By now you’ve probably binged through every episode of Stranger Things, season 3 and you’re totally bummed that you have wait a year or more for the next episodes. I tried to make the season last and think I did okay, usually watching 1 or 2 episodes per day. It’s just that streaming gravitational pull gets me… The 5,4,3,2,1 countdown at the end…I swear Netflix is on a mission to get people hooked on shows like Whitney got hooked on crack! It’s legit TV show crack, and I’m on to them! I’m also willingly going along for the ride to crack town. Thanks Netflix. Anyway, no worries here if you’re not done with season 3, as this is not a spoiler post. This is an expose of stranger designs of the 1980’s.
If you’re an uber fan junkie like me, you’ll already know that ST takes place in Hawkins, Indiana, during the 1980’s. No, Hawkins is not a real place in Indiana. It’s a totally made up town but that’s not the point…The real genius is how the Duffer Brothers construct the show with 80’s language, culture and design. The authenticity of the all things 80’s is spot on and I love the cringe worthy nostalgia. That’s honestly one of my favorite parts. This season was jam packed with cringy gems! I literally screeched out load remembering things that they showed or talked about, every five minutes or so, during each episode.
Now, having lived through the 80’s, I’ve seen things… Strange things... But I’m gonna keep it design related because there is certainly a lot to choose from. So, sit back, and get ready to remember, or learn, all about 10 things that made the 1980’s so strange in the world of interior design.
Stranger Designs of the 1980’s, Expose #1: Drapes Around a Shower Tub Combo.
What??? The drama alone… Is there a production of Les Mis about to happen? This trend exclaimed, “look! It’s my shower!” (You can tell because it has drapes to highlight where it is!) In the more is more culture of the 80’s, if formal window treatments looked good in the dining room, why not put them around the bath tub too? That seems logical, right? I distinctly remember velvet fringe tassels as tie backs around our bath tub treatment. I’m sure my mother would say I’m crazy, that never happened but, I know they were there! Check out the wall treatment here. Is it wall paper that matched the drapes, or did they starch and stick extra fabric to the walls? I’m honestly stumped. Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Stranger Designs of the 1980’s, Expose #2: Toilet Telephones.
Let’s stay in the bathroom for a moment and take this trend fully in! The telephone in the bathroom. Now I won’t go into ALL the reasons why this is so wrong. I’ll let you use your imagination. But, no pun intended…, if there is one place I’d like to not be reached for a few blessed moments, this is it!
The innovation of this one astounds me. Leave it to the 80’s product designers to create a toilet paper holder, radio, telephone combo. I mean, how many distractions do you need? Oh wait, I’ll bet you could order this out of the back of Reader’s Digest. That would make total sense! Okay, this one is not particularly design related but, it is certainly strange if not décor adjacent.
Yes, I get the fact that you can bring your cell phone in the bathroom and that probably happens on the regular. I just don’t want to be talking business while someone is taking care of business, you know what I mean? I’m far too delicate and hearing a flush as a response might just cause me to faint dead away.
Stranger Designs of the 1980’s, Expose #3: Outside Furniture, Inside...
Wicker furniture Indoors. To be fair, this is still a thing and many designers think it’s okay… and I can be persuaded.. Boho owes a lot to this trend but you must admit, it’s strange!
All I can think is that somebody decided, “hey, I love being outside and I’d like to feel like that inside too!” I’m pretty sure that the British West Indies look is making a serious come back so, you’ll probably be seeing more evidence of this hitting showroom floors any day now. As for the 1980’s iteration, I’m pretty sure you can thank the Golden Girl’s production designer, Ed Stephenson, for this one. I can still hear Sophia lamenting, “enough wicker already!”
Stranger Designs of the 1980’s, Expose #4: Teal Carpets and the Southwest Explosion.
Who remembers that Santa Fe took over interior design for a time in the 80’s? I even had a cologne called Santa Fe in Jr. high. Not only could you outfit your home with cacti and adobe everything, you could even smell like New Mexico! I quickly found out that I did not want to smell like New Mexico and my classmates let me know they agreed in a few different ways, that still haunt me to this day!
The real strange thing about this is: growing up in Buffalo, spending 8 months in winter’s icy grasp; you could walk into your desert, decked out house, after shoveling snow the third time that day, and see the aired, desert décor… Calgon take me away to Santa Fe! Just shut the drapes and crank the furnace up to 90!
Stranger Designs of the 1980’s, Expose #5: That couch!
Everybody had one! Grandma, mom, aunt and uncle wingnut, had that couch! It was an earth tone extravaganza with flowers and barns on it. Maybe yours was Buffalo plaid or some other type of a woven poly blend, skirted something… It was so scratchy that you’d break out in a rash just looking at it!
