How To Balance Retro Interiors Like A Designer

How To Balance Retro Interiors Like A Designer

Share This Post


If you love a retro interior, how do you strike the perfect balance? In our experience, retro is a tricky trend to get right. You’re aiming to create a sense of nostalgia and eclecticism while keeping your room intentional and elegant. It’s a fine line between a quirky nod to the recent past and risking your room looking tired and outdated.

Retro interiors combine modern and retro elements in a vibrant and fresh juxtaposition. Funky fabric, timeless furniture design, and quirky styling should surprise and delight guests, rather than jolt them straight into the 70s.

What is the retro interior style?

Retro isn’t the same as vintage. To be classed as vintage an item or piece of furniture has to be at least 20 years old. Retro imitates styles from the near-past but isn’t actually old. The iconic Murano mushroom lamps, Smeg fridge, and Ultrafragola mirrors are some examples. The fact that retro items are new can help you to avoid your home looking tired and dated due to too many vintage pieces.

The history behind retro decor

The main eras retro interiors take inspiration from are the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

This style took off in the post-war decades, embodying a sense of freedom and rebelliousness. Think curved shapes reminiscent of boho, hippy waves and the bold, funky patterns of the swinging 60s that channel individuality and break away from the restrictions of the past. It’s no surprise that this trend is having a revival in the post-lockdown era!

What is ‘retro’ furniture?

Organic textures and curved, fluid shapes are key to the retro look. Two of the most popular retro chairs, the Ercol chair and the Egg chair, are instantly recognisable due to their fluid shape.

Mid-century furniture is another cornerstone of this interior style: solid, sturdy, and made from natural materials, the Mid-century trend is built to last. Finding a timeless coffee table, sofa, or set of matching armchairs is one easy way to bring retro nostalgia to a room scheme – picking just one of these pieces will ensure balance.

In fact, you don’t need to go all out to embrace this trend. Rooms should feel personal and tell a story about the people who live in them. Luckily, retro designs easily combine with modern interior styles to prevent you feeling stuck in an old-fashioned rut.

To create a warm, nostalgic, lived-in space that looks timeless instead of dated there are a few rules to follow.

Tips on creating a balanced retro interior

1. Picking the right colour palette

The retro colour palette is warm and saturated. There’s an earthy element with terracotta, avocado, and mustard being popular tones. With such a bold palette there’s a risk that your interior could look kitschy instead of intentionally quirky.

We recommend introducing a splash of saturation via soft furnishings or an accent chair, particularly if your style is on the reserved side. Remember that balance is key to a sophisticated, modern take on this trend, so complement your retro furniture with warm neutrals like beige, sand, taupe, and fawn and choose warm wood and bronze finishes.

2. Clear the clutter

This is a tip we’ve given many times but it bears repeating. Nothing will dampen your retro interior quicker than clutter. Due to the distinctive furniture style and saturated colour palette, a cluttered space will quickly feel chaotic. Curate a calm, clear backdrop so that the eye is harmoniously drawn to a sofa’s curved back or the the honeyed finish of a Mid-century modern coffee table. A messy space will have a jarring effect visually. Create a sense of spaciousness by choosing your furniture accordingly – sometimes two armchairs with matching footstools will look less cluttered in a small room than an oversized sofa.

3. Carefully curate retro and modern

Introducing modern elements can prevent a retro room feeling stuck in the past, however it’s important to blend the old and new intentionally. One way to do this is to invest in high quality furniture inspired by the past, rather than buying true vintage pieces.

Vintage is beautiful but it can also look tired and shabby. Unless you want to spend a lot of time or money reupholstering, furniture inspired by classic designs is a better option. Think about form and function in order to strike the right balance that makes your space habitable but beautiful. Play with curves and straight lines and limit vintage pieces to 1-2 items to avoid overwhelm.

Your new sofa or armchair can look the part, but picking pieces built by artisan craftspeople with modern comforts like coil-sprung seats and adequate cushioning and support built in ensures that your furniture will last a lifetime. Fortunately, this is where The Original Chair Company excels!

