How Furniture and Interior Design Trends Have Evolved Over the Past 50 Years

How Furniture & Interior Design Trends Have Evolved Over the Past 50 Years

In October of this year, Interior Furniture Resources (IFR) will celebrate their 50th anniversary. IFR has been part of people’s lives for five decades, dedicated to clients and customer service. This depth of experience shows in IFR’s relationships with the community, contributions and industry expertise. IFR has truly earned its place as part of this region’s history and looks forward to serving customers in decades to come.

Over the years, IFR Furniture has worked to bring stylish and timeless furniture options for homes and businesses. To do that, our experienced consultants have stayed up to date with the latest and best furniture trends and styles. When new innovations happen in the world of furniture, IFR knows about it. Over the years, this means the team has seen some of the biggest trends in interior design and furniture.

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The 1960s

The 1960s saw an influx of mass-manufactured and highly modern furniture. Scandinavian and futuristic styles were highly prized. Homes and offices filled with colors and textures, and metals as well as plastics became more common. Clean lines and unusual shapes were the order of the day, and stylist David Nightingale Hicks perfectly exemplified the decade with his pieces, which were bold and modern-looking.

Furniture trends in the 1960s
The 1960s were the decade of love and “hippies,” and this translated into furniture, too. Younger homeowners and office designers used paisley, flower patterns and bright colors to capture the spirit of the times. Lava lamps, soft lighting, incense and Indian-inspired prints and scarves used as accents completed the look. In the kitchen, colored appliances — such as green refrigerators and stoves — created a warm atmosphere. 

Textures were quite popular at this time. Popcorn ceilings added interest above while deep-pile shag carpeting was soft for those who chose to walk around barefoot. Wood furnishings and cabinets were also quite commonly seen, as were custom pieces.

Many homes built after the war focused on open spaces, and some had sliding walls or open concepts. Screens or furniture were used to create separate spaces within a larger area. Another holistic trend during this time had to do with the “feel-good” nature of homes and spaces. Homeowners and designers turned to Feng Shui, crystals and other methods to not only choose furniture but also to create the right “vibes” and “feel” to a space. Feng Shui specifically often favors an uncluttered look as well as more natural materials in the home, so many homes adopted this style.

The 1970s

The 1970s had a more relaxed style. Warm shades such as brown and orange came into vogue, as did geometric shapes and floral patterns. Rich textures, including furs and high-pile carpets, were very popular during this decade, as was open-concept living. It was not uncommon to see deep-pile shag rugs in every room of the home — including the kitchen. Kitchens also followed the 1960s trend of brightly colored appliances, although during the 1970s, microwaves were added to many homes.

Furniture trends in the 2000s

Since the 1970s saw economic uncertainty, there was a trend towards “making do.” Antiques and furniture from past eras were reinvented and re-used. In addition, comfort was a big focus. In many living rooms, a large velvet sofa or armchair with throw pillows was a haven for rest and relaxation. Velvet and polyester were in fact two fabric choices often used — even in the same room — as upholstery, carpeting and curtains. Using inexpensive wood paneling and renovating barns, towers and other non-traditional spaces into homes were all parts of this trend.

The 1980s

The 1980s saw a rapid rejection of the bright and geometric styles of the 1970s. Instead, this decade embraced clean and preppy styles as well as more neutral and subdued tones. Soft colors and even pastels became popular, as did Japanese styles. Known as the “me decade,” the 1980s embraced luxurious fabrics, styles and accents.

While carpets remained popular — especially in bedrooms — newer styles of laminate flooring became popular. Paler colors, combined spaces — such as combined kitchen and dining room areas — and larger homes became more widespread in this prosperous era. Frosted glass also saw an introduction during this time period.

Furniture trends in the 1980s

Matching was very popular in the 1980s, as prosperity meant people wanted to imitate their favorite television shows — such as Dynasty or Dallas — where excess and plenty of matching were popular, as were very luxurious additions. An early reality television show, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, had host Robin Leach visiting the homes of celebrities so television audiences could get a sneak peak inside the homes of the very affluent.

Given these cultural ideas, it is not surprising that homeowners and designers favored a cultivated and polished look, imitating what was seen in catalogues, televisions and magazines. Curtains matched accent pieces, furniture and even the bedding. Some homes could look more like hotel rooms rather than cozy spaces, complete with chandeliers.

Borders were common choices during the 1980s, with many homes featuring walls painted in muted tones and bordered near the ceiling with patterned wallpaper. This trend extended to curtains, too, where valances and additions covered the top of large solid-colored curtains to add more interest. In some homes, plastic blinds were also selected for their modern look.

In bedrooms, waterbeds were very popular. They promised to give a great night of sleep, and some saw them as a symbol of status or post-modernist sleekness. In the living room, larger entertainment systems were created to take the focal point of the room. In front of these entertainment systems, oversized and overstuffed sofas and sectional sofas were the typical look. Larger and more excessive styles were “in.”

