Interior Design Through the Decades

10 Feb 202010 min read

What would your bedroom have looked like 100 years ago? Mattress Online has explored eras of interior trends to show the history of home décor and the influences behind it.

Discover how interior design has changed through the decades since the 1920s and find out how you’ll style your bedroom over the next 10 years, based on expert predictions.

Click below to watch the last century of interior design unfold or keep reading to learn about the influences behind our home décor trends.

1920s: A glamorous and gaudy era

After World War I ended, the ‘Roaring Twenties’ became an era of indulgence and uninhibited spending. Brits were no longer burdened by war worries and, thanks to a growing economy, we could live our lives to the fullest. We enjoyed partying at cocktail bars and jazz clubs. It was this glamorous, Hollywood lifestyle that inspired our interior design.

Think gaudy gold, sumptuous silks and rich mahogany wood – these were the top trends of the ’20s. Art Deco design was popular as it represented luxury and sophistication, seen everywhere from mirrors to lighting. To add to the extravagance, exotic animal prints were fashionable as travel symbolised wealth.

1930s: Interior design brought down by the Great Depression

The 1930s saw much less indulgent interiors. The Wall Street Crash in the USA triggered the global Great Depression, leaving Brits in a serious economic recession. By 1933, 25% of Brits were unemployed and couldn’t afford luxuries like redecorating the home.

If you lived in one of the areas affected by the Great Depression, your bedroom would likely be painted in pale, muted colours like mint green or dusty blue, toning down the luxury of the ’20s.

Lino floors were popular because they were inexpensive yet hard-wearing and could match anything. Furnishings were affordable too – homeowners covered their cheap plywood wardrobes with an oak layer so that it looked more expensive.

With no spare cash, fancy accessories like vases were minimal. But if you could afford to keep your finest china, you might display a tea set from designers Clarice Cliff or Charlotte Rhead.

1940s: Brits try to afford a new vibrant style

When World War II ended in 1945, people focused on making a new life for themselves. However, unlike the ’20s, Brits didn’t have the money for expensive furnishings. Interiors were simple but colourful.

Bedrooms in the ’40s featured clashing colour palettes, with a lot of green, red and pink. As Brits wanted more vibrancy and happiness at home, but couldn’t afford much, we recycled old fabrics into curtains and bedding.

This saw the rise of the floral chintz print. Paler wood was popular too, because it was cheap and made the room feel lighter. A post-war surge of entertainment burst onto the scene in the ‘40s. Bedrooms were decorated with colourful posters from the likes of Marvel comics, Fantasia or Tom and Jerry. A Slinky toy or Polaroid camera might be lying around – after all, it was now the time to show off and have fun.

1950s: Family life is in fashion

The 1950s was a decade of booms – post-war, baby, economic and consumer. Soldiers had returned home from war, so couples were keen to start families and enjoy a peaceful, suburban life. British men were breadwinners, whereas women were encouraged to stay at home with the children. Interior trends reflected this, with lots of feminine touches that were also inspired by the American diner look.

Bedrooms in the ’50s would have been painted in bubble gum shades of powder pink and turquoise. Gingham and polka dot print fabrics were on trend too, which mothers would create curtains and cushions from. With the rise of new materials like rubber and PVC, you’d see plenty of plastic furnishings in ice cream colours. Don’t forget kitsch accessories like poodle pictures and nodding dogs.

The 1960s were an era of peace, love, music and culture. Britain had left behind its traditional ’50s attitude and for the first time, young people were free from compulsory military service. Our lives were revolutionised and Brits experimented. Music was a huge influence as we kicked off festival culture and listened to breakthrough bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

A ’60s bedroom would have been inspired by the hippie lifestyle. Warm colours like tangerine and mustard would be offset with hot pink for a psychedelic look. Kaleidoscopic prints inspired by the Art Nouveau revival were popular. Accessories included knick-knacks from the hippie trails, like Indian saris or beads – and not forgetting a vibrant lava lamp.

1970s: Being eco-conscious is in

The energy crisis of the 1970s was an environmental and economic disaster around the globe. The UK was hit with unemployment and recession, so Brits couldn’t afford to redecorate. However, the growing environmental movement meant that we wanted more sustainable interiors. Homeowners had to work with what we already had and design trends focused on going back to nature.

Continuing the hippie trend of the ’60s, psychedelic prints were still popular, but they now came in muted, earthy tones like terracotta and avocado green. Upcycled furniture was fashionable, with wicker and wood returning as favourite materials because they were natural but cheap. To add to the Boho vibe, we’d hang a homemade, macramé dreamcatcher above the bed and accessorise with lots of greenery.

1980s: Bold prints and metallics take over

Throughout the 1980s, our economy strengthened again. UK tax cuts were made to increase our disposable income, but it caused a rise in consumer spending. Brits put more of their hard-earned cash into luxury purchases and the mantra was ‘more is better’.

Music and fashion exploded into a bright, bold phrase, launching icons like Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince and Whitney Houston. Video game culture boomed with releases like Pacman, Tetris and the Super Mario Bros. series. It was a colourful decade that embraced fun aesthetics which were reflected in interior trends.

