The Living Room Through The Ages (1920- 1990)

We’ve all heard those stories set in living rooms of the past. From your Grandmother’s recollection of glistening geometric prints, to your mothers giggles about that ‘pop art floral’ wallpaper you had once. Maybe you even remember your entire house decked out in Laura Ashley chintz, circa 1989?

Living in a post-modern era, home decor trends form the past come and go so fast, that literally, you can do whatever you please! If you feel like making your home a blast from the past, read on for a decor history lesson on the living room between 1920 and 1990.


The 1920s were undeniably the birth of modern culture, and with this, came the idea of interior design. With the rise of flapper culture came the arrival of Modernism and the Bauhaus. Living rooms were transformed into lavish meccas to host cocktail parties and dinners.


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Taking inspiration from the beginning of Hollywood and the silent movie culture, the living room in the 1920s was sophisticated, with a touch of the exotic. As in fashion and art at the time, the main trend in home decor was art deco, which was materialized through high-sheen metals, geometric shapes and patterns and tiles. With this, came a touch of the Eastern world with Moroccan prints and animal skins showing that the patron of the home was wealthy enough to travel.

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great gatsby movie set design - jay gatsby mansion ballroom

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Metallic, exotically printed fabrics scream Great Gatsby!


Exotic oriental table runner

Black & Gold

Hand embroidered brocade pillow cover



Carrying on the art deco trend of the ‘roaring 20s’, the 1930s cleverly combined this with elements of Scandinavian minimalism, which was known as ‘moderne.’ This look was stripped of all ornament and was incredibly streamlined and focused on clean lines.


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Although art deco was still prevailing home decor trend, the introduction of mass production meant an increase in chrome, plastic and high-shine furniture. The exotic and geometric prints remained similar to that of the previous decade, although they were mixed with ‘moderne’ elements to create statements, unlike the all-over glamorous decor of the 1920s. The color palette in this era also took a turn towards more muted tones, such as cream, ivory, light green and light pink.

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Clean lines, muted tones and a hint of art deco… it can’t get much more 1930s!

Solid geometric pillow cover

Elegant colorblock Place mats


Following the return of soldiers from World War Two, decor in the 1940s was both homely and nostalgic. Warm, rich colors, cottage-y prints and upholstery were all the rage. Due to the increased demand for housing in this period, rooms often had multi-purposes.


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Wooden floors and vinyl were both common due to unavailability of materials. Living rooms were beautified with lace curtains, bows and vibrant floral prints. Wooden furniture was often painted in bright colors or white. These elements made up the Early modern or ‘colonial’ trend.

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Floral prints in cheery colors will add some colonial homeliness to your abode.

Jacquard floral table runner

Hand painted 7 piece duvet cover set


The 1950s saw a huge change in the home decor market. With the invention of the trolley and ironing board, to name a few, this was truly the ‘age of the housewife.’ With consumerism on the rise, living rooms were bold and brash, in bold neon and bubblegum hues. Add in the influence of Surrealism and the 1950s was like living in a rainbow.


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1950 also saw a new structural element change home decor: the open plan. Checkerboard tiles and vinyl floors were both funky and brash. But if anything is important in this era, it’s the accessories; the more the merrier! Toasters, alarm clocks and swing bins were huge and chrome and anything plastic was very on-trend. As for prints, they included space-inspired, florals and zigzags and animal prints.

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Pops of color and vibrant prints are a sure-fire way to give your living room that 1950s edge.

Damask throw pillow cover

Chic jacquard table runner


Ah… the groovy era! The 1960s saw the rise of youth culture, popular music and modern fashion. Staying close to it’s rebellious spirit, 1960s decor mis-mashed past home decor styles, including Victorian and the 1920s, and combined them with pop art.



With the 1950s obsession with the space age and everything plastic and disposable still in tow, the 1960s living room took these elements and translated them into a more earthy palette. Monochrome was a popular choice, as were earthy greens, wooden tones and burnt oranges. There were also bohemian elements of Indian and Moroccan prints. Pod shaped furniture perfectly complimented pop art flowers or groovy circle wallpaper.

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Brash, burnt and a hint of Moroccan…take a leaf out of the book of the groovy 60s.

Floral embroidered pillow cover

Saffron Red

Ornamental embroidered 7 piece duvet cover set


If we could some up Seventies decor in one word, we’d have to say BROWN. Despite this, the Seventies living room was a conglomeration of contradictions. Earthy brown tones and natural bohemian prints were contrasted with psychedelic patterns and futuristic design.


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Decor was inspired by the eco nature of the decade. Hanging plants, macrame and greenery were commonplace in living rooms. Despite this, technological-inspired pod shapes and clashing-toned plastics were also popular. Orange, brown and burnt reds were the most used color palettes and were presented in a variety of bold patterns such a bohemian prints and plaid.

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Paisley prints in oranges and browns are a silent scream of ‘Seventies’.


Jacquard paisley table runner

Paisley leaf pillow cover


The 1980s saw the rise of technology begin to develop at a sky-rocket pace. With this, home decor took a bit of a nostalgic turn, rejecting the futuristic trends of the past two decades and going back to floral chintz prints similar to those in the 40s. Add frills and wallpaper borders into the mix and the 80s living room was the epitome of twee femininity.


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The burnt orange tones of the past decade were swapped for something more demure. Dusty pastels made their mark in frills and florals. The living room was not complete without a glass table or overhead track lights.

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It’s an easy equation for this one: florals + pastels.

Vibrant floral throw pillow cover


Floral embroidered placemats


After the bawdy maximalism of the 1980s, the 1990s slowed it down and took it right back to the basics. Much in contrast to the rapid evolution of technology, this era was all about creamy tones, wooden furniture and beige sofas. Perhaps due to the beginning of the recession, living rooms were plain, clutter free and zen.










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Of course, there was the slightly tacky element to 1990s decor. Who can forget inflatable sofas and lava lamps? Aside from neutral colors, another Nineties color fad is Hunter green. The late 90s also saw the return of prints, namely damask and florals.

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Opt for beige, brown and clean lines.


Shimmering spiral placemats


Embroidered table runner

Which decade was your favorite?


Rachel Holliday

Rachel Holliday

Interior design and fashion contributor at Banarsi Designs. Writer and Aussie-based fashion and personal style blogger at