I remember being legitimately sick, with a total pass to stay home from school and I would think seriously, can I stand camping out on this nightmare or should I tough it out in the Nurse’s office on that stupid cot all day!? (You know the one with the equally hot, un-breathable, green vinyl cover?)
The only thing that made the itchy, sweaty mess even remotely okay was that I’d get to watch reruns of Different Strokes and Facts of Life on TBS before Voltron and Jem came on after 3.
Stranger Designs of the 1980’s, Expose #6: Giant Fluorescent Lights In The Kitchen.
Remember those giant disco floor panels on the ceiling that made everything light up like Chernobyl? Nobody and no thing looks good bathed in florescent lighting. This is especially true for dinner. I’m sure they were meant as task lighting but the task they accomplished was making a bowl of green peas look brown and a spiral ham look gray. Probably why I stopped eating meat so long ago. And sometimes they would buzz and strobe when they were getting ready to die out, remember that? Made mom look like Mr. Roboto mashing the potatoes!
Stranger Designs of the 1980’s, Expose #7: Patrick Nagel Everything!
Blame Duran Duran for this one. And, as I’m sure you’re aware, this is making a huge come back. Her name might be Rio but this one was a bit over done back in the day. I remember going into Hills department store and being able to buy every Nagel licensed item from posters, coffee mugs and even bedding.
I remember those pale vixens, bathed in neon Miami Vice colors, staring out with their vacant eyes. They were so cool and aloof, a mix of Kelly Le Brock with a hint of Jessica Rabbit. The posters came in many sizes and you could buy an acrylic poster frame to protect your $5.99 investment! You could have legit art on the wall for around $10.99. You could also pop a balloon at the County Fair and win a 9x9 mirrored print in a dirty white mat if you wanted to as well, your choice.
Not to knock Nagel, but this stuff was everywhere and I, for one, was slightly obsessed with it!
Stranger Designs of the 1980’s, Expose #8: Those Collapsible Accent Tables!
Skirted pressboard round accent tables with cut glass tops. They were totally unfinished tables that had to be draped with fabric or a over sized round table cloth. I’m killing this description but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about…
And I’m sure that there was a multitude of sins underneath those skirts too, am I right? Who needs drawers? Just hide the stacks of magazines and newspapers under the skirt. No one will ever know!
I’m convinced this was the start of Shabby Chic. Side note: I’m not mad at this picture. I love me a room all decked out in white like the John Lennon Imagine music video. Classic! Is that a picture of Betty White as Suzanne Nivens form the Mary Tyler Moore Show? I hope so!
Stranger Designs of the 1980’s, Expose #9: Canopy Princess Beds!
The ones I remember were my cousin Kim’s Stawberry Shortcake canopy and there was probably Rainbow Bright in there too. Maybe that was mine, hmmm.. Anyway, ruffles, ruffles with a side of ruffles! That is what this one was all about.
For added luxury, sheers could be attached to the sides as well. I assume to protect you from the West Nile mosquitos.
Stranger Designs of the 1980’s, Expose #10: Water Beds!
This one even has a door into John Malkovich’s head right at the bottom. Kidding.. You must remember these? They had built in shelving, little cabinets to hide your shame and motion sickness pills… And yes, I had one. Mine wasn’t as decked out as this one but I can imagine smashing my knee on the super high frame and what a joy it must have been to get out of when you had to pee.
One could easily chip a tooth, break a toe or get splinters in interesting places if your partner decided to turn over or sneeze all of the sudden.
That’s all folks! The take away from this post: The 80’s were a dangerous, scary and super strange time for interior design and decorating. If you lived through it and survived, my apologies for bringing up painful memories. If you weren’t there, you’re probably a millennial and we’ll just have to wait for your post in twenty years about the travesties of designs in the mid 2000’s! I look forward to it! If you think I missed anything you would have included, please feel free to write it up – in as much detail as you can- in the comments below! Now go back to watching Stranger Things, Season 3 and I’ll catch you here next week! Thanks so much for going Back to The Future with me!
P.S. If you need help getting out of your own time warp and you’re not sure where to start, take my What’s Your Decorating DNA quiz. It’s super fun to take and insightful too! If you’re on a tablet, laptop or desk top, it’s in the side bar on my blog page. If you’re on your phone, keep scrolling down to find it below. I can’t wait to hear what your decorating DNA reveals! Let’s connect and chat about it over in Instagram, @interiorsmh.
I’m chief banana at Michael Helwig Interiors in beautiful Buffalo, New York. I happily share my experience in the world of home decorating and design to help folks avoid expensive mistakes and decorating disappointments. I’m pretty crafty with simple DIY projects and I love to teach others how to create beautiful and functional decor for their homes. My motto is “every decorating challenge is figure-out-able.”