What is grunge design? How to decorate with the nostalgic style

Everything you need to know about the ‘90s look, plus grunge decor buys

Two pictures of grunge decor — one of a wall tapestry and one of a neon sign — on a black glittery background
(Image credit: UO)
Grunge design: Quick Menu

If you’re looking for an edgy way to decorate your home, grunge design might be for you. It’s a darker home decor style that can make a place look really cozy, all while showing off your personality and music taste.

I have a little confession: As a teen, I was a majorly moody girl, who loved dressing in dark colors. Sadly, my parents never let me decorate my room in full grunge style — but that didn’t stop me from scrolling through Tumblr for hours and curating my dream room. So, I’m very familiar with the grunge aesthetic.

Love dark decorating ideas, but want something with a bit more attitude? I’ve got you. I’ve sought out expert advice on what grunge design is, its history, and what its style is all about.

Your grunge design questions, answered

Grab your black eyeliner and your net gloves — we’re about to go on a grunge home decor journey. As well as delving into the ins and outs of the home design trend, I’ve also picked out some gray and black decor buys, so you can get the look.

The prices below were correct at the time of publishing this article.

What is grunge design? 

First of all, what does grunge mean in terms of home design? “The grunge home aesthetic is a darker and edgier aesthetic style depicted by neon lights, vinyl records, glitches, and the color black,” explains Mariya Snisar, head of interior design at Renowell. “In grunge designs, creased paper pieces, ''broken'' icons, torn images, and dirty stains are as popular as dirty textures and hand-drawn elements.” She adds that hand-drawn elements boast the ability to convey an individual note and a personality, while dirty textures work well as a base for darker colors.

A picture of Mariya Snisar in a white room with fairy lights in the background
Mariya Snisar

Mariya Snisar is the head of interior design at home renovation service Renowell. She has a deep passion for designing beautiful and personalized spaces that embody the personality and style of each client. With a family background in construction, she has worked on numerous successful interior design projects throughout her 12-year career.

What is the history of grunge design? 

It’s quite a unique style, so you may be wondering where it actually came from. Snisar explains: “Historically, grunge's roots date back to the ‘90s hard rock scene in Seattle, Washington.” She continues, ”It was an anti-consumerism and countercultural musical genre and youth movement that defined Generation X. Bands such as Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana enjoyed prominence during this period as they captured the raw emotions and challenges of a generation disappointed with mainstream culture.” 

At its core, Snisar stresses that there was more to grunge than just music — it was a social-cultural movement that defied the conformity and materialism of the time. “Many young people who were disappointed with ‘80s excesses resonated deeply with the sentiment at the time. Although grunge's heyday might have passed, there's no doubt that its legacy endures.” That has definitely been proven in recent times, with sites such as Tumblr popularizing the style again in recent years.

How to design with grunge decor 

Intrigued by the design style? These are Snisar’s top tips for decorating with it:

  • Consider industrial style lighting: “The three lighting styles that should complement your urban-inspired and grunge decor are concrete lighting, metal lighting, and rattan pendant lighting,” explains Snisar.
  • Embrace natural materials: Snisar suggests filling your home with different natural home décor items that conform to bold and unique designs, ready and rough textures, and earthy color tones.
  • Choose rustic and distressed flooring: “If comfort is your top priority at home, I recommend using a squishy carpet underfoot,” Snisar tells me. “Nonetheless, if you desire to capture the true essence of a grunge home, then consider oversized concrete tiles and reclaimed wood flooring.”
  • Style with distressed fabrics: “Distressed bed throws or couches, thin Turkish bath towels, or natural fiber placements will all add comfort, while still looking harsh,” adds Snisar.
  • Look for industrial home accessories: From industrial-inspired storage units and shelving to wonky wooden towel ladders, Snisar says you can allow your imagination to run free with the countless possibilities for how differently you can style your home.

Get the look with these grunge decor buys

If you’re feeling inspired, here are six stylish yet affordable buys to help you bring the nineties style into your home.

The prices below were correct at the time of publishing this article.

Now you know how to make your place look grunge, you can play around with other darker styles. For example, witchcore pieces would mix and match really well with this style. No matter how you choose to decorate, bringing your personality in is always a great idea.

Eve Smallman
Staff Writer

Hi there! I’m a staff writer at Real Homes. I've been a lifestyle journalist for over five years, previously working as an editor across regional magazines. Before this, I graduated from Nottingham Trent University a degree in journalism, along with an NCTJ gold diploma. I love running, decorating my rented Victorian home, and discovering new cheeses.