2020 was an important year for design because we all spent so much time at home due to the pandemic. The importance of our living spaces increased exponentially as our homes became our offices, classrooms, and gyms. The result was people wanting to change things up, upgrade, and create privacy in ways the ever-popular open floor plan that so many of us have just doesn’t provide.
Even as we begin to return to some semblance of a normal life outside the home, the pandemic is still a major influence on our lives and likely will be for some time. Whether we want to accept it or not, COVID-19 will continue to impact how we live in our homes and what they look like throughout 2021 or possibly longer.
Outdoors Influencing The Indoors
The influence of nature and the outdoors on interior design will be the most important trend of 2021. “I think it’s because this year, in an unparalleled way, nature has really been our big refuge and the greatest decorating inspiration. I think it’s an expansion on the idea of bringing the outdoors in,” says Danielle Blundell, Home Director of Apartment Therapy. “We’ve seen the indoors [going outside] or turning what little patio or small space of greenery that you have into an expansion of your living room.”
Indoor and outdoor pieces that look as if they’d fit perfectly in either location will only continue to grow in popularity in the upcoming year. “Rattan, wicker, and grasscloth furniture will always remain classic,” says Roxy Te Owens, founder and creative director of Society Social, which is an online store and retail boutique in Charlotte, North Carolina. “We’ve been producing this type of furniture for nearly 40 years and have seen our designs off to homes in the city to the country, at the coast and have seen them placed in spaces that range from traditional to contemporary to midcentury modern.”
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On the other end of the retail spectrum, rattan and wicker pieces are also becoming more readily available at big box stores like HomeGoods.“As we look to bring the outdoors in, organic elements will be represented more sculpturally in both furniture and décor. I’ve been gravitating towards beautiful benches and stools made from teak, cane, and rattan that make great accent pieces for foyers and living areas,” says HomeGoods Style Expert and interior designer, Beth Diana Smith, who has found many items at the store accessibly-priced under $100.
Consumers started to see a resurgence of curved sofas and love seats around the middle of 2020. These statement pieces add drama to a living room or even a home office, giving these spaces an instant makeover in one fell swoop. According to Rebecca Breslin, Senior Design Manager at Wayfair Professional, these designs evolved from art deco shapes and patterns. “Modern curved statement pieces soften and relax a room while maintaining a refined, architectural design. Rounded furnishings and other elements offer a sense of clarity, precision, and freshness to a space. This trend feels almost Parisian, where art meets design, with clean lines, light neutrals, and soft features,” she says.
Vibrant Shades Of Green
When it comes to furniture and accessories, Breslin predicts we will see a lot of emerald green in 2021. “A particularly rich hue, emerald nods to the height of spring, deep moss, pine-forest hues, and renewal.”
In addition to all of this, there has already been a renewed interest in green paint according to data from ColorReader EZ, which is a device that scans color and provides an accurate paint match. Lydia Fedos, Marketing Content Manager at DataColor, recommends a tone-on-tone look combining an herbal green wall like Farrow and Ball’s Sap Green and a gently contrasting trim in a richer shade such like Duck Green.
While green’s resurgence can be partially attributed to the outdoor influence, artist Elizabeth Sutton, who is known for her fearless use of color and whimsical yet sophisticated designs, sees the popularity of this color as a result of something much larger. “I’ve definitely seen a shift towards people’s attitude to color this year. A lot more people are willing to add color to their spaces these days, which I imagine is a result of wanting some positivity in their lives,” she says.
Not into green? “Warm neutrals are making a big comeback in 2021,” says Kate Lester of Kate Lester Interiors. “Right now I am really embracing taupes for cabinetry for trim, and using more and more tans and rust colors in all of our design schemes. When it doubt, think warm!”
While many design experts have declared the accent wall over, that doesn’t mean that boring walls are suddenly falling back into fashion. “Whether it is 3D wallpaper, fabric or natural fiber wall hangings, large wooden wall panels, or decorative plaster and finishes, textured walls offer a tactile and visually dynamic element to your rooms,” says Kelley Mason, Manager of Creative and Content at Lulu and Georgia.
Wallpaper murals are another option. “An affordable way to add drama to your home, murals are art in their own right,” founder and president of DecoratorsBest Barbara Karpf, tells me. “They cover the wall and provide unique art at the same time.”
Flexible Kitchen Layouts
As more people begin to gravitate toward layouts that provide privacy and flexibility, the days of the must-have open kitchen are coming to a close. “I am seeing a lot of enclosed kitchen spaces as opposed to large family room/kitchen areas that are open to the rest of the home, explains Christopher Peacock, CEO of cabinetry brand Christopher Peacock.
Still, the aesthetic of kitchens hasn’t shifted entirely, “Within that space the designs tend to be more open planned with wall shelving and less ‘built-in’ looking cabinetry,” he says.
Those who already have open kitchens will likely work with what they have, potentially moving walls or adding additional features to create privacy. Blundell believes that having some sense of visual separation, whether it is with French doors or a curtain can be a solution to this problem. Arched doorways are becoming another common option, especially for those who insist on preserving the integrity of the original floor plan.
Dramatic Use Of Stone
After staying home and staring at the same furniture, accessories, and walls, homeowners will opt for more dramatic designs and finishes in 2021, says Nancy Epstein, founder, and president of Artistic Tile. “Designers and homeowners are not shying away from showcasing the complexity or drama. Stone slabs are dominating backsplashes from countertop to ceiling, are cascading to the floor in waterfall edges, and wrapping around islands.”
Smart design choices for the long haul, they won’t soon look dated. “These stones are so unique and beautiful, and truly enhance these spaces as the basic neutrals they replace never could, says Epstein. “They’re complemented by renewed interest in colorful mosaics and textured stone tile with mixed finishes.”
As the appeal of the boho aesthetic starts to wane, it is becoming replaced by more classic traditional looks like Old English Countryside, which Joyce Downing Pickens of JDP Interiors sees as “much more timeless!”
But today’s traditionally influenced styles are nothing like the Laura Ashleys of yesteryear. Rifle Paper Co in particular has really reinvented what the flower print can be and how its incorporated into contemporary design schemes. “Flowers are timeless, natural, beautiful, and can be represented in so many styles and colors. You can find flowers depicted in art going all the way back to the Egyptians and in every art history period since so there is no reason to think they are going anywhere,” explains the brand’s co-founder and CCO Anna Bond.
This new spin on traditional will continue to thrive in 2021. “I find flowers to be endlessly inspiring and one of the central themes to my artwork. With everything going on in the world I was inspired to paint new floral prints for next year that are bright, colorful, and happy as a way to try to bring joy to people’s lives and in their homes,” says Bond.
Quality Over Quantity
“For 2021, it’s about quality over quantity. We’re taking lessons learned from solidarity and restrained life and applying them to what we choose to surround ourselves within our homes,” Maiden Home founder Nidhi Kapur tells me.
This trend is about design-forward details, expert craftsmanship, and adding touches of luxury. “We are choosing fewer but better things, and our hearts are set on pieces with artistic touches that nod to the natural world like caning, wood detailing, and refined tailoring. Now that our home environment is more important than ever, it’s all about adding livable luxuries—from iconic silhouettes to plush, design-forward fabrics,” she says.
The easiest way to do this is to opt for textiles that are rich in texture such as mohair, bouclé, shearling, and velvet. These materials are stylish, elevated and comfortable, which is exactly how most of us are hoping to describe our 2021.