The domesticated disco ball: how interior design went retro in 2021

From decorating makeshift dance halls to adorning celebrity mansions, we take a look at the centrepiece of dance fever at home

American interior designer Kelly Wearstler has created a disco ball that looks like it's melting off a countertop. Photo: Kelly Wearstler
Powered by automated translation

Last year, the world changed as we know it. Garden sheds became makeshift bars, bathrooms became beauty spas and living rooms became dance halls – and what’s a disco without a disco ball?

Now, as DIY haircuts have long ceased and cocktail shakers are gathering dust, the disco ball is shining on and, according to some experts, it’s here to stay.

Interior designer Madeleine Latti, of Dubai Marina design firm Studio Lykos, insists the disco ball has been the driving force of the retro resurgence.

Emma Thompson recently installed a giant glitter ball in her hallway
Kat Wightman, of Katherine Clare Interiors

“During lockdown, people really missed dancing and created that kind of environment at home as somewhere where you can not only relax, but also enjoy yourself,” she says.

“Putting up a disco ball is such a simple way to add a bit of retro glamour to a room and transform the whole vibe.”

Many of us associate the early glitter ball with a young John Travolta sashaying across our screens with dappled light dancing across his slicked-back ‘do in 1977 blockbuster Saturday Night Fever, yet the first disco ball can be traced back as far as 1897.

Fast forward to 1917 and Louis Bernard Woeste officially patented the festive installation, which was then called a "myriad reflector", and in the 1920s jazz era, the disco ball had its day once again.

After almost half a century in the dark, the treasured party symbol reared its shiny head for one last hurrah on the 1970s club scene and now it’s settling down into domestic bliss in the homes of the rich and famous.

Glimmers of the disco ball started to appear last year when Sophie Ellis-Bextor launched her lockdown Kitchen Disco, with the singer and her children letting loose weekly beneath a huge silver orb at their West London home.

“The disco ball has existed for a hundred years and it always disappears and comes back, but this year in particular people were missing nightlife, so it almost creates this artsy party in the house,” says Ana Bunjevac, who owns Willow & Birch Interiors in Dubai.

Interior designer Kat Wightman, of Katherine Clare Interiors, says after the lockdown ended, other celebrities continued to jump on the trend. “I feel that after a forced extended hiatus of dance floor outings, we’re all craving a little old school disco ball glamour at home and that includes celebrities.

“Emma Thompson recently installed a giant glitter ball in her hallway to support her husband Greg Wise during his stint on Strictly Come Dancing.

“It immediately adds a playful retro theme to any room.”

Latti says the most notable celebrity glitter ball belongs to supermodel Cara Delevingne, whose Los Angeles mansion houses a crystal chandelier with a disco ball at its centre.

Delevingne worked on her eclectic interior design with Nicolo Bini of Line Architecture, with a ball pit and a costume room adding to the overall pleasure dome feel. “The big crystal chandelier in the living room wasn’t exactly my thing, so we put a disco ball in the middle of it and added coloured lights,” Delevingne told Architectural Digest. “All of a sudden it feels like me.”

For Bunjevac, the beauty of the disco ball is all about the personality it brings. “It’s like jewellery for your home,” she says, with a laugh. “When you see a disco ball, it can take you back to a memory or a place and it’s a great conversation starter if you have one in your home.

“Lots of designers have very eclectic tastes that incorporate different styles and designs into a room and disco balls can be a lot of fun, but they can also be very classy.

“It’s essentially made up of little pieces of mirror on a round ball, so it’s nothing super crazy but it’s the reflection that makes it special.”

Although the classic ball of discos past is making a strong resurgence, new variations are what make the trend so exciting to interior design enthusiasts.

“A really famous American interior designer, Kelly Wearstler, recently created a disco ball that looks like it's melting off a countertop,” says Latti.

“It’s an incredible interpretation of the classic disco ball that oozes sophistication.

“A disco ball can add luxury, light and visual variety, and the rising popularity of them in 2021 isn’t surprising at all.”

With the festive season approaching, design experts are predicting the trend will snowball, with both flashy and discreet ways of incorporating retro glamour into the home.

“I think if you’re committed to a disco ball, it’s got to be a big one,” says Wightman. “During the festive season, you can add smaller ones around the house, even on the Christmas tree.

“A fabulous table lamp version or even a pendant will cast continuous magic throughout your home.”

Huge ornamental disco balls look great underneath the Christmas tree or on the floor near the entrance
Ana Bunjevac, interior designer

Bunjevac, meanwhile, suggests taking a modern approach to the retro spheres. “You can use two or three different sized ones on your dining room table as a centrepiece,” she recommends. “You can even cut one in half and frame it to make a wall collage; it all just depends on your personal style.”

The beauty of the disco ball is in its versatility, says Latti. “Huge ornamental disco balls look great underneath the tree or on the floor near the entrance,” she says. “You can use it as a small decoration or make it your centrepiece – whatever works for you.

“Above the dining table is also a great spot for when people gather together to celebrate and that’s what retro-style decor is all about – having some fun with it.”

Updated: November 14, 2021, 10:10 AM