The Ultimate Guide To Vaporwave

If you've looked around design mood boards on Pinterest lately, you've probably come across the music-inspired decors of vaporwave, synthwave, retrowave, and outrun aesthetics. According to The A.V. Club, the "Stranger Things" phenomenon has introduced more people to synthwave. While synthwave and vaporwave are different music styles that feature different tones, the aesthetic is pulled from similar periods of time (via Producer Hive). While synthwave focuses on the neon lights and computer graphics of the '80s, vaporwave also pulls from the '90s and early 2000s, in addition to the '80s.

According to Esquire, vaporwave, which is almost entirely internet-based, came into being as a response to things like consumerism and mainstream culture — making vaporwave quite counterculture. While the genre is based in the music scene, it's also become more popular as an artistic movement, which has extended into interior design (via Vapor Wave Boutique). These styles, like the "Stranger Things" craze, pull at nostalgia and melancholy of the '80s, '90s, and early 2000s — and here's how to decorate your home with this subculture in mind.

Start with a moody wall

The Other Aesthetic refers to vaporwave interior design as combining classic video game and arcade styles with the grunge aesthetic. One of the easiest ways to get that aesthetic into your home is to paint your walls a dark, moody color. While vaporwave favors colors like pink, purple, and blue, there's no limit to what color you want to pick for your home. If you're not sure which color to paint your wall, designers recommend black-based shades like Tricorn Black by Sherwin Williams, or Backwoods by Benjamin Moore, which is more of an earthy dark green (via Porche & Co.)

According to designer Elizabeth Morton at Em Creative Co., if you want to paint your walls a moody color, carry the same paint color on your walls, trim, and ceiling, which will help you create a seamless look that increases the drama of the space. She also suggests using muddled colors, which have a gray or black hue to them. This keeps things more neutral and easier to work with. It's also suggested that when you paint with a moody color, to pick your paint sheen carefully (via Clark + Aldine). Paints with a glossier sheen are more durable. Additionally, when decorating a moody space, pick accessories that are also moody, dark, or bold to increase the drama in the room.

Use colorful ambient lighting

The vaporwave design aesthetic is known for its moody lighting and LED accents. It's safe to say that when you're decorating with vaporwave in mind, you can have fun with your lighting — and there are many different ways you can do it. According to E.P. Light, you can add wall sconces. Wall sconces come in a variety of designs and wiring options, like hardwired, plug-in, or hybrids, which feature both options. You can also add puck lights to hardwired sconce, making it renter friendly (via Orpha Beatrice on YouTube). 

Puck lights are available in a wide variety of options, including warm white and colorful, making them perfect to bring ambiance into a vaporwave room. Check out backlit panels or LED strips for behind your headboards, mirrors, bedside tables, and in your bathroom. If you're installing LED light strips, make sure to properly clean the surface you're adhering them to first, and cut the light strips to size based on manufacture instructions (via Lepro on YouTube).

Additionally, you can add unique lighting into your space, such as chandeliers, track lights, or ceiling mounted fixtures (via BlissLights). Utilize light projectors that feature details such as sunrises, twinkling stars, or floating clouds. And if you don't want to purchase a projector, you can find light bulbs that create a similar effect from an existing lamp.

Decorate with neon

When choosing to decorate with neon, there's so many different ways to go about it. According to ONE Neon, neon signs are a colorful way to add vibrancy and visual interest into a space. If you want to decorate with neon signs, consider where you'll be placing them. Some neon signs can be hung up on a wall, while others are displayed on tables. Additionally, neon signs allow you to customize your space with something that matters to you, whether it be an icon or emoji, a quote, or your last name. When purchasing a neon sign, you can get one custom made, pre-made one, or you can even make your own using neon light EL wire, aluminum wire, a mounting board, and a hot glue gun (via Cipta Craft on YouTube). 

When picking a neon sign, whether you create your own or purchase one, make sure to consider the size of your wall and the surrounding objects (via Interior Notes). If you pick a neon sign that's too small, it may get lost on your wall, while picking one that's too large may cause everything around it to appear cluttered. You also want to make sure you pick a color that compliments your space. If you pick too light of a color, the design will lose its dramatic flare at night, and if you place too dark of a color on a dark wall, it will be difficult to see.

Hang up vaporwave-inspired posters

Hanging up posters is one of the easiest ways to make your room embody a design style. Many people are deterred from decorating with posters because they think their only way of incorporating them into their design is to adhere them to walls with tape or pins. But there are so many ways to make posters more modern and grown up in your current space. According to Window Shop Gal, when choosing prints, make sure to pick those that are sized appropriately for your space. If you decorate with prints that are too small and they're stand alone (meaning not part of a gallery wall), then the print and the overall room can appear cheap and unfinished. Posters can also be used to define accent tones and textures in a space, which creates visual interest and balance. When picking a poster, choose colors that will be prevalent in your room, or will compliment them well.

