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15 Design Ideas for an ‘80s Kitchen (With Pictures)

Side view on a wooden table and spacious industrial loft kitchen with vintage decor and black cabinets

The 1980s saw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the resurgence of the Cold War. Major movie launches included Blade Runner, E.T., Ghostbusters, Aliens, Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back while Madonna, Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, and George Michael took the music charts by storm. Leg warmers, ripped denim, and Lycra, as well as shoulder pads, were the fashion choices of the decade. And when it came to home décor, maximalism took over.

While microwave ovens were launched in the 1960s for home use, they became popular in the late 1970s and 1980s. While the decade has been reviled for years, it has enjoyed a renaissance of late, and 1980s kitchen design is revered by many designers. If you are looking to relive the 80s in your kitchen, below are design ideas that can transform your kitchen experience.

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The 15 Design Ideas for an ‘80s Kitchen

1. White Cabinets

White cabinets were popular in the 80s, whether they were painted wood or laminate. White countertops were also popular and although ivory and black appliances were introduced by this point, many people still opted for white appliances. The benefit of a white kitchen is that it feels airy, and it can make the space feel larger, although too much white can make the space feel utilitarian.

2. Honey Oak Cabinets

Another option for 1980s cabinet design is the honey oak finish. The cabinet doors were large and bulky with a wide frame. Combined with white countertops, this gives the ultimate 1980s look. The honey oak is easier to keep clean than white cabinet doors and the resurgence of wood in the kitchen décor means that honey oak cabinets are popular again.

3. Plenty of Lighting

Spotlights had become popular throughout the house and were common in kitchens in the 80s. They allowed the angling of light so that beams could be directed at countertops, tables, cookers, and anywhere else light would be beneficial. While it is difficult to find exact replicas of the plastic angled spotlights of the 80s, you can achieve a similar look with modern equivalents. The most important thing is to make sure there is plenty of lighting across the room.

4. Recessed Lights

An alternative to the spotlight is recessed lights. In the 80s, recessed lights with wooden frames were popular. Today, you can opt for various materials, but while the trend is for hidden lighting, the 1980s recessed light should be placed prominently in the ceiling.

5. Laminate Cabinets

Plastic was probably the material of the 1980s. Plastic is cheap, can be molded into a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and it was used everywhere in the 1980s home. Laminate cabinets can be made from hard plastic that is tightly pressed. Alternatively, wooden laminate is made using thin sheets of wood that are coated in a layer of melamine plastic. Really, it is the glossy finish of the laminate that is reminiscent of the 1980s.

6. Handle-Free Cabinets

Cabinet handles are functional, but they can also be fussy. The 1980s saw handles taking a backseat. Instead, doors were opened using J-pull handles that were part of the cabinet doors. The design gives a sleek, minimalist look to the cabinets themselves.

7. Kitchen Island

We might think of the kitchen island as being a modern innovation, but it was introduced around the 1950s and gained in popularity over the coming decades. Islands of the 1980s would typically be white laminate or the same honey oak that was popular in kitchen cabinets.

8. Island Seats

As well as the island itself, you should also look to introduce island seating. The island wasn’t just a place to prepare food, but it was somewhere to sit, eat, and even socialize. The kitchen became the hub of the home during the decade and for those kitchens with the space, the island became the heart. Because of the height of kitchen islands, the most popular seating was the tall stool.

9. Pantries

A pantry is used to store dry goods, and while the term usually refers to a separate small room or alcove, it is possible to create a pantry-style cupboard. Pantries next to the fridge were popular, and this is a convenient way of storing all your ingredients in the same area of the kitchen.

10. Banquette Seating

A banquette is a bench-style seat that is designed to fit within a specific space. It is typically hung from a wall in an alcove or under a window. This style of seating was popularized in the 1980s when it was combined with a table or dining area in the middle of the seating area. Banquette seating is a beneficial way to use areas of otherwise unused space that are difficult to fill.

11. Wood Furniture

Plastic may have been a popular material in the 80s, but so too was wood. As well as the popularity of honey oak cabinets, wood was also widely used in the manufacture of tables, chairs, dressers, islands, and other pieces of kitchen furniture. If you want to recreate an 80s feel in your kitchen, add a wooden dining table and wooden chairs. You can leave a natural wooden look or paint it.

12. Wood Beams

Another area of the kitchen where wood can be attractive as well as functional is in the ceiling beams. Exposed beams are an architectural feature that makes a bold statement, especially if the wood is stained dark and set against white ceilings. Alternatively, you can add faux wooden beams to give the appearance of natural architecture.

13. Large Microwave

The microwave became very popular in the 1980s, and while modern microwaves have gotten smaller and smaller, the 1980s microwave was a beast of an appliance. If you want a true 1980s-style microwave, opt for a white plastic-looking microwave and make sure it is proudly displayed on top of the honey oak units.

14. Houseplants

Plants can liven up any room including the kitchen, and the 1980s saw houseplants used liberally in the kitchen. Ensure you choose plants that like a humid environment and consider those that trail from shelves or hang from the ceiling to get the greatest effect from a relatively modest budget. Palms were also very popular, although they do need a lot of space.

15. Black Appliances

White appliances were still popular in the 1980s, but the decade saw the introduction of ivory and even black appliances. These can be used to great effect in a kitchen, either complimenting or contrasting the colors of your units, cabinets, and other features. Brighter colors, at least in terms of appliances, weren’t really available at this divider


The 1980s is derided by some but loved by others. When it comes to kitchens, if you like a honey oak finish and large microwaves, it’s the perfect design decade for you. If you prefer minimalism and sleek looks, it may not be the best option.

Add an island, with seating, and incorporate banquette seating in an alcove or under the window, and you not only have a great 1980s recreation, but you also have the ideal kitchen for entertaining friends and family.

Featured Image Credit: NataliaLavrivNedashkivska, Shutterstock


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