House & Garden: Style Lessons from May 1986

For today’s docket:

1. Find place to live.

2. Create new business plan.

3. Teach child to read.


4. Look at House & Garden magazine from May 1986.

A welcome distraction, care to join me? Let’s see what style lessons we can glean from twenty-five years ago.

Lesson #1: When you must move a pillow to sit down on your couch, that’s 28 pillows too many.

Lesson #2: Even though something might be called “classic” that doesn’t make it so.

Lesson #3: Carpet in the bathroom: not a good idea then, it still isn’t.

Lesson #4: Nature always looks good.

And now for a word from our sponsor: The new Fiat Panda has more muscle. (I am so thankful the body-building trend is over.)

Lesson #5: It’s nicer not to seat your guests so close to fire.

Lesson #6: When everything matches perfectly down to the drapes, your room is guaranteed to look outdated.

And lastly: The best way to distract someone from noticing you have too many of something is to put it all in rainbow order.

(The nail polish is Sephora’s “Brunette on the Internet.” It seemed fitting.)

What is your favorite design tip learned from the eighties?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. rachael says:

    Ha – distractions are us – I was supposed to be culling, and instead ended up rereading similarly dated magazines like they were historical documents or something. Gotta love the pillows – don’t you know each one of them cost more than my whole sofa?

  2. Ha! I never liked the bodybuilding trend, either. And those women’s swimsuits. I forgot all about them–for good reason. :-) Denise

  3. My favorite design tip from the 80s: Dusty Rose carpeting goes with everything. NOT! Whomever built my house took this tip though, and now I’m waiting (and saving) for wood flooring. One day I’ll actually be able to use RED as an accent color. I might even paint a room red, I’ll be so excited.
    Joanna´s last post…Sew Mama Sew’s Giveaway Day

  4. WHO came up with carpet in the bathroom!? Seriously. Ugh.
    Catie´s last post…Gilly Shuck Corn and I Dont Care

  5. HA ha! that is a LOT of towels!
    Laura´s last post…idaho rememberies

  6. Too funny! What a great post!
    Julie @ Connell Tales´s last post…Beach bungalow

  7. Haha, WOW! I can imagine looking back in twenty years though and thinking my mod couch that I love so much so “boring!”

    Oh, and our last place had carpet in the bathroom. I cringed to think of what the padding underneath looked like…ew.
    Kait Palmer´s last post…That Cinderella Moment

    • Jenifer says:

      My husband and I had an apartment with carpet in the kitchen… so gross!
      And the carpet was some sexy brown almost long enough to be shag. Wall to wall, everywhere but the bathroom (but why? Haha)

      I can’t imagine hating my current couch… red and sassy!
      Those chairs look very hard, boxy and uncomfortable!

  8. I can’t believe this magazine came out when my first daughter was born…um…25 years ago!

    What were they thinking??? You are right, carpet in the bathroom was not good then nor now. :!!
    Sharon´s last post…May Challenge- Im back- and the numbers arent pretty

  9. Haha…fun post! Walk through a mall and look at the teenagers. Apparently they think the fashions from the 80’s are worth revisiting. I doubt their mothers are looking to the 80’s for decorating help though. LOL
    Tammy´s last post…Really

  10. The very valuable lesson seems to be: if it looks or feels odd / impractical / impossible / contrived now, it will continue to do so in the future, and probably “too much of anything is never a good thing” as a corollary.

    These days ostentation and grandeur aren’t the thing so we see them what they really are: stupid and out of place in any small home.

    If I had to point at ridiculous styling trends, I’d say that the “too much” has never left and these days are worse than ever. Too much texture seems to be the sign of the times (have you noticed bloggers at some very respected places like Apartment Therapy drooling over a horribly broken hardwood floor that would be unacceptable to live with by any reasonable person?), too much vintage and/or in deep state of decay and disrepair, and some unbelievable disrespect for normal printed material storage… people seem in need to store books and magazines disregarding the most logical way (side by side in a shelf, as indicated by a decade of library experience) by using curled shelves, stacks, hanging stacks (!) and what not.

    I won’t deny some look charming, but in 25 years we’ll be either laughing, rolling up our eyes or wondering what the heck.

    Wow, that was some rant… But seriously, don’t you ever find interior pictures overstyled and dated, even if they are dated in “today”?

    • trinity says:

      You are correct. I wonder where do they find the beauty? And he dirty, chipped and scraped up milk painted furniture thing really gives me the creeps. Yuck!

