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In the era of Instagram, décor trends may as well be measured by what’s in the perfectly curated backdrops of selfies. Until recently, selfie currency was traded in crisp white sheets and monastic looking tablescapes. That is until Ettore Sottsass’s Ultrafragola mirror re-entered the picture in 2019 after decades of being out of focus. With its peachy pink neon-lit curves, meant as allusions to the female anatomy, the mirror ushered in a revival of wacky, wild and distinctly 1980s aesthetics. And everyone, from singer Frank Ocean to Louis Vuitton designer Nicolas Ghesquière to supermodel Elsa Hosk, posed for a photo with theirs. Though the mirror was originally designed a decade before Sottsass founded the influential design collective Memphis Group in 1980, its dominance forecasted a decade during which neon-lit malls and Miami Vice would reign supreme.

Ettore Sottsass Ultrafragola mirror has been produced since 1970.Poltronova/Handout

At face value, the return of the 1980s design seems inexplicable. In the mid-century modern-dominated dialogue of the last many years, there was no room for chintz, glass bricks or so-called tackiness. And its reign, which lasted well into the 1990s, was treated with plenty of derision on its way out. But, through the course of the pandemic – when our homes became the only way to express our collective burgeoning eccentricities – the 80s, for many, seemed like home.

Over the past 18 months, obsessive documentation of the decade’s disparate styles reached a fever pitch. On Twitter, the account CocaineDecor, which posts pictures of the louche interiors and architecture of the 1970s and 80s, pays homage to its decadence with photos of black lacquer tables, floor-to-ceiling mirrored bedrooms and sunken Jacuzzis right out of Scarface. On Instagram, the culture account Mallstalgia showcases found photos of defunct American malls and department stores. On TikTok, Gen Zers gleefully presented house tours with recently acquired Ligne Roset Togo sofas. “We have clients in their 20s and 30s who are viewing this decade of design in a completely objective and unbiased way,” says Lawrence Blairs, owner and curator of Toronto’s Atomic Design art and furniture shop. Having lived through little to none of the decade, “they appreciate the non-conformity and fun, irreverent style.”

“I’ve always been into the aesthetic; probably because of the time I spent as a kid in Florida on March breaks with my family,” says Travis Bell, owner of the Creemore, Ont., décor boutique Miller Island. “Visions of stuccoed beachside condos and palm tree silhouettes under pink and purple pastel skies,” are just some of what Bell conjures with the glass-topped tessellated stone tables, rattan baskets and pastel ceramics that fill his store.

Bell’s wares feature prominently in The June, a chain of trendy retrofit motels by millennial co-founders April Brown and Sarah Sklash, who lean heavily into a similar aesthetic. “We get our inspiration from when the motel was built, using the bones of the building to guide the design,” Brown says. The transformation of The June’s second location was recently the subject of the Netflix series Motel Makeover. “When we look back on old photos from the old motel, it was really in its heyday in the 80s and 90s, with elaborate costume parties and wedding on the lawn. So, when we took over the motel, we really saw the potential to restore this motel back to a time when it was at its best, and breath some fresh life into it.”

For those who lived through gloriously tacky 80s, its resurgence – along with that of maximalism – frees us from the tyranny of “good taste.” (Blame it on my own childhood trips to Florida, but the most wistful I’ve been in recent months was while looking through photos of the magenta and teal neon-lit exteriors of the American chain Miami Subs). And while the decade teaches us that rules are meant to be broken, here’s a quick guide to buying into its greatest hits.

Lauren Miller/Handout

Tessellated stone and marble tables

Side tables with sculptural, chunky bases and glass tabletops strike a balance between statement-making and adding depth and warmth. “The more block-like and simple the design, the better,” says Bell, whereas marble “contrasts with softer furniture, textiles and rugs so you can still create a cozy space that will still look polished.”

Italian design

For the investment shopper, Blairs recommends pieces by Ettore Sottsass, Mario Botta, Giovanni Offredi and Gaetano Pesce to name a few. “We would recommend working with an experienced dealer of design who can help you make informed decisions,” Blairs says.

Lauren Miller/Handout

Large mirrors

Blame it on the rebirth of vanity, but the 1980s took mirror sizes to the next level. “Big arched floor mirrors are always a favourite, but they can be quite expensive,” Bell says. Instead, “A hack I developed is taking old picture frames and getting mirrors put in them. My favourite picture frames to upcycle are ones with faux marble patterns or pastel colours.”

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