Give Your Kitchen An 80’s-Inspired Ugrade!

What if I told you that the edgy, wild, and high-spirited aesthetics of the 80’s were making a comeback? If you’re like most, you’d probably cringe and turn away with a “no thank you!”, and rightfully so. I’m sure you’re filled with memories of garish neons and pastels, plastic couch covers and patterns galore. Kitchens were adorned with cheap laminates, flower pots, wire baskets and copper pans hanging from the ceilings. After so many decades of tech and design advancements, the colorful and crazy styles of the 80’s seem downright tacky. Today’s design aesthetic is so much more refined, and even the most eccentric designs have an air of sophistication.

So, what if I told you that you can take the best kitchen design elements of the 80’s and use them as inspiration for your kitchen today? Well, you absolutely can, and as far as trends go, the 80’s design aesthetic will be the foundation of many kitchens designed in the near future. So bear with me and I’ll show you how to design an elegant 21st century kitchen with a splash of 80’s flair!

80’s inspired kitchen featuring metallic tile backsplash, black shaker-style cabinetry, foliage-inspired artwork, and pops of green! | Contemporary Kitchen by Dallas Media & Bloggers Jamie Laubhan-Oliver

Efficient Kitchens: A Hallmark of the 80’s

A 1980s Kitchen "Smart Space" | Source: HouseBeautiful

A 1980s Kitchen “Smart Space” | Source: HouseBeautiful

Let’s be clear: 80’s design wasn’t all bad, and many of the design advancements made in that era have had a lasting effect on the way we design kitchen spaces today. 80’s kitchen design emphasized efficiency in storage and organization. This meant that no possible storage space went unused, and everything was easily accessible as needed. Today’s design trends tend to follow the same rule, and time has given us more sophisticated and dedicated spaces to ensure that everything is organized – and concealed – in its proper place. Try utensil organizers in your drawers, spice pull-outs, and large drawers or appliance garages for small appliances. Oh, and those hanging pots and pans? Well those technically never went out of style. If it’s a look that you prefer, by all means install ceiling-mounted hanging pot racks above your island for ease of access.

The 80’s also embraced technology in unprecedented ways, with wealthier homeowners featuring computers in their kitchens. Today’s kitchens are no different. Smart spaces and kitchen offices are all the rage. Carve out a designated space for a tablet, charging stations, and other high-tech accessories. High tech appliances and fixtures are also becoming common in everyday kitchens.

Large, Open Kitchen Layouts

A 1980's-inspired open kitchen layout with dining tables, pendant lighting, and white shaker cabinetry.

A 1980’s-inspired open kitchen layout with dining tables, pendant lighting, and white shaker cabinetry, accentuated with a floral print rug and warm hues of red and brown. | Source:

Open kitchens are making a huge comeback as kitchens become less about simply preparing meals and more about integrating and incorporating the entire family, as well as friends and other guests. If you have a wall separating your kitchen from your living room, it may be a great design idea to simply get rid of it (as long as it isn’t load-bearing of course!) The open kitchen layout literally opens up the entire space, making both your kitchen and the adjoining room seem bigger. It’s more conducive to entertaining guests or even simply keeping an eye on the kids while they play. If space allows, a kitchen island is a hallmark of the 80’s that many homeowners still can’t live without. In addition to being extra storage space and a work area, it’s a great place for people to gather. Large kitchen tables are also great for this.

Keep Those Colors Under Control!

One thing that we can all agree on is that the 80’s were a very colorful decade, and it wasn’t just the hair and neon tights. Many spaces embraced the wild, carefree and colorful aesthetic as well, with bright, glossy surfaces. However, most kitchens weren’t so outlandish. Most embraced neutral cabinetry such as oak or white laminate, and only relied on a pop of color. This is what you’ll want to do when designing your own 21st century version of an 80’s-inspired space. Try white, near-black, black, or neutral wood shaker-style cabinetry. Stick with a monochromatic color scheme when choosing your accompanying countertop and backsplash. Then, to give it a bit of life, add just a few pops of a bright color, such as red or green – just steer clear of the neon.

Metals, Mirrors & Shine, Oh My!

This kitchen features mirrored subway tiles. Source: Marie Flanigan Interiors

This kitchen features mirrored subway tiles.
Source: Marie Flanigan Interiors

Blacks, whites, and a pop of color… still seems a little boring, am I right? After all, it’s 2016, and unique is the name of the game. If you want a bit more freedom to design your kitchen with the fierce, rebellious attitude of the 80’s, here’s what you can do to make things a bit more interesting: add a bit of shine! The 80’s kitchen was often full of glossy surfaces, but those surfaces today would simply look ‘plasticky’ and cheap. However, a current design trend that can add tons of visual interest to your kitchen AND make it look larger is the use of mirrors, particularly for the backsplash. You can keep it simple and geometric with mirrored subway tiles, or go wild with mirrored mosaic tiles.

And what about those shiny metals? Copper and brass were popular features in 80s spaces, but those metals often had an obnoxious high-gloss finish. Keep your design simple by utilizing a brushed finish, or, for an elegant antiqued look, try a burnished finish. If you’re looking for copper or brass accents, you can choose these metals for your hardware, faucet, light fixtures, or even accessories. However, if you want to go big, you can make a statement with brilliant copper or brass sheets or tiles for your backsplash! Copper and brass a bit too warm for your liking? Keep your color scheme cool with chrome!


This kitchen features black shaker cabinetry, white subway tiles, butcher block countertops, brushed brass hardware with contemporary stainless steel appliances. | Source:


Don’t Be Afraid to Accessorize!

I know, the thought of bringing the 80’s back was probably a bit traumatizing for you at first. But I hope by now that you see how easy it is to give the 80’s design aesthetic a more sophisticated and updated look. Remember those pops of color I mentioned earlier? While we absolutely will not be going full neon, your kitchen can still have an air of eccentricity with accents that are an appropriate throwback to the era. If you’re an art buff, a colorful Warhol print may be all you need to give your otherwise neutral kitchen a splash of life. Pendant lights are perfect for right above your island, and they’re a perfect opportunity to add more color or incorporate one of the metals. Many 80’s kitchens also embraced the use of foliage and I can tell you, nature will never go out of style. Add a plant or two to your kitchen space for a more natural look. Oh, and remember those chairs with cane backs and metal frames? These, too, have lasted through the decades and are a great seating option to add to your island.

Some other 80’s design trends that you can incorporate include a butcher block island countertop, exposed brick, and laminate countertops or flooring. Wait, laminate? Yes, laminate! Today’s laminates are more stylish and durable than ever before, in elegant designs that emulate the sophisticated look of granite or quartz, without the price tag.

See? The 80’s coming back isn’t so bad, is it? Like every revival, it will inevitably be tempered by contemporary preferences and trends. So be bold and give your kitchen an 80’s-inspired design upgrade today!

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