4. Find balance

Following on from our previous point, try to create a visual balance between old and new. For example, don’t group all your retro pieces in one place. Spreading them evenly throughout your space will create nostalgic touches for the eye to linger on and allows the ‘story’ of a room to gradually unfold. Inherited a fabulous Mid-century modern piece of furniture? Try sourcing one other piece from this era to tie everything in. Wavy mirrors and curved candles are another way to replicate the organic curves in your retro sofa or armchair.

5. Create cohesion with colour

When mixing old and new furniture, it can be hard to blend different styles together.

Another way to unify a space and bring balance is through colour. For example, you can upholster a retro accent chair in a funky colour then tastefully replicate this shade throughout your interior. Cushions, picture frames, and window treatments can all help to create a sense of cohesion. Using colour deliberately is a handy shortcut to creating a quirky, eclectic interior that looks sophisticated, intentional, and harmonious. Furthermore, you can ensure that the wooden elements and metal finishes on your furniture are in the same warm colour palette. This will unite your furniture into a harmonious look, even if the pieces come from different decades.

6. Use textures and layering

Woven rugs, rattan chairs, lush houseplants – natural textures dominate the retro look. But how can you introduce these elements while keeping your space fresh and modern? The key is to layer.

Handmade embellished cushions, faux fur rugs and cushions, or a silky blanket can add varying degrees of texture to your space. Like with colour, the key is to pick a few textures and replicate them through the room. For example, a curved sofa upholstered in linen could be echoed in a rounded, linen lampshade. Natural textures like leather are relaxed and sophisticated – try pairing an armchair in warm cognac or tan with a matching footstool for a cohesive look that’s bold but far from chaotic.

Geometric patterns

When we think of retro interiors one of the first things that springs to mind is bold geometric patterns. Whether it’s wallpaper, curtains, or upholstery, a striking pattern is just the thing to offset the smooth, fluid lines present in retro furniture. If you prefer something more subtle, parquet flooring checks the geometric box while looking sophisticatedly understated.

Pattern is yet another way to layer and build texture within a room. Like with colour, repeating patterns throughout a room will bring cohesion. Paying attention to pattern is another reason to choose bespoke furniture as you’ll be able to customise your new sofa or chairs in any pattern you please. Our Fabric Studio offers hundreds of inspiring retro fabrics from names like Liberty and Harlequin.

Interior of decorated dinning room and living room

Top Retro Inspired Sofas and Chairs From The Original Chair Company

We pride ourselves on providing bespoke, quality sofas and chairs inspired by classic designs. If you’re after a retro look that isn’t overly kitsch, look no further than our elegant and luxuriant sofas and armchairs.

  1. Flora Sofa

The Flora Sofa’s stylish clean lines and wooden plinth would look at home in any retro inspired interior. Designed by Charlotte James, the sofa has reassuringly modern touches like unique fixed side cushions, feather or fibre sprinkle seat cushions and fibre back cushions. Upholstered in fabulously funky earthy orange, Flora looks the part.

Flora Sofa
  1. Arundel Sofa

Arundel is customisable down to the castors, so you can choose whichever wood or metal finish suits your colour scheme best. Its straight, chunky lines give Arundel the architectural-inspired look that’s key to many Mid-century modern designs.

Arundel Sofa
  1. Oslo Sofa

The Scandinavians are known for their stylish, Mid-century modern interiors. Oslo comes with hallmark durability, wood finishes, and clean lines. It would look great as a neutral piece scattered with retro cushions or upholstered in a statement fabric to create a focal point in your retro inspired room.

  1. Retro Chair

Retro by name, retro by nature. Our bespoke Retro chair has all the curved, fluid lines you’d expect from a retron chair. The wooden arms and legs bring balance and organic texture while the sprung back is supremely comfortable. Upholster in any retro print or colour you choose.

Retro Chair
  1. Hawksmoor Chair

Elegant arms, tapered wood legs, and upholstered in a geometric print – a pair of these Hawksmoor armchairs will help you strike the right quirky note while maintaining balance

Hawksmoor Chair

Choose The Original Chair Company for your perfect retro interior

Seen something you fancy? Visit our UK showroom or call us to chat to one of our interior designers. We’re always happy to help customers design their perfect room.

You can also browse our full range of sofas, armchairs, and matching footstools online.

Leave a Reply

Related Posts