Colour schemes were vibrant and quirky – think turquoise, purple and pink in a mix of neon and pastel shades. Bold graphic shapes were on trend, which were ideal for making curtains stand out. Anything mirrored or metallic was fashionable, as it was a symbol of glitz and glamour. To really brighten up the bedroom, a neon tube light was essential. You would also have piles of CDs in plastic racks with a silver stereo to play them all.

1990s: Trading luxury for laidback interiors

After the extravagance of the ’80s, people dialled things back in the 1990s, especially as a new recession began in 1991. It was a casual, laidback decade that saw the rise of minimalist interior design, while ushering in a new age of technology and pop culture.

With grunge music at its peak, grunge design became popular. Brits painted their bedrooms in maroon, forest green or dark blue. These shades were combined with neutrals, creating a subdued and sophisticated space. Gone were the crazy ’80s patterns, although sponge print walls were in, representing the minimalistic nature of the ’90s.

Scandi flat-pack furniture was on trend, so your bedroom furniture would be light or white wood and always from IKEA. If you had a TV to watch hit shows like Friends and The Simpsons, it would be part of a chunky entertainment system encased in a cabinet, with lots of space for VHS tapes. You’d also be watching from a PVC inflatable chair, a symbol of youth culture.

For cool accessories, fake plants and dried flowers were on trend, usually in muted colours like dark brown. Sun and moon décor was also fashionable, which made the perfect choice for a wall hanging or bedspread.

2000s: The vintage look sweeps the nation

The 2000s carried on the simple, laidback style of the ’90s and the minimalist aesthetic became bigger than ever. As the UK was hit with yet another recession, we continued to keep our interiors cool and contemporary without spending a fortune. Popular TV programmes like Grand Designs encouraged Brits to embrace their own DIY, meaning upcycling was back.

An up-to-date bedroom of the 2000s would have a nautical theme in navy and white colours. A Damask-print feature wall was a stylish yet practical choice, as it felt luxurious but didn’t break the bank. IKEA wood furniture was still in fashion. But bedrooms of the 2000s were nothing without their homemade, vintage décor, inspired by the launch of craft website Etsy in 2005.

Distressed paint on the wardrobe, a decoupage dresser and an exposed lamp – these were essential for a noughties bedroom. We accessorised with nautical cushions, kitsch plant pots, antique tea sets and bunting. To be really on-trend, we’d hang LOVE letters on the wall. The only things that didn’t complete the vintage look were our newly-affordable pieces of technology, like the Nintendo Wii, PC or the iPod.

2010s: Muted and minimal with rose gold everything

The 2010s were the peak age of digital technology. Smartphones ruled and hipster design reigned. Muted interiors were at their height – the more minimalist, the better. This was a reflection of society at the time, as Brits chose to spend their money on experiences over things.

White, black and grey were the colours to paint your bedroom in, with strictly no patterns or prints. Even the floor would be minimal, usually in light wood. Geometric shapes return, showing a futuristic design, seen in hexagon shelves. But you’d also find scallop-edge furniture that oozed sophistication.

But let’s not overlook the real colour of the decade: rose gold. This pink metallic shade was everywhere: on jewellery, watches, an Apple iPhone and even cars. Pantone’s Colour of the Year in 2016 was a similar shade called ‘Millennial Pink’ which can be seen in Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. After rose gold emerged, it was the ultimate choice for interior touches.

Any rose gold accents like mirrors, vases and photo frames fit in perfectly with the 2010 trend. The bedroom would be complete with a neon sign showing your favourite quote, a signal to the rise of social media.

2020s: Sustainable spaces to be the trend of the decade

Now that we’ve explored the last 100 years of bedroom design, what’s going to be on trend in the next decade? We spoke to five interior experts to find out their predictions for 2020.

As we shift to an eco-friendly future, the focus for our bedrooms in 2020 will be sustainability. Rachael Kilby-Tyre, Design Director at My Interior School says ‘upcycling and sourcing good quality, second-hand items is gaining popularity’, which we’ll take advantage of when redecorating.

We won’t leave tech behind, as Rachael explains we’ll see ‘voice-activated lighting and even apps to draw your curtains and blinds’. We’ll also experience new entertainment systems as the decade goes on, which will be essential for chilling out.

Robby du Toit, Managing Director of Sell House Fast agrees we’ll use natural resources, saying there has been a ‘surge in the innovation and development of eco-friendly building materials’. Robby continues, saying ‘professionals believe bamboo is the eco-friendly building material that will experience the greatest increase in usage within the property industry in 2020’. Create a sustainable space with a bamboo wardrobe or bed or try stylish rattan and wicker as alternatives.

As Pantone announced their Colour of the Year as ‘Classic Blue’, you can expect to see this navy shade in our home décor. Kel Harmer, Creative Designer at Oh So Kel thinks this shade will spark off more ‘jewel hues’ too, as ‘pale pink will evolve into a richer shade like warm blush’. Navy and pink will be the perfect match with white and grey neutrals, making a peaceful vibe.

Velvet fabrics will also be on trend – consider a navy velvet chair with blush pink cushions to make your bedroom a serene space. To keep with the natural theme, foliage remains fashionable, with lots of leafy greenery like hanging plants on floating shelves.

If you liked exploring an era of bedroom trends, you can read more about the biggest interior design deal breakers. Or if you want to stay stylish in 2020, learn how to choose sustainable furniture and create an eco-friendly space. Check out more on bedroom tips in the Mattress Online blog.