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was an important trend-setter during this decade, designing pieces out of steel, glass and paper materials. His furniture tended to be made from wood and featured very strong, clean lines. Other designers of this time followed his lead. However, a number of designers went to the polar extreme. Laura Ashley, for example, was very popular for both clothing and home fashion in the 1980s. Her country-inspired influence brought florals, pastels and ruffles from a much earlier time to homes. Soft colors and almost Victorian-era looks — including iron post beds — were adopted by many.

Laura Ashley was not the only one embracing a softer and more old-fashioned look during the 1980s. There was a renewed interest in antiques during this era, and many people were inspired by the look of “old money.” Imitation Tiffany lamps, reproduction Victorian furniture and antiques appeared in many homes. Lane Company cedar chests were widely advertised and completed the look in bedrooms and living rooms across the country.

The 1990s

The 1990s can be split into two parts. The earlier part of the decade saw a huge focus on sleek modernism, with gentle color palettes. During the second half of the decade, however, pinewood furniture and floral patterns became immensely popular.

Designer Shiro Kuramata was very influential during the 1990s. He used his architectural background to create unusual pieces out of resin, wire and other non-traditional materials. Other designers followed suit, and acrylic resin became a material of choice for many furniture items during this period. Furniture inspired by this style had a small footprint, thin legs and unusual and curvy lines, sometimes accentuated with pops of color or left in black and white.

Furniture trends in the 1990s

Throughout it all, function and practicality became increasingly important. Homeowners wanted homes and office spaces to work and to be practical as well as enjoyable. Appliances and furniture were designed to be easy to clean and maintain. Special coatings on furniture made it easy to clean, while self-cleaning ovens, high-powered microwaves and dishwashers saved even more time.

Skylights became a great way to add more light to homes, and many homes and offices saw the introduction of larger televisions as well as computers, so stands and desks were created for these. Wooden flooring replaced the carpeting of decades past, and comfort became the most important feature for furniture.

Technology became more important to furniture manufacturing in the 1990s as well. Ultra suede was developed during this time and while it imitated the look of genuine suede, it was far stronger and could be developed in an almost unlimited range of colors, opening the door to many unique pieces. Furniture manufacturing also allowed for pieces to be covered in laminate or to be manufactured with greater precision, allowing for previously unheard-of shapes and styles.

With the 1990s, homes became smaller again due to economic restrictions. Therefore, the focus shifted to sleeker and smaller furniture pieces designed to get maximum space in minimum room. Apartment- and condo-sized sofas, for example, offered sleeker lines and took up less space. Furniture designed to do double duty — including pieces such as futons or coffee tables doubling as storage space — were part of this trend, too. Technology also got smaller and thinner during this era, so televisions and entertainment systems became smaller and less obtrusive.

The 2000s

The 2000s saw the rise of smart homes and furniture and appliances designed to be adaptable with modern technology. The earliest smart homes were conceptualized and designed around this time. Chairs and furniture designed to be plugged in so they could glow or light up appeared in many homes. Technology was not just changing how furniture was made — it was being incorporated into furniture pieces themselves.

Furniture trends in the 2000s

Alongside the high-tech focus, however, designers and homeowners also developed an eco-conscious bent. There was a return to environmentally friendly designs. Homeowners wanted to create homes and offices designed to be energy-efficient, and furniture made from recycled materials became immensely popular. Vintage furniture and furnishings made from sustainable materials — such as glass and bamboo — became increasingly common.

In offices and home offices, modern and sleek minimalist designs became popular. Simple furniture was more often adopted as organizations embraced more complex technology. In many offices, open space design meant simpler furniture in solid colors could be used without making a space feel too busy or cluttered. The focus on minimalism also saw furniture made of wood and sustainable materials alongside pieces made from man-made materials.

In the kitchen and in other parts of the home, uniformity became widely adopted. Homeowners purchased appliances in brushed steel, stainless steel or other matching styles. White or black granite and marble became the frequently seen choices in kitchens and bathrooms.

At the same time, the focus on matching all elements in a home became less important, and homeowners chose to express their individuality by more frequently updating their spaces and by mixing and matching furniture and décor items. The sofa no longer had to match the armchair or the curtains, and uniqueness was more important than a uniform, cohesive look.

Furniture Today and Tomorrow?

One thing that hasn’t changed over the past several decades is the ongoing interest in interior design and furniture. People still want their homes and workplaces to look great. Today, however, there are more choices for how to make that happen. Designers and homeowners can pick the greatest options from the last five decades — and more — to create unique looks. With social media and instant connectivity, trends change more often as new looks get shared and spark interest more easily.

Furniture was a $101.41 billion business in the U.S. in 2013, and there is no sign that interest in interiors is slowing.

The future is just around the corner, so if it has been some time since you have updated your home or office look, now is the right time. And since trends change so easily, renting can be a great way to update your space often and even to experiment with new looks.

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If you’d like to try out new interior decorating ideas, take a look at the options IFR has to offer and subscribe to our e-mails to stay up to date about new styles. From home furniture designed to be elegant and affordable, reflecting your sophisticated or cozy style, to corporate rentals selected to make your company or team look its best, IFR has it all. IFR’s relocation experts can help you find the right fit, and IFR can handle the details, so you can sit back and enjoy a stylish and put-together home or office easily and affordably. Be sure to join the IFR mailing list to receive updates.