The 80s Called. It Wants Its Home Décor Back!

Roxanne Hale

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Public Domain Photo of Punky Brewster

Most of us left the 80s behind over three decades ago, but in my daily life as a realtor, I am always just one door away from experiencing it all over again. As I tour would-be buyers through prospective houses, I see my share of homes that are way overdue for a major update!

It’s fine if you want to wear your old “Don’t Worry Be Happy” T-shirt around town on Saturday, but if you haven’t replaced the framed Glamour Shot pictures in the hallway? The 80s are calling, and it wants its home décor back. Before we take that call, let’s take a tour of popular 1980s decorating trends no one will miss!

Finger Hut Catalog Doodads

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Public Domain Photo of Finger Hut Catalog Cover

Finger Hut was THE place to get the coolest affordable brass doodads, bookends, paperweights, and metal wall art. This little catalog came in the mail every month, and you could bet your acid-washed jeans that your mother would spend her evenings dog-earing her favorite pages. At the end of the month, she’d finally fill out the order sheet in the back of the catalog and purchase a ceramic rooster for the kitchen or go all out on a brand-new futon for the living room.

Televisions in Great Big Decorative Wooden Boxes

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Public Domain Photo of Old Television Set

If you were tech-savvy in the 80s and had little extra cash to spend, you didn’t just buy a television set. No. You bought a gigantic television surrounded by an ornate wooden box stained in your favorite shade of walnut. Then you’d settle into one of the den’s matching Naugahyde recliners to catch the latest episode of “Bosom Buddies.”

The fanciest TVs included a tape deck on one side and a record player on the other. A latch-key kid of the 80s would rush home after school to have a one-kid dance party to Michael Jackson’s latest hits on the record player before Mom and Dad got home and took over control of the television.

Appliances in the Garage

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Public Domain Photo of Appliances in a Garage

1980s garages weren’t just for cars. They also housed the family’s washer and dryer set and maybe even a deep freeze. Saturdays at my 80’s brick rancher was laundry day. My dad set up a folding table in the garage, and we washed all day. I’d strap on my tape deck and practice roller skating on the drive until our dryer’s super loud buzzer startled me back to reality. Since our avocado green washer was missing the main knob, we used a pair of pliers to turn the metal part to the proper setting. Once the clothes were folded, we’d pile them into a busted plastic green laundry basket and bring them back inside.

Popcorn Ceilings

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Public Domain Photo of Popcorn Ceilings

One very distinctive feature of every 1980s home is popcorn ceilings. This foam-filled nothingness was sprayed onto every possible ceiling, presumably, to cover the waviness in the sheetrock joints. Why? It was cheaper than a proper tape and sanding job. Anybody looking to de-1980s their home today should definitely start here first.

Beanie Babies

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Public Domain Photo of Beanie Babies

The beanie baby trend took the 80’s by storm. These cute stuffed animals could be found slouched over the back of sofas, propped up in messy piles on dressers, or proudly positioned in the back window of your mama’s Crown Victoria. Some of these little collectibles went on to earn their owners millions at auctions. If I’d kept mine intact, they might be worth a fortune now. Instead, I carted them around, attached to my backpack, until they were unrecognizable.

Patio Slider Doors with Vertical Blinds

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Public Domain Photo of Vertical Blinds

Once patio slider doors were installed in 1980s homes everywhere, we needed a clever new way to shield out the sun glaring through that oversized square of glass. Viola! Vertical blinds. Although these long thin blades could be slapped back with the snap of a string, the levers and pullies were confusing to operate. After a few years, the sun dried them out so badly they chipped and broke. Slates would fall off and never get replaced. Eventually, the whole setup turned brown and needed to go. Just in time for the swag drapes of the 90s!

Glass Blocks in Odd Places

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Public Domain Photo of Glass Blocks

These glass blocks made of plastic were THE essence of class and fanciness in the 80s. If you could find a spot where they could be installed – in they went. Hands down, the bathroom was the prime location to put in glass blocks. A half-wall beside the toilet to provide a little privacy. As windows over soaking tubs. Shower walls. Other popular places outside the bathroom include next to the front doors and in basement bar areas to add a trendy touch of class.

Encyclopedia Britannica

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Public Domain Photo of Encyclopedias

To be a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman in the 80s must have been a cushy job. Parents across the country knew they were giving their kids a real shot at life when they set up a payment plan for these heavy tomes. Ours were proudly displayed on a bookshelf in our living room, where my father never lost an opportunity to educate us by consulting them.

Formica Countertops and No-wax Vinyl Floors

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Public Domain Photo of Kitchen

You knew your place was TOTALLY RAD if you had brand new Formica countertops and newly unrolled no-wax vinyl floors. These both looked great when freshly installed. Eventually, we caught on to the downsides. The Formica countertop edges chipped and couldn’t be repaired. Hot pots scorched the surfaces irreparably. Water seeped in underneath and caused the particle board to bubble. While the vinyl floors didn’t need special cleaning, wear just the wrong shoes, and they would scratch or tear the plastic. They were prone to peeling around the edges too.

Teal Carpet Everywhere

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Public Domain Photo of Teal Carpet in Bath

Plush teal carpet covered the floors of the 1980s. It was everywhere – even in bathrooms where it went right up next to the toilets and tubs! This look was perfected with a coordinating toilet seat cover and pink decorative soaps no one was allowed to use.

Conclusion

When I was a kid, I loved my 1980s house. It’s hard not to be nostalgic when remembering its simpler times. As Farris Bueller warned us thirty years ago, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Just don’t get stuck there!

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Roxanne Hale, owner, and broker of Arthouse has spent over 20 years in the real estate business. Here you'll find a collection of stories about buying and selling real estate & home building advice, housing history, and architecture & design tips. Oh, and some fun personal stories every now and then!

Homewood, AL
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