It Was Acceptable In The 80s: Why We Love The Era Of ‘More Is More’ Interiors

Born in 1971, I was truly a teenager of the 1980s and a walking cliche. Yellow Sun-In fringe - tick. Hair thick with L’Oreal Elnett, backcombed into a solid halo of unmovable frizz - tick. School uniform of bright blue stiletto heels (with front bow) teamed with pencil skirt and oversized v necked jumper - tick. And not forgetting the 80s teen essential of Rimmel Twilight Teaser lipstick at all times. I went to countless house parties equipped with litre bottles of Liebfraumilch whilst wearing puffball skirts and electric blue mascara, snogged boys in corners to the background of The Thompson Twins and danced on the podium (underaged) at Top Of The Pops (true story). My heart belonged to George Michael, I wore a Choose Life t shirt and carried a jelly bag. My boyfriend of the moment bought me a belcher chain necklace, I wore chunky neon bangles and hung around TopShop Oxford Circus every Saturday. I could recite entire segments from National Lampoons Animal House, was in love with nearly every one of The Outsiders (except Tom Cruise) and wanted to marry Andrew McCarthy in Mannequin. If you didn’t cry at the words ‘Stay Gold, Ponyboy’ were you even there? Yep, Cliche City. Good times.

If you didn’t have the picture of the lady in the white hat on your wall, were you even in the 80s?

If you didn’t have the picture of the lady in the white hat on your wall, were you even in the 80s?

I inherited my love of interiors from my mum who was always very much into home styling, in between defrosting Findus Crispy Pancakes and Mini Kievs. We were a family fond of the ready meal. The eighties brought with it a new era of frozen food and with it, a kitchen appliance of wonder, the microwave. We returned from living in Hong Kong during the mid eighties, only for my parents to find that cigarettes, which had been 40p a packet in Asia, had risen to a dastardly £1.40 a packet here in the UK so they were forced to ditch the fags due to finances. They put the money they were saving into a pot and within a couple of months had managed to save enough to buy one of these new, miraculous visions of the future. Cumbersome and heavy enough to knock out even the largest of intruders and as noisy as a low flying helicopter, it stood on the kitchen worktop in pride of place, the epitome of eighties cool.

Our Hong Kong 80s home. Bamboo, cord sofa, palm tree, flokati, sheepskin, shell light and all mod cons including TV, stereo stack and VTR.

Our Hong Kong 80s home. Bamboo, cord sofa, palm tree, flokati, sheepskin, shell light and all mod cons including TV, stereo stack and VTR.

Our house was an era busting mix of Chinese furniture, Laura Ashley curtains and 80s G Plan, teamed with a dark moss green carpet throughout (handy for disguising the cigarette burns, an unfortunate side effect of the back-from-the-pub house ‘gatherings’ held whilst my poor parents were out at dinner parties) and a pastel blue diagonal stripe velvet padded three piece suite, big enough to use as a bed and more comfy than any sofa I have ever sat on since. Its predecessor was a modular brown cord tubular lounge set, an item that I’d still have now in my own home if my parents had hung on to it. The original bathroom was turquoise and fully carpeted, including the bath and, naturally, the toilet seat. My own bedroom was papered in Wickes red and white striped paper, with two walls in one colour way and two in the opposite, a geometric primary coloured haven. There were some classic pieces in our Pinner home. Over the years, my sister and I have battled for the smoked glass circular chrome based coffee table (foldable so as to be stored under the stairs and removed for Sunday teas of toasted tuna sandwiches) and the long oak wood slice side table, both of which will never go out of style.

There’s something about eighties style that strikes a cord with all of us who hail from that era, and nowhere is this love reflected more than in the success of the Instagram feed, The 80s Interior. Barely two years old, the account has garnered nearly 80k followers and thousands of likes by posting photographs taken from vintage interior sources and style magazines. It’s so interesting to see how many of the the designs of the time are still relevant today and how we are interpreting those styles in our current interiors. I decided I needed to bring in the experts to explain why we find this era so fascinating so I spoke to Simon, the face behind The 80s Interior, to get the low down.

So tell us a bit about who is behind this love of all things eighties and what made you decide to document your passion on Instagram?

I’m Simon Knight, I’m a fashion retail manager who lives in London with my husband, son and our dog.  I’ve always been a huge fan of the 80s aesthetic, whether it be films, music, furniture or toys. One day I was talking to my friend about our childhood and a North London shopping centre we used to go to called Brent Cross. We started to chat about what it used to look like. I started to research and found lots of pictures online, it bought back so many memories, smells, sounds that I just carried on looking at other interiors. My thought was that if it’s bringing up so many emotions for me, it may well do for others. And from there, The 80’s Interior was born.  I started to search eBay, bookstores, and thrift stores for 80s interiors books. I have a huge collection now, my favourites being a collection of 80s Habitat catalogues and collection of Homes & Gardens magazines.

Your feed has been super successful! What is it, do you think, that makes it so popular?

Number one has to be nostalgia, it brings back so many memories for many of my followers.  My feed is also completely niche. It’s purely eighties interiors and I never feature people. I feel that that way, my followers can see themselves in the room rather than seeing the scene already set for them. 

What was it that made interior design in the 1980s so very different?

80s interior design was for the most part, very over the top. Nothing was too much. It was a time of money and greed and everyone trying to out do one another.  It was also very experimental. Take Memphis furniture design - crazy and outrageous in its shapes, patterns and colours but completely celebrated by the public and design world.  The 80s was very more is more.

What factors do you think led to this change?

It was the yuppie era so consumers had the cash to splash. Fashion had become bright, bold and angular. People wanted their homes to represent them. There was also a boom in apartment living and people were looking for new and innovative ways of creating interesting spaces.  Previously, furniture had been very wooden and brown - in the 80s, all the textures, patterns and colours came out. Dishwashers, microwaves, Hi Fi systems and home computers were all now common household items that needed a space. People wanted to show these off so designers had to find new ways to make these pride of place.  I have a great book called the Media Design Book and it’s all about how people literally designed their whole interiors around the TV set. 

There was also a lovely soft side to the 80s, full of pastels and brush strokes, wicker shelving and frilly bedding. This colour palette was popular in the 80s Art Deco movement, which I am a huge fan of - a perfect place to reference this is when Dudley Moore is in the bath in that famous scene in the movie Arthur.  Today you can see elements of 80s Art Deco in the restaurant at Sketch in London and in the furniture of Palm Vaults in Hackney. 

What 80s trends can you see returning to our homes?

The shag pile carpet, surely we’ve all had enough of the wooden floor now!  And room steps - whether it’s stepping up to your bed or stepping down to your bath, let’s build a few more platforms in our homes for dramatic effect.  The glass brick also needs to come back. These were used a lot in the 80s as room dividers and were brilliant at allowing the light to flow through.

And finally Simon, what is your ultimate 80s trend?

My absolute favourite is a carpeted bathroom, add in a sunken bath with a palm or a fern and I’m in heaven!  For me a carpeted bathroom is my favourite image to post. I always get some great comments about hygiene and damp.

So can you see your home with a primary colour pop? Or matching your floral sofa to your wallpaper, a la Giles and Mary? 1980s interior design was creative, original and included many design elements that are still very relevant today. We may not be ready to replace our minimal blinds with an Austrian flounce or shagpile our toilet seats, but I certainly wouldn’t say no to a carpeted sunken living room. I can but dream. Sigh.

With many thanks to Simon for taking time out of his day to talk to me and for allowing me to use his photography, all of which is taken from his Instagram feed. You can follow Simon on Instagram at The 80’s Interior.

Lisa Dawson3 Comments