      • Trinity, I think they get lost in the picture and forget about the real thing, the one that’s being portraited. Texture can be so expressive and could lift any picture from blandness to interesting-ness, I think… but the same couldn’t be said about a place. I think I rather have floors texture-less, if your toes know what I mean ;-)

        By the way, the pink vomit (oh, is that “mauve”?) made me remember that as an 8 year old I used to pour over interior decorating mags and adored those sophisticated looking rooms. Luckily that’s just a blast from the past!
        Julia´s last post…Wishlisting

  11. “The best way to distract someone from noticing you have too many of something is to put it all in rainbow order.” Rachel, you are so funny :D

    I was born in 1981 so I don’t have many detailed memories. I do remember how people used to fill their windows completely with plants. Plants in pots standing in the window sill, but also hanging down. You hardly could look through the windows anymore. But that might just have been a Dutch thing!?
    Maaike Quinn @ Life with FlyLady´s last post…Start a Weekly Garden Blessing Hour

  12. Hey Rachel-

    I am a new reader, and I love this! I always dream of (and even get stressed over!) having my home look like BHG. This just goes to show that fashion fades. Go with what you love. Thanks!

    Jenna´s last post…New JerseyFinally

  13. I’ve been going through a lot of design blogs recently and I’ve chuckled a few times over what people call “classic.” Something like design is so subjective and tangled up with its own time that it is really difficult to call anything classic.
    Jennie´s last post…My City—Salt Lake City

  14. The color “mauve” is not a real color. Just a phase.
    Shannon´s last post…How to Live a Story Worth Telling

  15. 1986-I lived in Germany and lived in a tiny apartment, what a blast from the past!
    Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith´s last post…Fit in Fitness

  16. Dorothy says:

    What I can’t understand is this. Why is someting beautiful at one time and not at the next? If it’s beautiful surely it’s beautiful. Who says it’s not? This cool blog today encourages me to go with the things I see as beautiful and give me pleasure but I do need to check it is really me making the choice and not ‘them’.

  17. I totally love this post, it is simply genius!!! You have certainly had a break and your mind is ready to bring us brilliant posts… My mom still has so many cushions… its always like “Where do you want me to sit?” And to be honest she still has a pile of magazines just like this one on her coffee table that she tries to pass off as new… it is the “March issue” after all!!! My worst was shades of white, when we moved into our house the bedroom was just slightly pink, the hall way just slightly olive green … everything was just slightly awful!!! Just no.

  18. Very smart post and fun post. I was a young bride in the eighties decorating my first home and having my first child. It is so funny to see what was popular back then. I have lived through so many decorating trends that I try not to pay much attention anymore – a tweak here or there is all I do. The trends now that everyone is swooning over – like antlers and graphic pattern wallpaper are going to look so dated in only a few years – it is so much better to just decorate with things you love and never go for the whole look.

    My best- Diane
    Diane@InMyOwnStyle´s last post…Creativity 1 2 3&8230 1 Just an Idea

    • The same for me, a very young broke bride trying to decorate her first rentals and then our first home. One thing I remember so distinctly is the country style, with the ducks and ruffles and all the little wooden doodads. What WERE we thinking!
      Living the Balanced Life´s last post…Four things that need to be done slowly

      • Heather says:

        YES!! My most vivid memory of people’s houses from childhood was ducks and hearts in some combination all over the house. Either groups of wooden ones, or stenciled on the wall in that country blue, rust red, and dusty mauve, or appliqued on kitchen towels.

        I know I’m going to look back in 20 years on my early marriage decorating style and see French Fatigue. I’m already tired of everything Paris, which is sad, because I liked it before it became a trend. I cringe whenever anything I like becomes a trend, because I don’t want to end up hating it later.

        • I was was setting up a nest in the 80’s too. Learned back then to use what I have and to mix and match eclectically. I still have many of the things from then and new things mixed in over the years. Forget about matchy matchy!

          • I forgot to say — that I have a few rubber duckies in my bathroom and duck decoy lamp in my living room. Not because of any trend mind you, but just because I like them. Only way to go! :)

          • You’re hitting home with this post (no pun intended.) Just had to add one more thought. I don’t like the term living room. We live in our whole house. Duh!

            That’s it I’m done!

    • “never go for the whole look.” — that’s the best decorating advice I’ve heard in a long time.

  19. This was the year I graduated high school. I love your critiques, so witty and spot-on. I have lived in a house with a ginormous carpeted bathroom and a mauve garden tub–so horrible! It was seven years ago in my soon-to-be husband’s house. Oh the things we do for love. Thanks for sharing…this is classic!

