Geoglam: For the Love of Eighties Opulence

Is this a thing?

Shawn Cremer

Let’s rewind the clock… It's December 31, 1981 and you and I are on our way to a New Year’s Eve party at a big house in Staten Island, the home of our mutual, always-ahead-of-the-curve friends and tonight’s hosts (perhaps a previous incarnation of Pete and Kim??). We arrive and are welcomed into a foyer that gleams with mirrors and brass, covering every angular surface. Our shoes sink into the thick shag rug underfoot.

Dining Area designed by Paul Rudolph via

We pass into the open plan entertaining space. The ceilings soar; several revelers lounge at the conversation pit in front of a gleaming brass fireplace while a spiral staircase leads to the upper rooms. Brett Easton Ellis is in paradise. 

Fireplace by Fiori Designs (1986) via

Throughout the night, we dance in the pink living room, have drinks at the black and mirrored bar, retreat to the cavern-like lounge, help ourselves to canapés at the lucite pedestal table, and spend more time than we should luxuriating in the opulent Jean-Claude Delépine-designed bathroom.

Bathroom in a home in New Jersey (1989), designed by Salkin Group Inc. Scanned from an issue of Custom Building Magazine (1990) via

Geoglam, short for ‘geometric glamorous’, is a member of the hyper-niche aesthetics family. The term was coined by the Consumer Aesthetics Research Institute (CARI) and shares space with such niche aesthetics as ‘Whimsicraft’ and ‘Cyberbougie’ as well as more well-known ones like Y2K. 

Interior by unknown designer, photographed by Sheldon Lettich via

According to Evan Collins, the co-founder of CARI, geoglam “is the mid 1970s - mid 1980s ‘luxurious materials + geometric forms’ design aesthetic” and features “tiered forms, angled surfaces, prismatic effects, simple geometric shapes in various compositions, dramatic and even somewhat disorienting spaces.”

Custom-designed bar area, designed by James Callahan via

Geoglam is the 1980s romanticizing the 1920s; it embodies a second age of decadence in America, of louche parties (“Cocaine Chic” has been suggested as an alternative name for the style) and the golden age of shopping culture. The architectural historian Melina Bee describes the style as “toned-down disco-deco vibes meets hotel lobbies and early malls.” And it is the case that many of the residential examples of geoglam have today been remodeled over, leaving shopping malls as the primary locations to see the aesthetic in its original form.

Why Geometric Glamorous Design Survives

I had to ask myself, why does this objectively outrageous aesthetic from forty years ago, against all odds, resonate so with the here-and-now? I think the answer must lie in our culture’s current multi-pronged rejection of the twenty-teens’ overbearing dominance of minimalism. Of course, as with anything maximalist, geoglam is not for everyone. But for several brands, the aesthetic has been a way to stand apart from the crowd.

And though our homes are now rarely cocaine chic temples, minor elements of geoglam — the gravitation toward (rather than removal of) glass blocks and mirrored surfaces, furniture with geometric forms, long and low seating, extravagantly prominent tropical houseplants — have found their way back into the spaces of certain stylish homeowners. 

If I think of designing my home the same way I think about putting together a really excellent dinner, the aesthetic definitions that groups like CARI produce are the techniques. They add an underlying provenance and cohesion to the flavor combinations I’ll form with my ingredients (which in the case of home decor are the objects). So, though I won’t ever create a fully geoglam home, I am better served as a collector by my familiarity with the style. Like with cooking, I can take the pieces of the geoglam aesthetic I like and fold them into a room design in unexpected ways, leaving aside that which doesn’t serve me. 

Shawn is an independent contributor at Dendwell.
Interior by David James, image via Evan Collins


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