The 1980s is back, in a big way.
For celebrated interior design Mardi Doherty, this era is characterised by bold and sometimes clashing colour, striking curves and geometric forms, and chunky, sculptural furniture.
‘Popular culture became broader in the 1980s. There was a seemingly endless array of different, conflicting styles… It was okay to throw out the rulebook; in fact, it was encouraged, allowing innovative design to flourish!’ Mardi says.
Doherty Design Studio’s recent Malvern project saw the studio re-imagine a grand 1980s home in Melbourne through a contemporary lens. This meant restraint in some areas, allowing some of the home’s most prominent original features to take centre stage (central glass atrium, anyone?), whilst pushing rich colour and texture into unexpected pockets of the house – punctuated with carefully selected classic furniture, like the Bonnie chair and Togo sofa from Ligne Roset. These iconic pieces offer an authentic nod to the past – whilst also ensuring design longevity for years to come.
We’re seeing a resurgence of the 80’s trends in Australian interiors right now, what appeals to your studio most about design from this era?
Considered by some to be the brashest of architectural decades, the 1980s are now being celebrated with bravery. We love the extroversion and flamboyance of much of 1980s design.
Popular culture became broader in the 1980s. There was a seemingly endless array of different, conflicting styles that were hugely popular. There was a freedom to the ways in which people expressed themselves – this was certainly true for design, architecture and fashion. It was okay to throw out the rulebook; in fact, it was encouraged, allowing innovative design to flourish.
It’s this eclecticism and vibrancy that makes our studio so excited by this era of design!
Your recent Malvern project really leans into this ‘retro’ aesthetic, using a brave colour palette and some incredible furniture pieces – can you talk us through this project?
Our approach was grounded by a strong appreciation of context, a desire to bring new life into the space, and to meet our client’s vision for their home.
We were completely taken with the original architecture (the home was designed by Peter McIntyre in the early 1980’s) and it became a priority of ours to celebrate this as much as possible. Our challenge was to seamlessly weave two outcomes together; to simultaneously respect the past, whilst catering for the future.
We knew from the start that we wanted to be bold with colour, yet we also wanted to balance this out with a neutral base of white. A refreshed sitting room, the ‘green room’, has a vivid peacock green across all walls, bespoke cabinetry and flooring; a nod to the bold use of colour in 1980s design. Here, we incorporated iconic pieces from different eras, including the striking Bonnie armchair by Ligne Roset, designed in 1975.
The living room required more restraint for a calmer space. Thoughtfully selected furniture made for relaxed living – the PaiPai armchair and footstool by Ligne Roset was complimented by the iconic Togo armchair and sofa in indigo – inviting teenagers to relax and curl. Again, the use of bold and chunky 1970s furniture in this 1980s home feels completely at ease.
Drawing from the building’s architectural heritage our aim was to create a contemporary version of the 1980s vernacular, filtered through a modernist glamour lens. The new design is a shrine to light, art and family life…. with a touch of disco to lure a party within!
Your studio is known for its really bold choices – especially when it comes to colour! How would you describe your design aesthetic?’
Our choices are often bold, yet we pride ourselves on knowing where and when to be restrained in order to achieve a cohesive design. Being bold with colour in key rooms brings joy, and ultimately isn’t that what life is about?!
Some projects require more calm – each site is so individual. We love a collaboration too – we see so much value in bringing together a team of other designers, it always makes for an enriched result.
Ligne Roset’s ‘Bonnie’ chair (along with the iconic Togo) share a chunky, oversized and very sculptural aesthetic… what sort of space would you specify these pieces, and what other sort of furnishings would you pair them with?
Bold furniture pieces like the sculptural Bonnie chair can provide a dramatic feature to a room. It’s important to provide a generous space around each piece, consider how it’s going to be viewed (from behind or front). You also need to consider what you see ‘past’ the piece, be it a window, a wall with art or towards another space.
The Togo collection (designed in mid 1970s) looks great in rooms with large windows, as the sofa has a low profile and allows your eye to continue to the view outside.
Pieces like these can be teamed with contemporary furniture, and positioned alongside custom joinery, to celebrate the soft curves of the pieces.
What advice would you have for anyone looking to achieve a ‘retro revival’ look at home ?
From geometric, angular forms, to striking curves and varying shades of colour – there’s a lot to draw on from 1970s and 1980s design! The key here is inspiration, not re-creation. This means exercising restraint and being considered with the use of period references, and stepping back to consider these details.
Taking a motif and using at different scales, in unexpected places, or marrying it with modern materials will help achieve a contemporary look without falling into pastiche.
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