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    Interior Design Over the Last 50 Years

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    Did you know interior design is more than just decorating a space? It is a mixture of art and science of enhancing the interior of a space in order to create a polished and more aesthetically pleasing environment (“Interior Design History and Origins Explained”, 2019, p.2). “Interior design is a matter of taste and talent – interior design remains our most personal, most intimately experienced art form – but it is much more as well” (Ambercrombie,, 2003, p. 8). The interior design profession is varied and includes space planning, conceptual development, site inspections, programming, research, communicating with clients, project and construction management, and of course the execution of the desired design (“Interior Design History and Origins Explained”, 2019, p.2). However, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder… There is no right or wrong way to decorate a space just so long as it serves a purpose and is feasible. Each space is just as unique as we are, and interior design is an opportunity to explore how people interact with physical space (Hollis, 2017, p.1). Over the last 50 years, interior designs have seen many trends that have been forgotten as quickly as a new trend arises, but the seven elements to create a warm and functional environment do not change.

    Past Trends of Interior Design

    Peace, Love, and Nature

    Between the years of 1960 and 1970, Americans in the United States revolved around peace, love, and nature being incorporated into the home. According to an article by Duda (2018), “people were finding themselves with more money to spend and in a much larger real estate market” (p. 1). American’s were being acquainted with new technology such as television sets and electric kitchen appliances and aesthetics with a new appreciation for bright colors and free expression (Duda, 2018, p.1). The 1960s was a decade of love and “hippies” and young homeowners used flower patterns, bright colors to capture the spirit of the times, lava lamps, soft lighting, incense, scarves, green kitchen appliances, popcorn ceilings, and deep-piled shag carpeting (“How Furniture Trends Have Evolved in the Past 50 Years”, 2019, p.2). As the nation moved into the disco era of the 1970s, the individual’s free spirit transcended beyond their fashion and lifestyle and into their home décor with a more relaxed style.

    The homes of this decade had color palettes of the warm colors of brown, orange, and red defined with open floor plans, shag carpets, geometric shapes, floral patterns, wood finishes, and glass tops (“How Interior Design Has Changed”, 2015, p.1). Furs and high-pile carpets were very popular during this time period; it was commonplace to see deep-pile rungs in every room of the home, including the kitchen (“How Furniture Trends Have Evolved in the Past 50 Years”, 2019, p.2). According to this article, kitchen appliances were still brightly colored as they were in the 1960s, but microwaves started to appear in many homes (p.2). This was a “make-do” time period, and furniture and antiques from the past were reinvented and reused. They also stated, “ large velvet sofas with throw pillows was a retreat for relaxation; in fact, polyester and velvet were the fabrics of choice to use during this time period, even in the same room as upholstery, carpeting, and curtains” (p.2). Instead of having a traditional space to live within, individuals during the 1970s renovated barns, towers, and other non-traditional spaces into homes (“How Furniture Trends Have Evolved in the Past 50 Years”, 2019, p.2).

    Bye-Bye Shag, Hello Technology

    Individualism, and trying to find one’s self, was the focus in the 1980s, but technology played an extensive role in home design by the 1990s. The 1980s, also known as the “me-decade”, still had contemporary home designs like the 70s but transformed from bright colors into more subtle and organic colors with a decline in geometric styles; embracing luxurious fabrics, styles, and accents (“How Furniture Trends Have Evolved in the Past 50 Years”, 2019 p.4). As technology became more attainable to the average homeowner, the design started to focus on entertainment in the home with the use of radios, televisions, and even now movie players (“How Interior Design Has Changed”, 2015, p.1). As noted on page 1, carpeting was found only in bedrooms and hardwood floors as well as laminate were mainly used in kitchens and living rooms, making the interior design more of a contemporary design than the preceding decade. Combination spaces, such as combo kitchen and dining room areas and larger sized homes became more widespread due to this prosperous age (“How Furniture Trends Have Evolved in the Past 50 Years”, 2019, p.4). As stated in the text, “people wanted to imitate their favorite television shows such as Dallas or Dynasty during this flourishing time; individuals wanted their homes to look like the houses that were seen on the shoe Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” (p. 4).

    For instance, homes had a polished look; more like a hotel room with matching accent pieces, furniture, and even the bedding than a cozy space. Waterbeds, tiffany lamps, chandeliers, and Victorian furniture appeared in homes at this time (“How Furniture Trends Have Evolved in the Past 50 Years”, 2019, p. 4). The 1990s was an immense change compared to the contemporary designs of the 70’s and 80’s. This was the internet and digital age. Homes had more technology in their rooms with larger but thinner televisions, surround sound systems, black and stainless-steel kitchen appliances, self-cleaning ovens, high-powered microwaves and dishwashers, skylights, and marble or granite tabletops (Duda, 2018, p. 2). Homes became smaller due to economic restrictions. Therefore, the furniture pieces were sleeker and designed to get maximum space in minimum room; for example, futons and coffee tables doubles as storage space (“How Furniture Trends Have Evolved in the Past 50 Years”, 2019, p. 6).