  20. Vanessa says:

    I was so going to ask what that nail polish is! Thanks for providing the info.

  21. Great post…I guess like the 80s fashion, the “style” was well, something else… good to start with a laugh today, thanks :)
    angelvalerie´s last post…when is near enough good enough

  22. I still never get the 8,345,923 pillow on a bed/couch/chair decorating thing.

    I have a theory that every couple married between 1950 and 1985 hade to buy a brown plaid couch. My parents and my friend’s parents had one. It was like it was the law or something.
    Slackerjo´s last post…The Death of Common Sense

    • Melinda says:

      there is only ONE brown plaid couch – it just keeps getting passed on to the next unfortunate home! LOL

      • Jenifer says:

        We didn’t have the brown plaid couch… ours was FLORAL and then my parents recovered it… then they put a cover over it which was just as ugly! Gah!

    • There is an exception to the brown plaid couch. My parents were married in the Bicentennial year, 1976, so their plaid couch was red, white, and blue. They had the matching rocking chair, too. About 1990 my mom recovered them in gray and mauve plaid. Ugh. I thought it was so pretty at the time.
      Jeanne G.´s last post…Simple Joys

  23. The stupid sofa I bought at the early 90s is not brown plaid, but it does have lots of huge pillows instead of attached back cushions. I hate the way it looks now, and it is virtually impossible to put a slipcover on becasue of the cushions. Don’t want to buy another sofa as we hope to begin RVing in a year or two. So, I just ignore the sofa!
    Living the Balanced Life´s last post…Four things that need to be done slowly

  24. Wow! Did you notice that the tub in the last picture has flowers on it to match the curtains??? Gotta love it – such a fun post! Certainly made me laugh after a long day at work, so thanks. :-)
    Carrie´s last post…Round Three

  25. What a fun post! I often look around my house and wonder which of my tastes I’ll be laughing at twenty years from now.

  26. Ok, now I feel better about saving my Better Homes & Gardens…someday it’s going to give me a great laugh. Your post was hilarious, thanks.
    Jenny W (The Housewife Project)´s last post…Ten Favorite Beauty Products

  27. Ha ha, this was good memory down the lane! I actually have some of the old magazines that my mom had and I still like to look at it, to see how we have changed, something like you mentioned here is clearly a fad but other things stays true classics such old time music, or hand made wooden furniture!

    Now, I have to go and look for old magazine stash somewhere. I have about 5, not too much clutter, just a little :-)

    Zengirl @ Heart and Mind´s last post…Help Fight Child Hunger- Make Others Happy

  28. Hey, what about plastic sofa covers? Not sure if I’m getting my style vintage correct (was that 80s or 70s), but I always think about plastic sofa covers whenever I find myself telling the kids not to play in the living room. I try to remind myself that my home is not a museum (that is why I don’t have plastic sofa covers, just ScotchGuard).
    Nihara´s last post…Finding Three Good Things About Each Day

  29. trinity says:

    My house came with black kitchen appliances and a black kitchen sink with a black faucet. Every time I look at it all, I think “AVOCADO” of 2015!

    Soon enough the appliances will break down and I already have a new sink picked out. I’m going with all white.

    • Jessica J. says:

      Trust me, don’t go with a white sink…it is a NIGHTMARE to keep clean. My friend and I were just chatting on the phone last night complaining about our white sinks. :)

  30. I can’t decide which I like better – the pictures or the nail polish. The Sephora stuff is my favorite.

    But I can’t get over the picture of “classic” furniture. Could those chairs be any more awful??
    Amy´s last post…My lonely onions- and how I got them

  31. lol Loved it.

    Our last house had carpet in the master bathroom. What were they thinking??? ICK. I refused to let the kids use that bathroom at all. G-R-O-S-S!!

  32. Hilarious!

    My aunt still has carpet in her master bathroom. Let’s see…I know she was in her previous condo when I was 5 because I knocked my sister off a big rock in her yard and she ended up in the hospital. I think she moved shortly after that. I was 5 in 1983, so yep, 1986 sounds about right.
    Amy F´s last post…Grandpa

  33. Too funny! What will they say about our decor 25 years from now! My mother put shag carpet in the kids bathroom when I was a child. I have two brothers. That toilet overflowed at least once a week! Oh so gross….wet shag carpet full of ….. yeah you get the picture. Also loved all those pillows! Who ever thought more pillows were better?

