Diner Decor Is the Nostalgia-Filled Trend to Try for a Casually Retro Home

Playfulness and a fondness for days gone by (and pancakes) combine in this rising decorating trend, which brings the comfortable atmosphere of a diner home.

There is something quintessentially American about the diner. You’ll find a version of these casual restaurants everywhere from New York City to the rural heartland to the fictional Peach Pit of our best-known zip code (Beverly Hills 90210). Diners feel suspended in time, a rare public place where you can make yourself at home. The relaxed atmosphere naturally fosters connections—something that we’ve all been yearning for.

Retro kitchen with bright red oven and stove

Emily J. Followill

With all that in mind, it may not come as a surprise that it seems diner decor has transcended from timeless to trendy, and a style inspired by the iconic decor of these restaurants is popping up all over. Even Urban Outfitters has created a diner-inspired home line providing cute and kitschy accessories. After all, who doesn’t want a kitchen where friends and family gather over hot coffee and simple yet satisfying food (diner pancakes, anyone?).

The first step to getting that comfortable diner atmosphere is setting the stage with your design. Luckily, you don’t need a major renovation to try this punchy and playful look. Read on to find out more about diner decor and get experts’ easy tips on using accessories and making minor changes to bring this fun, nostalgia-filled style in your home.

  • Marc Sievers is a cookbook author, entertaining expert, and creative stylist.
  • Kristin “Baker Bettie” Hoffman is the owner of Bettie’s Chicago, a diner-themed event space and recreational cooking and baking school.
Retro kitchen with diner-style bar stools and checker wall

Better Homes & Gardens

What Is Diner Decor?

“When I think of diner decor, I immediately think of heavier stoneware mugs and oval plates banned in solid colors, the iconic plastic squeeze bottles filled with ketchup and mustard, pops of bright colors, and a classic black and white checkerboard floor,” says Marc Sievers. But the design scheme and accessories are just jumping-off points. “Diner decor is really about setting the tone for retro FUN!” Sievers says.

And who isn’t looking for a little more fun in their lives these days? Kristin “Baker Bettie” Hoffman of Bettie’s Chicago believes the climate of the last few years is the reason behind the recent resurgence of people’s appreciation of vintage.

“I think during the pandemic there overall was a huge resurgence of vintage style,” she says. “Many people find comfort and feel nostalgic from leaning into previous generations’ styles, even if they didn’t actually live during those generations. I suspect this has contributed to why diner style is trending right now.”

While Hoffman’s connection to the style is personal, she finds the appeal of vintage diner style to be universal.

“I was raised with parents who were big vintage collectors,” she says. “We had a 1950s coke machine and 50s jukebox in my home my whole life, as well as a ton of vintage decor … I don’t know if it is quantifiable, but you can see how much people light up when they walk into our vintage diner-themed space.”

Retro kitchen with red island and diner-style bar stools

Better Homes & Gardens

How to Try Diner Decor in Your Home

While diner style is big and bold, it doesn’t have to dominate your home.

“I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to overhaul your kitchen and dining room to make room for a trend you connect with,” Sievers says. “For diner decor, start with something simple like a black and white checkerboard dinner plate. While the graphic pattern might not seem as versatile, use it for this trend then layer it with pretty floral antique salad plates (even better if they don’t match!) or blue and white salad plates. Take this trend a step further and introduce solid red, yellow, or even teal fabric napkins. If your budget doesn’t allow for new napkins, paper ones will work just fine (wrap your flatware around the paper ones for even more diner vibes!).”

And if you’re ready to lean further into diner decor, you have plenty of options for that, too.

“Want to give your dining surface a quick diner makeover? Cover it with vinyl-by-the-yard fabric, and choose a bold color, this isn’t the time to be shy! When you get tired of it, it can easily be removed and repurposed,” Sievers says.

If you like how things look as you layer in your diner-inspired items, then you can build on the accessories with furniture and more permanent decor.

“If you’re looking to do a bigger overhaul of your space, a vinyl black and white checkered floor immediately communicates diner decor,” Sievers says.

To keep things fresh and modern, stay away from stark contrasts.

“[Try] opting for more of a dark grey and an off-white, rather than a stark black and white, as the latter can lean a little tacky looking,” Hoffman says. “This is the flooring we have in our space and it gets constant compliments. You can also easily find reproduction chrome-edge tables and vinyl-covered diner-style chairs these days. I also recommend looking for chairs with more of a matte finish, rather than shiny and bright, as they will look more authentic.”

Ultimately, how far you take the trend is up to you. Whether you decide to dabble in diner decor or do an all-out renovation, the key to diner decor is how it makes you feel. If stepping into your newly redesigned retro kitchen puts a smile on your face, then it’s a success!

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles