Retro Furniture Buying Guide

Views 1 Like Comments Comment
Like if this guide is helpful

Finding the right Furniture for your Home

Retro furniture is a great way to personalize a room or building and it can set an owner's home decor apart from neighbor's and friends.

Many styles of retro furniture are designed as part of a comprehensive aesthetic that includes art, architecture, and fashion. Because of this, buying furniture can be the first step toward a complete design makeover, and seeking out unique items is a pleasure entirely on its own. Start the process of buying retro furniture by brushing up on the different styles and time periods, and then begin searching for items that will transform home decor into something remarkable.

What is Retro Furniture?

The term "retro" refers to a style or trend from the past that has returned to popularity. In the case of furniture, this may involve the original objects, or reproductions done in a past style. The amount of time that must pass before something can be called retro is not solidly defined, though it is generally considered to be anything older than 15 years.

There are several styles of retro furniture that enjoy renewed popularity from time to time, particularly those from the middle of the 20th century. Though the styles on the following chart can generally be categorized as "modern," many sellers will be more specific and may define a piece of furniture by a single trend or movement in fashion, style, or art.

Furniture Style


Wiener Werkstätte

Developed in the early part of the 20th century, the Wiener Werkstätte style began with the formation of a production company in Vienna, Austria. Wiener-Werkstätte furniture is handcrafted. It is sleek and symmetrical, and individual pieces are typically monochromatic.

Named for an art school founded in Germany in 1919, Bauhaus focuses on creating a comprehensive visual aesthetic in which art, design, and architecture work toward the same style. Bauhaus furniture is often minimal in its design, and favors black surfaces with steel support frames.

De Stijl
De Stijl was initially an art movement based in the Netherlands from 1917 until 1931. It emphasized form and color in its design and was heavily influenced by the painter Piet Mondrian. Furniture in this style has a linear quality, and features solid, rectangular shapes.

Art Nouveau
Prevalent in Europe at the turn of the 20th century, Art Nouveau emphasizes natural forms and decorative, curved lines that mimic plants and vines. It is considered a precursor to Art Deco and other modernist styles.

Art Deco
Art Deco initially gained popularity in the 1920s and 1930s. It emphasizes geometric forms, and combines sweeping curves with hard, straight edges. It is a flexible style that includes a diverse range of cultural influences. Highly ornamental, Art Deco furniture often features patterning and decorative motifs.

Mid-Century Modern
Furniture made between the 1940s and 1960s is commonly referred to collectively as mid-century modern. Designs from this period often incorporate elements from one or more of the styles listed above, and are noted for their distinctive use of color and sleek, rounded forms.

Although the early half of the 20th century saw many distinct styles developing, by the 1960s a more general aesthetic had developed. As a result, furniture produced in the second half of the 20th century is commonly grouped by decade. The following chart examines some of the colors, shapes, and styles that were prevalent from the 1960s until the 1990s, and lists them by decade.


Description of Furniture Style

Developing on modernist trends, furniture from the 1960s tends to be sleek, and favors sweeping curves. Oranges, reds, and beiges are popular colors from this era. One notable style from the 1960s is called Space Age, named in reference to the strong interests in space exploration of the time. Space Age furniture uses circular designs that are reminiscent of an astronaut’s helmet.

Furniture design in the 1970s began moving away from the heavily rounded forms of the 1960s and incorporated many hard, straight lines and rectangular shapes. Use of color became a prominent aspect of interior design, and many couches and chairs from this decade feature patterns with multiple colors. Oranges, greens, and yellow-golds are particularly prominent.

The 1980s saw a revival of Art Deco. Strong geometric shapes and decorative elements returned to furniture design, along with use of solid colors.

In addition to the styles listed above, there are many lesser-known trends that collectors and buyers of retro furniture may find appealing. Also, retro furniture is sometimes oriented on a specific type of room. For examples, 1950s diners are a popularly recreated style. One of the best ways to learn about retro furniture is to search online images. Many home decorating magazines also have sections dedicated to retro furniture.

Buy Retro Furniture with Confidence

Inspect the item listings for retro furniture carefully before buying. Photographs are an excellent way to ascertain the condition of a piece, though many sellers also include detailed descriptions. In many cases, the photo shown next to an item’s price has the option for a magnified view. Allow the cursor to hover over the image for a moment, and a new picture will appear that offers a detailed view of the piece of furniture. At this point, you can also open a new window with a larger, detailed photo by clicking the original image. Many sellers include additional photographs that appear further down in the item’s listing. If you would like more photos or information on a piece of furniture, contact the seller. Sellers are often happy to provide additional information, especially for expensive items.

eBay offers protection for sales conducted through its bid and Buy it Now options. If a piece of furniture is not received or is not as described, eBay Buyer Protection will cover the purchase price plus original shipping. Never pay for an eBay item using services like Western Union or MoneyGram. It is considered unsafe to pay an unknown seller through these methods, and eBay will not cover the transactions.

Research the Seller

Always be sure to research sellers and examine their feedback ratings in order to ensure a positive buying experience. Many sellers specialize in a particular type of item, such as retro table lamps, and their feedback ratings reflect the quality of the service and items they provide. Also, check the number of transactions sellers have completed. Those who have sold a high number of items and maintain a strong feedback rating tend to be very reliable. Many top eBay sellers have return policies that include money-back guarantees, and some will also offer to insure an item during shipping. Be sure to leave the seller feedback after an item is received, as it will help other buyers make an informed shopping decision. Communicate with a seller before leaving negative feedback, as many sellers prefer to be contacted about a problem and will work with you to find a resolution.


Buying retro furniture is a great way to liven up a living space or contribute to a building’s total aesthetic. The different styles available for purchase allow for a high degree of personal customization in interior design, and developing a space with retro furniture provides many opportunities for conversation with friends, family, and neighbors. It can also help distinguish a home from others, and add comfort and satisfaction to a living space. Be sure to examine item listings in order to determine whether a piece of retro furniture is original, refurbished, or new, and research sellers to ensure a positive buying experience. The availability of online listings means that retro furniture isn’t limited to thrift shops and garage sales, so find your retro style and start shopping.

Published by

Modern Retro Living Spaces
Link to an eBay page Remove
Add up to 3 more photos
Modern Retro Living Spaces

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides