May 21, 2019

The best (and worst) decorating trends from the last 30 years

In the past three decades, many home decorating trends have come and gone — and come back again. In the spirit of celebrating the Jewish Journal’s 30th anniversary, let’s take a look at a few of the most popular decorating looks from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Some are evergreen and still on trend, while others became dated almost immediately. And don’t worry if you’re clinging to a style from the “worst” category — it’s probably going to come back with a vengeance next year.

What will the next 30 years look like in the world of home design? I’d look into my crystal ball, but mystical home accents are so ’90s.


Best: Art Deco

The decade of glamour saw a revival of Art Deco with a decidedly new wave twist. Triangles, circles and wavy lines in bold colors brought a funky, sexy attitude to furniture and home décor, making homes look like an MTV video.

Worst: Mirrored walls

Mirrors stretching across walls were bad enough, but they were also smoky or had gold crackle.

Best: Preppy

The ’80s brought us Lisa Bernbach’s “The Preppy Handbook,” and furniture and décor also got the preppy treatment. Plaids, ticking stripes and monograms all made us feel a little bit Ivy League.

Worst: Glass blocks

I admit, my bedroom has glass blocks. My house was built in 1989. I sleep in “Miami Vice.” Don’t judge me.

Best: Gray and mauve

I used to love this pastel combination, and I still do. It reminds me of what a room would look like in “Dynasty.”

Worst: Southwest design

Navajo blankets, Native American patterns and animal hides were all the rage. Please, step away from the cow taxidermy skull.

Best: Brass

The metallic finish of choice in the ’80s was brass. And it’s back in 2017, in distressed and antique variations — as if we had the brass for three decades.

Worst: Wallpaper borders

In my first apartment after I graduated from college, I hung a wallpaper border of mallard ducks. All around my bedroom. Pinterest wasn’t there to save me.


Best: Canopy beds

What ever happened to canopy beds? They were so popular two decades ago. And yes, I had one. Hanging sheer panels from the rails of the canopy created a private retreat that made for a very good night’s sleep.

Worst: Television armoires

The armoires that housed our big televisions were not a particularly bad design trend. It’s just that with the introduction of flat screens, the armoires became obsolete.

Best: Blond wood

With the popularity of Scandinavian design and the expansion of IKEA in the 1990s, blond wood was the material of choice for both floors and furniture.

Worst: Sponge painting

Everybody tried faux finishing, and the results were not pretty. Faux finishing was an “old world” look that was applied with sponges, plastic bags, broom bristles or rags. I bought a faux finishing kit at Pottery Barn and sponge painted one wall in my bedroom. It did not look like a wall in Tuscany. It looked like a rash.

Best: White kitchens

All-white kitchens had that European flair, and any color scheme of accessories worked with the stark white.

Worst: Faux greenery

Potted artificial plants were all right if you didn’t have a green thumb, but the bigger design faux pas was the proliferation of painted ivy that invaded archways, walls above cabinets and bookcases, and powder rooms.

Best: Unusually shaped furniture

home-couchThe ’90s brought us dramatic furniture silhouettes like sofas with exaggerated arches in the back and arms. This trend was epitomized by designer Philippe Starck’s quirky pieces that graced hip hotels — and even inspired a line at Target.

Worst: Big window treatments

Puffy valances and oversized swags graced our windows and blocked our views.


Best: Art ledges

home-keep-calmThese shallow shelves introduced a novel way to display artwork, and best of all, allowed people to continually change things out without having to punch new holes in the wall.

Worst: Keep calm and carry onWhen we first saw these British wartime posters popping up in home décor stores, they had a zippy, retro appeal. They have since overstayed their welcome and need to Brexit.

Best: Stainless appliances

True, they are notoriously difficult to keep clean. But the gleaming surfaces do make a kitchen sparkle. (And make you feel like a professional chef, even if you can’t boil water.)

Worst: Vessel sinks

These sinks, which are free standing and sit directly on a countertop instead of within it, may look interesting, but water gets everywhere.

Best: Global accessories

An influx of home accessories and textiles from exotic places such as India, Thailand and Indonesia made us feel like world travelers, even if the goods were really made in China.

Worst: Buddhas

home-pillowsOn the other hand, there are way too many Buddha heads in home decorating.

Best: Reclaimed materials

A concerted effort in conservation has created an interest in reclaimed materials, whether for walls, flooring or furniture. The look is rustic and industrial, yet modern.

Worst: Industrial furniture

New furniture that’s made to look like it’s been salvaged from a run-down factory, however, just screams hipster pretension.

Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself  projects at