Short for ‘retrospective’, the Retro style is an aesthetic of nostalgia and the desire to go back in time.
The Retro style was born in the post-WWII period, a time of recovery from the horrors of carnage and nondiscriminatory destruction.
America’s victory in the Second World War had led to an optimism in the American people. The celebration of triumph and peace infected their culture in the 60s; interior design, naturally, became a stage to display their hope and love of freedom.
While the Retro style specifically refers to the design culture in America in the sixties, every country has their own ‘retro’ style. The word ‘retrospective’ simply means going back in time; it does not specify when or where.
But since the term ‘retro’ entered mainstream use in the sixties, in the context of style and design, ‘retro’ specifically refers to the 1960s. For example, the Showa style, Japan’s retro style, was popularised in Japan’s post-war period between the 1950s and the 1970s.
Courageous spatial structures
The essence of the Retro style is liberation and liveliness. Large geometric shapes are elaborately used to create a sense of spaciousness. Overlapping shapes exudes a psychedelic feeling that is reminiscent of the Hippie culture in the 60s.
Aim for a mixture of the surreal and the modern for the Retro style. Compared to Art Deco in the 30s, this style is more playful, childish even, but charming nonetheless.
Liberal use of colour
The Retro style does not set restrictions on the use of colour, since freedom and creativity are the prime values of Retro aesthetics.
‘The more, the merrier’ is the motto of the Retro palette. Avocado green, brown, and marine blue are the staple Retro colours; combinations of orange, red, purple and pink give a pop to the more down-to-earth staple colours. A monochromatic scheme can also look very retro.
A cornucopia of ornaments
There is no one single type of retro furniture. A slight feeling of chaos is in fact very retro.
Cabinets full of interesting ornaments and cupboards packed till no space is left might look messy, but each item in these storage spaces keeps the interior interesting as a whole.
Some might venture to say that the Retro look is not a premeditated style, but a display of genius. It’s like how the mad artist’s crazy brushstrokes magically come together to become a painting.
If you are keen on a more uniform, ‘traditional’ retro look, alternatively you can invest on furniture with a lot of smooth curvature, for example, leather sofa and heavily polished wooden items.
Large hanging pendant light is the symbol of the Retro style. Choose orange and brown shades for the bet Retro effect.
Influenced by Modern designs, the Retro style has developed a branch of ‘Modern Retro’, which features more muted colours, and a mixture of black, white and grey.
Exaggerated patterns and shapes of the original Retro style become more refined and regular.
If the original Retro is the cheeky kid, Modern Retro is is the decorous gentleman.
The characteristic curves of the Retro style can exist in harmony with other interior styles, for example, the Scandinavian style.
If you are not so keen on the extravagant Retro palette, but like the graceful Retro curvatures, incorporating that with the Scandinavian style might yield unexpectedly pleasing results.
The much-loved European chessboard flooring is often seen in American canteens in the 50s. Replace the black tiles with orange or brown ones to create a 70s American Retro style.
Like blank canvases, walls are meant to be the arena where creativity can be expressed.
Retro wall designs are never dull or lacklustre. Patterned tiles are frequently used. You can also paint the walls by yourself. The possibilities are limitless.