Sourdough starters, puzzles, virtual workouts—2020 has seen our home life drastically change, and every inch of our houses and apartments is being tested to the limit. Without restaurants to go to or vacations to take, disposable incomes have shifted to cast-iron pots, yoga mats…and renovations. In many ways 2020 has also been the year of installing second dishwashers and soundproofing Zoom offices.
So what does this mean for layouts, materials, and dominating colors in 2021? We asked 12 interior designers, renovating pros, and architects for their predictions.
If 2020 was the year we realized that open-concept living isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, 2021 is when we really start to remedy the situation. “Quarantine has shown us that being open to everything and everyone in our home is not necessarily a positive, especially when people are working from home,” says Clara Jung of Banner Day Interiors. She isn’t the only one expressing that sentiment. Serial renovators Emily Henderson and Anita Yokota believe that adding walls is the way to go in the future. “I think we’ll see people moving away from the traditional great room,” says Yokota.
Spending so much time at home has given families the itch to find new ways of connecting to their backyards. “I love the idea of walkways that provide a path between rooms, while still allowing the outdoors in,” says Tiffany Thompson of Duett Interiors, who recommends taking it to the next level with greenery. “The lockdown has made homeowners realize that usable outdoor space is a big must-have,” adds interior designer Shanty Wijaya, founder of Allprace, who recently renovated her own home to maximize outdoor space. Expect a huge focus on landscape design and large windows to draw in natural light.
Unused guest rooms? Junk-accumulating garages? Things of the past. Henderson and Jean Brownhill, founder and CEO of Sweeten, both predict the rise of ADUs (accessory dwelling units) next year. “They are being reimagined as in-law spaces or granny flats, short-term rentals, and home offices,” says Brownhill of the projects she’s seen lately.
“Like their parents, kids need a creative space where they can work on craft projects or participate in remote classes,” says John I. Kim of Kimoy Studios. With kids spending more time at home, people are looking for separate play and school rooms where they can contain the inevitable mess. “I challenge people to think about how they maximize their space for their everyday use,” adds Thompson. Already, interior designer Lauren Caron of Studio Laloc is seeing client requests rise for craft rooms, home offices, and home gyms.
Marble may be all the rage as far as countertops go, but interior designer Breegan Jane is betting on manufactured stone as the next big thing. “Porcelain isn’t really being used in kitchen spaces anymore, and we’ve moved away from incorporating real stone because of upkeep costs,” she explains. Jordan Slocum and Barry Bordelon, aka the Brownstone Boys, are excited about using terrazzo and tadelakt, a waterproof cement-like finish popular in Southwestern-style kitchens. You can also expect thicker mitered countertop edges to be the norm, especially on vanities. “It’s an easy way to elevate a bathroom with minimal effort,” says Jung. For floors, Henderson is turning to checkered motifs.
We’ve all been through a lot this year, and the need for comfort is showing in our decorating (and renovating) choices. As a result, industrial-style, mirrored furniture and bulky farmhouse elements like barn doors are falling out of favor while Scandinavian hygge and warm minimalism (think: wood, stone, organic textures) are here to stay. Wijaya, who embraces simple and uncluttered spaces, is also placing her bets on more wellness-focused reading nooks and sunrooms. “I think we’ll be seeing more parents-only zones that soothe, ease stress, and enliven,” says Leann Conquer of design firm Chroma. “A getaway in your home for playing games, listening to records, reading a favorite novel, and escaping.”
“I believe there will be a real deep dive into filling every inch of our homes with aromatherapy diffusers, weighted blankets, and ambient lighting,” adds Yokota. “Due to heightened anxiety, we’re all desperate to make our home into a sanctuary to quell all those feelings.” Lighting can greatly contribute to (or detract from) that warmth, so skipping recessed lighting as the main source is inevitable. “It’s helpful in a few key areas, but in living rooms and bedrooms, it’s too harsh and direct,” says Slocum.
Paint is another area where cooler tones like grays and blues are being replaced with cozier shades. “It will be natural for us to gravitate, psychologically, to earthy palettes,” says Yokota, whose top pick for 2021 is Sherwin-Williams’s Urbane Bronze. Henderson, meanwhile, is drawn to browns and rich tans, and Caron is gravitating toward rusts, yellows, buttercreams, and Key lime greens. “I’m completely fixated on Farrow & Ball’s India Yellow right now and dreaming up bathrooms and laundry rooms to use those deep, rich yellows ASAP,” she says. Different applications, like textured walls, a contrasting trim color, bold checkered floors (Henderson’s trend of choice), or a tuxedo kitchen (one with both light and dark cabinets)—Jane’s trend pick—make it easier to take a bigger color risk.
Brighter hues are also on the radar. “For so long we only used whites and neutrals in our Rolodex of finishes, but recently we’ve been really big fans of pink earth tones,” says Slocum. On her end, Jane is noticing a bolder shade: teal. “It’s my personal favorite color,” she says. “It evokes the ocean and a connection to nature. If vacation and escape had a color, it would definitely be teal.” Conquer used the same shade in a recent project, but had it hand-applied in a limewash finish for a layered feel.
“Home renovators will be more conscious of the materials and finishes they are putting into their homes,” says Bordelon, who anticipates sustainability to be a big driving factor in 2021 reno decisions. Specifically, Wijaya and Thompson are turning to natural stones, reclaimed materials, and consciously sourced wood, while Caron is embracing historic finishes like reclaimed old floors, antiques, and vintage hardware and fixtures. “We often don’t pay attention to the materials that dress our bedrooms and bathrooms, how they make us feel, and how they interact with the environment,” says Thompson. “We should reconsider what luxury looks like and celebrate imperfections.”