It’s not easy to identify the style or period a furniture piece is from if you are not a trained designer or a well-informed furniture enthusiast. The descriptions of eras and styles can be highly confusing. What is a modern chair as opposed to a contemporary chair? What’s a traditional piece of furniture? And how would you describe a retro chair?
A retro chair is less easy to define than a Victorian chair, for example, or a French country chair. Because retro furniture does not belong to a specific, set time period or place of origin. It is more helpful to explain a retro piece of furniture as being something dated, but still appealing. Retro and iconic chairs have a certain subjective appeal. Some people may love a chair for its nostalgic appeal or its design links, that others see as simply ugly.
To define what retro chairs are, it is useful to say what they are not.
What Isn’t a Retro Chair?
Antique chairs are not retro chairs. An antique chair is defined as one that is at least a century old. Most retro chairs are not this old. Most date from the period between the 1950s and the 1980s. You can also find retro chairs that have been recently made but designed to look like they were constructed in these periods.
Retro chairs do not have a timeless or classic appeal or style. Many examples of antique or modern chairs have a timeless appeal, meaning they will always be attractive and their appeal does not depend on the fashion of the day. Retro chairs will appeal to many people but they will be dated.
So, if a retro chair isn’t an antique and isn’t classic, what is it?
Decades of Retro Chairs
Retro chairs from the 1950s (or contemporary designs made to look like they are from this period) are constructed from plastic, laminate, plywood and vinyl. The style of chair is slimmer and sleeker, with less of a need for wooden frames and heavily upholstered exteriors.
In the 1960s, chairs became bright and bold with a strong use of psychedelic patterns and statement colours. Geometric patterns are also popular in this period and chairs are particularly strange-shaped in many cases.
The 70s saw more muted and natural shades, with a big emphasis on the colours of the natural world like olive green and shades of orange. Chairs started to get larger again, and upholstery was used with padding to provide extra comfort.
In the 1980s, a plethora of design styles make chairs from this period dramatically different. There is the neon and chrome trend, but there is also the emphasis on pastels and chintz. Iconic 80s chairs may be streamlined and shiny or bulky and over the top.
How to Get a Retro Chair
Think about your tastes and look for designs that appeal to your sense of style and your personality. You can find original retro chairs online at specialist retailers or on sites like eBay. Or you can choose replica furniture from design stores to find the perfect retro chair for your home.