Additionally, when framing a poster, pick a frame that adds to the style of the print. For example, wide frames compliment vintage looking posters, while slim frames are clean and modern. A common mistake people make with framing is that they choose large borders thinking it'll show off their art piece. However, the wrong print can get lost in a wide border frame or matte.

Paint your walls bright colors

Vaporwave is all about bold colors incorporated into designs. One great way to add these hues to your space is by picking bright color walls either as accents or the main color. According to, when picking a bright color for your wall, it helps to stick to a consistent color scheme throughout the space. Using an interior design rule, like the 60/30/10 rule, will help you distribute color evenly and make sure the room is visually stimulating without being overwhelming. Additionally, when decorating a room with bold colors, use a unifying piece to bring everything together. This can be done through an art piece, rug, or accent chair. Another interior design rule for color distribution is to pull your color palette from the unifying piece and distribute them across the room.

Whichever color you go with, make sure to pick one that evokes an emotional response (via Camille Styles). For example, a shade of blue makes you happy, while a shade of red may remind you of a favorite childhood toy. If you're not sure which rooms to paint bright colors, a good rule of thumb is tend towards entertaining rooms, such as a dining room, kitchen, or living room. Some designer favorites for bright colored paint are rich teal shades like Benjamin Moore's In the Tropics, or a vibrant marigold like Sherwin Williams' Alchemy.

Add patterns to the floor

A fun way to incorporate the vaporwave aesthetic into your home is to decorate with patterns, specifically patterns on your floor. This can be done in many ways. According to Bethany's Home Made on YouTube, you can paint your floor using special floor stencils and chalk paint to create an elevated look. You can also use renter-friendly vinyl floor stickers to temporarily change the appearance of your existing flooring (via Sweet Vanilla on YouTube). If you're going to install peel and stick vinyl, make sure it's one specifically made for flooring and to follow the manufacturer's instructions based on your original floor type.

If you don't want to commit to flooring, you can also use a patterned rug in your space. When picking a patterned rug, make sure to follow your existing color palette. If your existing decor does not match your rug and you want to make the space have continuity, consider swapping out pillow covers or your window treatments. Additionally, if you want to increase the moodiness in your space, swap your rug out for a saturated color rug with a subtle pattern to really turn up the drama (via House & Home on YouTube). You can also use an artistic rug to add dimension to your space. When you move an artistic rug around, it can pull colors differently based on which direction it's oriented.

Add chrome detailing and accents

Vaporwave decor is big on using metallic and chrome accents. According to Designbx, a great way to incorporate chrome accents in your space is to replace your fixtures with chrome or metallic ones. For example, chrome kitchen hardware pairs perfectly with marble and limestone, and chrome light fixtures compliment a large space. Additionally, you can work in chrome and metallic accents by swapping out the materials on your existing furniture, like changing out chair legs for reflective chrome ones, or replacing your wood headboard with something metallic. If you want to incorporate chrome in a more subtle way, consider swapping out your light switch coverings or adding chrome candle holders to an entryway table. You can also add in chrome and metallic details with vases, lamps, and clocks.

Be aware of the different chrome finish options: brushed or polished (via The Soho Lighting Co.). Brushed is a finish that has been finely scratched using an abrasive process, which gives it a more matte finish. It's a perfect choice for homeowners that want to hide fingerprints or will be using the accent in a high-touch environment. Brushed is also incredibly versatile and compliments virtually any decor styles. Polished chrome, on the other hand, compliments art deco, modern, and contemporary styles, but it requires much more maintenance to keep it reflective.

Embrace the '90s and Y2K

Because vaporwave is heavily influenced by the '80s, '90s, and early 2000s, there's no better place to look for inspiration than the trends of those times. Etsy Trend Expert, Dayna Isom Johnson told Business of Home, "We're seeing a return to all things retro, from '90s prints and patterns to the decor styles of the early 2000s, which remind us of simpler times." And the trend is here to stay. Johnson continues, "There's been a 187% increase in searches on Etsy for 'Y2K decor' in the last three months, compared with the same time the previous year." 

The Y2K decor in question are staples of vaporwave interior design. Fabrics like velour, inflatable furniture, metallic upholstery, and iridescent finishes have found their way back into the interior design space. These designs are also incredibly futuristic, bright, and use bold geometric shapes and lines. If you're looking for Y2K2 decor in stores, you don't have to look far. According to HGTV, items like inflatable or neon hue furniture pieces are back in stores like Urban Outfitters and Kohl's. 