    Thanks for the laugh :)

  34. My “ugh” statement from the 80’s – teal / jade and navy together. What the heck??? Oh, wait – that tone on tone look may be worse. I’ve always loved contrast. The striped chair in that living room is horrendous!

  35. Love it! How funny and I can totally relate to the procrastinating!

  36. When we bought this house the rose-coloured carpet was the first thing out of the door. My favourite style is cutting everything back to simple and useful things. The 80s are the opposite of that. Of course, having less stuff means that inevitably there is less to criticise (or love) but looking back at archive photos its always the simplest homes or outfits that impress me most.

    For instance, in pictures of The Rolling Stones, Charlie Watts always wore pretty much the same thing (a suit) and hes the only one that didn’t look a fool for much of the time!

  37. Something from the eighties that I remember is wallpaper everywhere. And carpet on the walls, not just the floor.

    Thanks for the reminder that trying to emulate magazine fashion trends is just silly.

  38. I can unfortunately attest to having actually seen a couple of places with carpeting in the bathroom. Thanks a lot for reminding me. Yuk!

    Even worse than that — I’ve actually seen carpeting in the kitchen. No joke! It was supposedly some kind of trend. Talk about GREASE FEST, but take your pick between the latter. Either way or both — odour, dust mites and who knows what else!

    A grossly funny post :X

    • Yes! My grandmother’s house had carpet in the kitchen. And as best as I can remember, there was always a strange smell in there, no doubt nasties hiding in the carpet. And she had a pink bathroom: pink tub, pink shower, pink tiles, pink wallpaper, pink sink, pink vanity, pink toilet, and yes, even pink carpet.

      • Yikes! Talk about pink overload! I bet she can’t stand pink now. Plus, I imagine there being this one carpeting manufactuer who was selling folks on this pipe dream idea of never having to mop a single floor again. Never mind turning the carpeting into this huge absorbent grease, odor, water, dirt, whatever — collection trap. What were they thinking??!! It boggles the mind.

      • Jenifer says:

        My aunt’s cottage has the same thing! And my Mom was so impressed when she saw it! Gross!

  39. carpet in the bathroom! gag me with a spoon! :) This was fun.
    Megan at SortaCrunchy´s last post…Make A Plan Workshop – Winner and Discount Code

  40. Oh, I needed a laugh today, and this was it.
    Rhonda´s last post…New Kids- Site Maintenance- and Other Stuff

  41. Maria K says:

    A great blast from the past, I was in college in the 80’s and I actually owned one of those swim suits…((shudder)).

    I see ‘Teach child to read’ on your docket…are you planning on home schooling?

  42. Hi!

    I just came across your blog recently and am loving it. This post is hilarious, the bathroom carpeting is the worst. I also really enjoyed your last post in traveling with children! I’m 31 weeks now and as my family’s European but my husband’s American, we travel quite a bit between Europe and the US. I am stashing all those travel tips away for when I’ll need them next summer! Thank you!


  43. Wow… its crazy to see what’s in style when I was born!
    South County Girl´s last post…A letter from our HOA

  44. OMgoodness! Now I really feel old!

    I think what I miss most about the 80’s is my floral jeans. :)
    Anita´s last post…Frugal Snacks Chocolate Peanut-Butter No-Bake Cookies

  45. You are HILARIOUS! Thanks so much for the history lesson, and the perspective…

  46. ha ha! i’ve gone to some estate sales recently (half the reason why i go is to check out the decor) and seen a whole lot of #6.
    Akemi S.´s last post…Green City Fair at Coldwater Canyon Park

  47. What I remember from the ’80’s is all the fussy crafts made of fabric and ribbon and raffia, hanging on every wall and sitting on every surface, even the floor. It was a great time to be a crafter because people were buying that stuff like crazy! But it was all too much fussiness, and they were terrible dust catchers, and soon that fad passed, thankfully.

  48. What I learnt from the 80’s is the more you have is great and then lets get more..more hair (height), shoulder pads (width) and more debt (hole).
    Liked the trip down the 80’s road, certainly wouldn’t want to visit any time soon.
    Entertaining read..:D
    Happy Friday!
    Tracy´s last post…The Collectors

  49. This was so great. Makes me want to go to the thrift store and get the oldest home magazine I can find,

  50. Beth West says:

    I needed that this morning! Thanks for sharing with the funny commentary. Some of my favorite stacks of old magazines are my Victorias and Country Livings from the 80’s and 90’s. In many of the feature articles, they truly do achieve classic style. The ads however tend to be a different story. Waverly and Lanz come immediately to mind. I look at some of these and think “who would EVER?” ie: one in which a woman with long, dark tresses, dressed in a tight beige business suit and heels is carrying a sofa with wild floral print on her back.

