Once-maligned, the aesthetic of the ’80s is finally getting a much-needed revival
Neale Whitaker forecasts an ’80s décor revival.
One of my summer highlights was Luca Guadagnino’s beautiful film Call Me By Your Name. Set in Italy in 1983, the movie captures a tender and fleeting love affair between two young men. It’s a poignant, gentle tale, memorable for fine performances, exquisite cinematography… and magnificent interiors. Instinct tells me that style-wise, Call Me By Your Name will be as influential as one of its director’s previous movies, I Am Love, famed for its setting in a stunning Milanese mansion. I predict an ’80s décor revival to match, say, the terracotta tidal wave inspired by Under The Tuscan Sun or the Hamptonslook overdrive of Something’s Gotta Give.
Time was when any comparison with the Dirty Dancing decade was the ultimate put-down. I remember shrivelling like a salted slug when a colleague dismissed my taste as “so ’80s” – during the ’90s. And while there are some harry high pants fashion moments in Call Me (the look is back on trend, anyway), it might surprise to learn that ’80s style wasn’t all shoulder pads and crimped hair, smoked glass or any of those decade-defining paint effects, like rag rolling and sponging.
Guadagnino’s aesthetic is far removed from swizzle sticks, polka dots or the Memphis Group’s pop art colours. The movie’s interiors are filled with groaning bookshelves, mismatched antiques, dusty chandeliers, parquetry and terrazzo-tiled floors. The countrystyle kitchen, replete with copper pans and a sink deep and wide enough to berth a ship, couldn’t be further from our current obsession with sleek and integrated, but in the ’80s it was a look we craved. Rustic. That’s a word I haven’t used in a long while.
It’s an aesthetic tinged with nostalgia for Vogue Living style editor Joseph Gardner. “As a child of the ’80s, I grew up in a home filled with antiques, laced with a bit of Laura Ashley,” he recalls. Gardner says an ’80s vibe has been evident for a while but he’s seeing a shift to a less kitschy, more sophisticated mood: “Think pastel shades, travertine, maybe even a glass brick or two. And dare I say that chrome might even be replacing brass.”
Interior design’s current palette already owes a debt to the ’80s. Our favourite beiges, greys and greens – and the ubiquitous terracotta – were all popular then. But in the context of Call Me By Your Name, “peach” takes on a different meaning. Watch the movie and trust me, you’ll understand why. Neale Whitaker is editor-at-large of Vogue Living.
“Time was when any comparison with the Dirty Dancing decade was a put-down”
BACK TO THE FUTURE (clockwise from top left) This interior from the ‘80s shows how glass bricks can lighten a room; bold colours are softened with touches of terracotta; black gives a sophisticated edge to pastel in this bathroom by 2LG Studio.