    Coincidentally, many of the homes of today still exhibit the 1990s appearance. Y2K – The Future is Here In the year 2000, high-tech was all the rage in home design. “Smart homes” were in demand as cell phones were used to control all of the electronics in the house (“How Interior Design Has Changed”, 2015, p. 1). The article stated that homes designs were becoming to have a modern, simplistic style rather than focusing on loud patterns and busy designs; people were turning to styles that were sleek, classic, and simplistic of the styles of today and the use of solid colors instead of loud patterns and busy designs. Homeowners wanted to create homes and offices designed to be energy-efficient, and the focus on matching all elements in the home became less important by mixing and matching furniture and décor items-the sofa no longer had to match the armchair or the curtains (“How Furniture Trends Have Evolved in the Past 50 Years”, 2019, p. 7). With the 2010s, electronic technology was still being incorporated in all aspects of the home, but people were seeking a more “homey” surrounding with a focus on personal cultural preferences rather than status quo (‘How Interior Design Has Changed”, 2015, p. 1). Houses in this time period were individualized, as every house was very different. Millennials put less focus on material items due to the fact that they were distressed over financial responsibilities; therefore, cutting back on what they owned (Duda, 2018, p. 2). The author stated that more rental properties popped on the real estate market with less focus on interior design, with creating efficient spaces with smaller areas and with more mixing and matching of furniture and décor items; this trend is predicted to continue due to the world’s population increasing.

    Present Day Interior Design

    Present day, 2020, interior design is having numerous changes. To start, neutral colors will be a thing of the past; everything will have texture and visual interest. All white kitchens will now have colored cabinetry, charismatic stone counters, and patterned flooring (Lauren, 2019 p.2). Open floor plans will continue to be commonplace in new homes and renovations, particularly for living rooms and kitchens. However, multi-use spaces will become popular with focus on less formality and more functionality; the home office can double as a guest room or a finished basement can double as a home gym or media room (Lauren, 2019. p. 3). Singular design schemes in one space will not be favored anymore; the look of mixing contemporary and vintage pieces in modern spaces will be more prominent in homes (Lauren, 2019, p. 3). The faux look will be done. It will be the return to actual objects that require care and creation, therefore, no more faux finishes. Less is best will be more desirable, no more overdone; meaning that if people have many decorative objects, its best to rotate them and end the clutter.

    The Seven Elements of Interior Design

    No matter the trend of today or tomorrow, there are seven elements interior designers use to make rooms of a home work together with a purpose as well as be functional. The first element is space, meaning length, width, and height. The available space usually can not be changed, so it has to be remembered that people need to work with what they have within the physical boundaries of the room”(‘The Interior Design Academy, 2019”, p. 1). Space can be split into two categories – positive and negative space; positive space is space containing objects and negative space is the space between objects, and there must be a balance to avoid overcrowding or sparseness (“The Interior Design Academy”, 2019, p. 2). This article stated that horizontal lines are created by using tables and other surfaces, and these lines make a room appear winder and longer. Vertical lines are created by windows and doorways which give a room an illusion of being taller. Dynamic lines refer to diagonal, zigzag, or curved lines and these lines can be found in stairs and provide energy and movement (‘The Interior Design Academy, 2019, p. 2). Form is the element that is the shape of the room, as well as the objects within the room; it is all the physical forms of anything that is three dimensional (“The Interior Design Academy”, 2019, p. 2). When adding objects in a room, make sure they compare with the scale of the rom, and a space is more inviting if the dominant form is repeated in minor objects throughout the room. (“The Interior Design Academy”, 2019, p. 3).

    An essential aspect of any space is the light in the room, whether it be natural or man-made. Without light, all the other elements would not be able to radiate to their full capacity. Light is categorized as either task lighting (defined purpose, accent lighting (emphasizing objects), and mood lighting (adding ambience). (“The Interior Design Academy”, 2019, p. 3). Therefore, it is extremely important to take into consideration the activities that will be taking place in each space. Color is an extremely critical element that is meant to provide visual harmony in the space; however, what one person likes is varied from person to person and there are no good or bad colors; it’s how color is used that makes the room pleasing or unattractive (Rompilla, 2005, p. 174). Lighter or brighter colors make a small space appear larger and dark colors give a powerful aspect to a larger space (“The Interior Design Academy”, 2019, p. 3). The next element is texture and it refers to the tactile surface of the objects in a room. Texture can be found in the furniture, the accessories, or the fabrics of the space; texture has the ability to make a room visually appealing and gives a room a feeling (“The Interior Design Academy”, 2019, p. 3). There are two types of texture – visual texture and actual texture. Visual texture is actually seen by the eye and it is the impression a person gets when viewing a space; actual texture items are things that can be seen and felt; for example, a throw pillow can be seen and felt (“The Interior Design Academy”, 2019, p. 4). The last element is pattern. Patterns are like textures in that they add intrigue to a space. A pattern is created by using a repetitive design such as animal prints, stripes, motif, florals, and geometric shapes, and a maximum of three patterns in the same color scheme should be used in a space (“The Interior Design Academy”, 2019, p. 4).


    In conclusion, over the last 50 years interior designs have seen many trends that have been forgotten as quickly as a new trend arises, but the seven elements to create a warm and functional environment do not change. Trends dating back to the 1960s were brought on by a world that was experiencing a tremendous financial boom as well as new technology. However, present day trends are focused more around making the most out of less due to harder economic circumstances of the world today. Still in all, the elements of space, line, form, light, color, texture, and pattern have always given direction of how to make a space exhibit balance and harmony. In my opinion, interior designs of the past have been full of change due to them being driven by societal ideals and the practicality of that time period.

    America was financially back on its feet after World War II and was ready to spend money and everyone was ready to show off. I feel present day trends adapt to the generation of Millennials that make the most out of less because more and more individuals are finding it harder to make ends meet financially these days due to student debt, housing, transportation, insurances, childcare, food, utilities, and retirement savings. All in all, whether the interior design trend is from the past or present day, the one thing that always remains constant is that people want their house or rental to look great and feel like a home. Everyone wants the space around them to feel cozy and happy. A home is an extension of one’s self or family and how we all see ourselves.

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