh too?! Everything is always about balance – how much and where you use it.

If you have enjoyed the blog (promise they won’t all be this long!) and would like to receive email alerts for future posts, then please just press the large blue ‘Follow’ button either at the beginning or end of a post.  With very many thanks, Charis x

Charis White, Interior stylist/writer





10 thoughts on “Is 80s interior decorating back?

    1. Yes hoorah indeed! Glad you agree. Borders were so overdone in the 80s that it rather killed how sweet they can be. I love the way @Janecumberbatch uses them – the juicy bright stripes are v appealing.


  1. Loved reading your post as always Charis.
    I was living in Paris in the 1980s where the style was so different.
    Happy to see that ‘brown furniture’ really is making a comeback!
    I love both of the Soane blue bedrooms!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.