Decorate with bold bedding

An easy way to bring color into your room is through bold bedding. This bedding can be bold in color or print, or have a nostalgic pattern. According to Ballard Designs, incorporating patterned bedding into your room is a great way to create depth and visual interest. You can also compliment your bedding with a statement headboard.

If you want to work statement-making bedding into your space, a great place to start is to make sure that you're consistent with your color palette. Sticking to similar colors will create a unified look and allow you to play with a combination of hues and patterns. If you're mixing patterns, make sure to mix them in size and style. You can also mix bold bedding with different textures — a great way to do this is by layering duvets and quilts. When picking a color of bedding, focus on the overall vibe of your room (via Bed Threads). A bed is usually the focal point and can drastically alter how the room is perceived. You can also mix and match different colors and patterns to pull out different accent colors.

Stick to a vaporwave color scheme

While rooms that embody vaporwave can use a variety of color palettes, many people choose to use vaporwave or synthwave-inspired colors. According to PremiumBeat, the visual color scheme of synthwave is inspired by '80s retro-futurism, which features neon colors, sunsets, and dark backdrops that compliment the vibrant shades. Vaporwave follows surreal '90s iconography with neoclassical elements like Roman statues. This is inspired by mall decor in the '90s, glitchy visuals, and even tropical themes. The color palettes tend to have a lighter base, with bright pastel colors as accents.

According to, pastel colors are often associated with calmness and relaxation, because the shades are visually soft. In interior design, pastel color palettes are used to evoke feelings of joy, freshness, and a reminder of new beginnings. Some common shades of pastel used in interior design are millennial pink, formerly known as Tumblr pink, pistachio green, soft yellow, and light azure.

If you're looking to decorate with pastel colors, you can choose to highlight one piece in particular with a pastel paint, such as a chair or even a dining room table (via Houzz). You can also mix textiles and textures in the same color, but different hues, to create a soft and modern look. Additionally, color blocking is a great way to add in more than one pastel shade and create a statement.

Play with holographic accents

Vaporwave is all about using '90s and futuristic nostalgia in their decor. One of the key details with vaporwave interior design is its use of holographic accents. According to CovetED, holographic design isn't unique to vaporwave, in fact, it can be traced back to the '20s, and even as far back as the Renaissance Period (who knew?). A great way to work holographic decor into your home is through furniture with metallic ambiance, like a jewel-toned mirrored nightstand.

Additionally, you can also go bold with holographic divider walls or large scale wall art (via The Architectonista). There are many different decor items with this finish popping up on the market in response to the Y2K resurgence, such as this acrylic table from Lights Moon. You can also turn your existing chair into a holographic masterpiece by reupholstering it with a holographic tissue paper (via Paper & Stitch).

Use funky mirrors

You can also bring in a vaporwave aesthetic into your space by having fun with mirrors. Vaporwave is known for funky mirrors that light up, use holographic accents, are sculptural, fantasy, or future inspired. If you don't want to buy one, there are plenty of DIYs that allow you to customize your existing and more traditional mirror. Think Gold on YouTube, shows how to take a rectangular framed mirror and use Tite Foam to instantly give it a cloud effect. You can leave it white, or go back and paint it a bright vaporwave-inspired color. Create a hot pink Ultrafragola Mirror dupe using a much more thorough and time-consuming approach (via Fashion Attack on Youtube) — but it'll sure be worth it. Many people have also duped sculptural mirrors from stores like Anthropologie, using crumpled paper, tape, paper mache, and paint (via Tina Lee on YouTube).

If you want to decorate with mirrors, consider using your mirror to bounce and accentuate lighting, especially in areas that don't have much access to natural light (via Star Furniture). You can also place mirrors strategically to give the appearance of a larger room. Additionally, large floor mirrors are great ways to play with scale and make a room appear taller and more grand.

Scour Etsy and other online retailers

If you're looking for vaporwave decor, there are many retailers that are carrying vaporwave and Y2K-inspired items in stores. However, there are also storefronts that specialize in the unique items associated with vaporwave aesthetics. Interior designer Kate DeWitt on YouTube sources her home decor from Etsy. When shopping, Kate searches the item she's looking for with descriptive keywords words, such as "vintage chandelier" — but in this case, you can search vaporwave. She also makes sure that items fit in her space and that electric items are compatible with modern day wiring.

If you want to purchase your decor online, especially for affordable prices, subscribe to your favorite retailers' email lists to see when they're having a sale (via Stone Gable). Be sure to measure your space so you know your items will fit, and read the company's return and refund policies to ensure you can get your money back if an item isn't to your standards. Additionally, you can contact retailers for material samples or swatches. Lastly, when you're purchasing online, make sure to read the reviews of the item carefully and do your research on the overall durability and ease of assembly.