The 9 Best Retro-Inspired Makeovers We’ve Ever Seen on Apartment Therapy

published May 15, 2022
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Credit: Joy Coakley

Last month, Apartment Therapy celebrated spaces with a neon glow, a groovy floral pattern, a textured shag, sleek wood paneling, and more for Throwback Month — including the fabulous home redos readers submit to their site.

If walking into your home is like stepping into a time capsule and you’re looking to make some updates without sacrificing your home’s historic charm, see these renovations for some major inspiration. These nine projects infuse retro elements with modern-day decor.

Credit: Bob Copani
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A Boring White Kitchen Gets a Groovy Rainbow-Hued Update

Bob Copani’s Palm Springs kitchen got a mid-century update to match the city’s mid-century vibe. “I wanted to decorate this place like it might’ve looked when it was built,” he says of his ’70s home. He swapped his kitchen’s all-white color palette for avocado green and orange, furnished it with ’70s-style finds — including a shag rug and a tulip table — and decorated with retro murals and vintage appliances to boot. Read more about how he created the colorful, budget-friendly, mostly secondhand kitchen here.

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Bold, Bright Fabrics Give These Dining Chairs New Life

DIYer, thrifter, and Instagrammer Aarica Nichole gave her secondhand Cesca chairs a personality-packed redo with a couple yards of swirled fabric and a staple gun. The ’70s-inspired fabric now matches much better with the retro silhouette of the chair and Aarica’s colorful Dallas home. Aarica’s best advice for spotting secondhand furniture that’s ripe for customizing? Keep an open mind, and try to visualize the item in your space.

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A Kitchen and Dining Room Get a Loving Mid-Century-Style Makeover

Brooke Roeder (@b3ecreative)’s kitchen and dining room keep their wood-paneled mid-century vibe — after all, her home was built in 1967 — but become much more open and bright, thanks to white paint, the removal of some upper cabinets, relocation of the fridge, and, most noticeably, the removal of the banisters and barrier between the two spaces. “We bought the house, and I immediately started planning a mid-century makeover,” Brooke says. “I love everything about the after. It’s my dream home.”

Credit: Kristi Waite
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This $5000 Vintage Bathroom Redo Honors Its Pink-Tiled Roots

Kristi Waite’s home, which once belonged to her grandparents, had a bathroom with ’50s pink tile, a pink tub, pink sinks, and a pink toilet before. “The pink tub and tile were in excellent condition, and we knew we wanted to keep them as an ode to my grandparents,” Kristi says. Although she did replace the sinks and the toilet, she leaned in to the pink color scheme by adding a new millennial pink vanity and preserving the tile and tub. Kristi and her wife added a built-in white herringbone ledge and a white herringbone feature in the shower to break up the blush-colored tile and make it less overwhelming. “We love that we were able to modernize the pink!” Kristi says.

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A 1940s Fan Found in the Trash Gets a Groovy Orange Redo for Just $20

Justin Labinski found this 1940s Eskimo countertop fan in the trash and knew he could get it spinning again. “I knew this cool piece of history needed to be saved,” Justin says of his vintage find. He took the fan home, took it apart, and repaired an electrical short in the wiring inside. On the outside, he buffed and polished the steel to make it shiny again and spray painted the body a bright, retro orange. “I love the new color,” he says.

A Dated Kitchen’s Incredibly Colorful Remodel Enhances Its Retro Roots

This old, falling-apart kitchen took a turn for the colorful in a blue and yellow redo. Homeowners Meredith and Shadrach already owned the ’50s diner-style table and chairs, and their interior designer, Abigail Braden, used that as a jumping-off point. “To keep the space fun and retro, I used a palette of bright colors and mixed patterns,” Abigail says. “The new backsplash tile, the new window treatments, and the floor tile all have different patterns, kept cohesive through the color scheme.”

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A $40 Vintage Desk Chair Gets a $7, 3-Hour Glow Up

Michael Stack found this vintage Shaw Walker chair on Craigslist, and he knew it could be revived with a bit of work. “Obviously this chair has been around for a while and was previously updated and repaired,” Michael says. “Unfortunately not all the repairs would have been something that I would have done, but I wasn’t about to try and correct them at this point.” The chair was missing screws and bolts, and the dusty golden fabric would obviously need replacing. With new hardware, a couple yards of fabric, new foam for the seat, plus a few hours of elbow grease, Michael created a new-again office chair in an afternoon. Read more about his DIY process here.

Credit: Kari Hailey
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A $2,500 Refresher Keeps This 1950s Kitchen’s Charm Intact

One surefire way to preserve your home’s historic charm is to maintain its footprint, and it’s also a great way to save on budget, especially in the kitchen. Kari Hailey’s 1950s kitchen “reminded [her] of [her] grandparents’ kitchen, in all the best ways,” and she wanted to keep the same layout but make a few cosmetic upgrades, like swapping the light fixture, replacing the sink, and adding wallpaper. Her new finds make the charming wooden cabinetry look chic again.

Credit: Kelly Bryant
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A No-Demo Redo Amps Up This Bathroom’s Groovy ’70s Style

And last but not least, this bathroom redo makes the most of its cornflower yellow sinks by embracing a bold black and gold theme. Again, wallpaper came to the rescue here. Homeowner Kelly Bryant (@streetfleastyle) added a ’50s-inspired peel-and-stick treatment to the walls, swapped the sheet mirror for two framed ones, painted the vanity black, and hung a new black light fixture, all of which make the old sinks — and the old square floor tile — feel meant-to-be in the space.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: The 9 Best Retro-Inspired Redos on Apartment Therapy