A Complete Guide to Floral Print Trends Through the Decades

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A floral print living room from the 1970s era.

Photo: Steven Errico/Getty Images

1980s: The Grandiose Go-To

With steamy aerobics came hot colors and floral trends that “witnessed the rise of tropical patterns,” says Andrea Ancel, director of design at 100-plus-year-old floral service FTD. The motifs of flowers like heliconia, ginger, and birds of paradise covered almost every item in the home—the wallpaper, the valances, the curtains, the sofas, the dining chairs—all done up in Laura Ashley. “The light, breezy patterns became so popular that those who loved it apparently wanted it everywhere in their home,” Tori recalls of this period. Unlike the giant, singular floral at the center of one’s bedroom, interiors embraced what Joy refers to as “floral explosion and opulence.” The “abundance” of the decade made way for design icon Mario Buatta, the “Prince of Chintz,” and planted the seed for what we now know as “cottagecore.”

1990s: The Second-String

After such distinct decades, floral prints took a bit of a backseat. Andrea points out that the focus turned to linens and taupe fabrics, featuring the “delicate” presence of stephanotis, gardenias, and freesias—take Jennifer Aniston’s silk dress, for instance. Compared to flower power and avocado stoves, the ’90s do not boast much floral beauty.

2000s-2010s: The Intermission

These decades saw somewhat of a floral hiatus. By the early aughts, Jill remarks that “florals in American homes became associated with a dated aesthetic,” one that was “very much cliched and overdone.” Interiors incorporated the nostalgia of floral trends’ past, with an all-around “heavy focus on calla lilies and orchids” as Andrea notes. Tori says the 2010s introduced “pattern on pattern” with “floral prints covering focal walls in the background” alongside leopard prints and tassels. But following the experimental years came a diverse and distinct modern role for florals.

Today: The Mix and Match

Floral trends today are embodied in the concept of the grandmillennial: vintage wallpaper with bright chalk-painted frames; delicately embroidered tablescapes alongside floral-patterned lampshades; wood-tiered displays of your grandmother’s teacup collection. According to Andrea, this means tile designs defined by “abstract patterns [like] graphic petals [from] gerbera daisies, ranunculus, and dahlias.” She also shares that we’re bringing foliage directly into the home, either literally (à la wildflower chandeliers) or through earthier tones.

From the pandemic has also emerged a floral explosion. Designers are combining what Tori calls “playful vintage posters” like those by Astrid Wilson and Katherine Plumb with a dose of floral maximalism in the home. According to Pinterest, this year’s floral print searches became a popular element even in the nooks and crannies of the home, with key terms like “floral pillows” and even “floral stairs” on the rise.

So what’s next?

As Tori shares, “much of design is structured around global current events.” Perhaps this means more greenery, as it relates to sustainability, will be coming down the pike, or, as Andrea says, “bringing the beauty of the outdoors inside,” in an effort to assuage an ever-so-present climate anxiety. Alternatively, perhaps this means we will lean into tech-based design, what Jill defines as “more abstract graphic stylizations and photorealism.” In fact, Pinterest recently introduced their own AR design tool, Try on for Home Decor, which allows for new interior experimentation in relationship with floral trends.

Regardless of what comes next, floral prints have come to serve various roles for modern designers. For Tori, that role is infinite, “making or breaking a space”; for Andrea, they’re an extension of our surroundings and nature’s evolution; and for photographic artist and design studio lead Leonora Hamill, the more floral prints she incorporates, “the more interesting the dialogue becomes.”

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