    Best of luck with all that you need to do!
    Beth West´s last post…First Portrait in Progress

  51. My favorite 80’s decorating trend was the poofy window valance which was always made with some kind of some abstractly floral fabric in peach and teal tones. Gag-eriffic. And dusty.
    Juliet´s last post…Pathological

  52. This post made me laugh—aren’t we glad that trends come and go?

  53. I do love the “classic” Cotswold furniture though! ;)
    SmithRatliff´s last post…A Look At Kings County Distillery

  54. Stainless steel appliances. Grrr! They came with the house we just bought, and since they’re new, we feel we have to live with them. They’re hard to clean, and seem so ‘snobby’ to me. I’m sure it’s just a passing fad. Can’t go wrong with plain old white appliances, which is what we’ll get when these steel monstrosities die (is it bad for me to hope that’s soon?)…
    Ashley @ Root and Twig´s last post…Taking the Summer Off

    • Jenifer says:

      I’m so glad I’m not the only one who isn’t in love with stainless steel!
      I don’t actually have any, but it just seems so cold to me… and you can’t stick stuff to them with magnets!
      I love my kidlet art!

  55. Your to do list is a lot like mine! Been looking for a home for 3 years+, and my 5 year old son has started suggesting that he’s ready to learn to read. Hubby would probably love it if I made a business plan for him….
    Kelly´s last post…Busy Week

  56. That is hilarious! What’s funny is how much of the 80’s fashion is back in now. A girl in her early 20’s asked me what I thought about a particular belt and I remember having the exact same one when I was in elementary (or jr. high?) in the 80’s!

    And the swimsuit picture? Looks like the one I’ve been pining over!

  57. Jeremy S says:

    This is hilarious! I love it! The decor in the photos seems very Joan Collins! haha!! I can’t imagine a couch covered in pillows……or carpet in the bathroom!! :)

  58. Fabulous! I should whip out my 1980 Sears Catalog and see what it has to offer… ;)
    Minnesotamom´s last post…Monday is- er- was Blogging Day

  59. I had to laugh at the “classic style” photo… my parents owned almost identical couches when I was growing up. Luckily my brother ripped the black flowered couch and it had to be replaced :)

  60. I’m wondering, is it just me, or does it look like there’s a cabinet or some friggin’ thing in the bath tub?? What I HATEhatehate about 80s decor is the faux gold. You can see some of it on the top of those columns(huh??) in the 2nd bedroom, which would have been somewhat awesome if not for those, and the weird angular shape on the ceiling fabric or whatever that is.

    When we bought our mobile home, it had brand new builder’s grade carpet throughout the house(which wasn’t any less sucktastic because it was new), with the exception of the kitchen and on through the laundry room. We had a water heater leak in 2004, and had to rip out the carpet in the bathroom, and, wishing that I’d known then what I know now, we put *more* carpet in the bathroom! :/ And you’re absolutely right, it’s impossible to keep clean, bunches up(because hubs is a teacher, *not* a master carpet layer….), and I just plain hate it!

    Since we bought the house almost 10 years ago, we’ve ripped up the carpet from the living room and dining room–just waiting for the days when we can do the same in the bedrooms, and the bathroom.

    Oh, and I’m totally in love with junk style, French country, and chippy and scratched up. And spray paint. ;) I may wonder what the hey I was thinking in 20 or so years, but right now, I’m all about mixing up these ‘trends’ into my own funky interpretation. I wanted to be an interior designer since I was in middle school(in the 80s). Since that never happened, it’s fun to play with my own house, and do it up the way I want. I’ve got a mobile home, but I can do what I like with it now, as opposed to when we lived in military housing for 12 years before we settled here. :)

  61. I’ve lived in Texas and Arizona since the 80’s, so throw in the dusty rose COYOTE, the teal KOKOPELLI and a few raffia flowers to that decor. Any garage sale or Goodwill in town will now contain huge metal-framed southwestern pictures, horribly faded from the sun, and matted in pink and teal. My MIL just loaded us down with several such treasures and they went directly to the thrift store.

  62. In the 70s/80s we had a carpeted bathroom with a shower which had no door or curtain. How stupid is that???

    I love this post and will definitely read your blog from now on.

    Came here from Tsh’s podcast and blog.

    Greetings from Berlin, Germany,