Throwback Thursday: 1990s Style

As has been noted in posts about trends, what’s old often becomes new again, with trends constantly cycling. When you look back at the trends of the past you can get an idea of what’s popular more frequently and what conditions might lead to certain elements becoming popular again. That’s why we decided to start this Throwback Thursday column, to look back at the design of decades of the past. We’ve already reflected on the interior design trends of the 1940s, 1970s, and 1980s. Today we’re going to go to the not so distant past and take a look at the style and trends of the 1990s and how they’re influencing today’s designs.

The 1990s Style

The ‘90s are back and bigger than ever. Nostalgia for the 1990s has infiltrated every aspect of our culture as those born in the late ‘80s/early 90s reflect fondly on their childhoods. And since they’re now in positions to spread this nostalgia to the masses (um, guilty as charged) aspects of ‘90s fashion, culture, and decor are everywhere. While we may look back at the ‘90s fondly, I think most people agree that a lot of the trends haven’t aged well. While most of the people reading this probably remember what the ‘90s looked like, let’s take a look at some popular interior design choices from the 1990s for anyone who’s forgotten (or blocked it out of their memories).  

Faux Finished Walls

Stencils, rag-rolls, and sponges were just some of the tools people were using when painting their walls. It seems like everyone in the ‘90s was breaking out their sponges and using them to create faux finishes. These techniques were good at adding texture and visual interest to walls, but they certainly were time consuming. It’s a little sad to think that most of those DIY painters’ work has long since been painted over, but I’m sure they were happy with the fruits of their labor at the time.  


Light colored woods in general were popular in the ‘90s, but pine especially had a moment of glory. Knotty pine was especially popular in kitchens where it was often used for cabinets and countertops. All of that rustic looking wood could definitely get overwhelming since it was rarely done in moderation (moderation wasn’t a thing in the ‘90s). The knotty pine aesthetic tied into the shabby chic and old world trends that also had moments during the ‘90s.  

Canopy Beds

What girl growing up in the ‘90s didn’t want a canopy bed? While children often had canopy beds, frilly canopy and all, even adults favored four-poster or canopy beds in the ‘90s. Some were even crafted out of the previously mentioned pine that was so popular. It’s a bit of a mystery why canopy beds seemed to disappear at the turn of the 21st century, but their popularity definitely dwindled come 2000.  

Color and Pattern

Bold colors and pattern everywhere was the defining style of the 1990s. All of the primary colors were popular and magenta and turquoise were a favorite color combination. Pattern was also huge. Stripes, gingham, animal print, florals - no pattern was off limits. Multi-color, abstract geometric patterns stick out as the most memorable of ‘90s prints. These colors and patterns weren’t limited to home decor either - many of us look back at old photographs and wonder what we were thinking wearing such loud colors and patterns together. But that was just part of the ‘90s charm.  

A Modern Take

It might seem silly to already be putting a modern spin on trends that were popular only a couple of decades ago. But as ‘90s kids grow up and create their own homes, it can be a nice touch to add some childhood influences. So let’s see how ‘90s style can be translated into 2018 decor. The development of temporary wallpapers has made faux-finished walls an option again, and made the look way easier to achieve. Pine can be worked into the home through a nice modern farmhouse style dining table with modern or contemporary seating around it to keep it from looking too dated. Canopy beds still exist, and are sleeker and less frilly than their ‘90s counterparts. Canopy beds full of throws and pillows and decorated with fairy lights burst onto the scene a couple of years ago with the discovery of hygge. Bold colors and patterns are still popular, they’re just handled with a bit more moderation these days. Patterns can be mixed, but stick to one color for a better sense of cohesion.
Trends tend to cycle every 20 years, so it’s no surprise that ‘90s style had a renaissance. Were you ready for the ‘90s to come back? Or do you think ‘90s style is better left in the last century? As a product of ‘90s culture it’s hard to not look back at it all in a positive light, but the 1990s was definitely not a decade that aged very well in terms of interior design. What was your favorite ‘90s design trend? Which do you hope never comes back? Let us know in the comments!

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