2021's Hottest Design Trends According to Experts ... It's all about plants, colors, and art
By Claudia Guthrie
In 2020, we all spent a lot more time at home. (Even I, a reliable homebody, have never spent this much time in my apartment). Going into the new year, it’s clear we’ll be in this new always-at-home lifestyle for a while longer—which means it’s time to rethink your living space.
Though home design trends are always changing, the events of 2020 have us focused on two main themes: building a functional space, and creating a sense of calm and joy despite a tumultuous outside world. We spoke to five experts about what design trends we can expect to see going into 2021.
Go Blue or Go Home
Classic blue was named 2020’s Pantone color of the year, and interior designer Vikki Long says blues are here to stay well into the new year. She says we can expect to see lots of navy and velvet blues in particular. “You have to be careful with blues, though, because some can make you feel depressed,” she says. For some balance, Long recommends infusing splashes of bright colors, such as yellows or gold tones.
Why we love it: By painting your walls a soothing color like blue, your room is instantly transformed into a place for relaxation. As Long says, “Because you’re spending the majority of your time at home, you just want to have a place where you can exhale.”
Let Light In
Open up your windows and put away any heavy curtains. Designer Michelle Martel says in 2021 there will be a focus on bringing as much natural light as possible into your home, especially during winter months. Hang some blinds or sheer curtains, or simply keep your windows bare, to invite in the sunlight. “It’s an easy and fast way to bring in some light and make our space feel so much more comfortable,” Martel says. Bonus points if you have a skylight!
Why we love it: There are so many benefits to natural light, including an increase in serotonin. And because we’re not venturing out as often due to social distancing, filling your home with sunlight has never been more important.
Become a Plant Parent
Plentiful natural light gives you the perfect excuse to turn your home into a plant paradise. Interior designer Alvin Wayne says that while faux plants may have been convenient in the past, this year you should go for the real deal. “Because everybody is confined to being at home, those little things bring you joy,” Wayne says. “[Plants are] something you can take care of and [they] get your mind off of everything that’s going on. … There are definitely way more benefits to having real plant life versus faux plants.”
Why we love it: Sure, plants make any space look beautiful. But they also positively impact your health by purifying the air and even improving your mood — which is something we could all use after 2020.
Rethink Formal Rooms
It’s time to focus on functionality, which might mean saying goodbye to those formal dining rooms or living rooms you use once every six months. Instead, turn that dining room into a work from home office, a place where your kids can do schoolwork or even just a lounge where you can chill. “I think the whole idea of formal spaces in general is kind of going by the wayside,” says interior designer Natalie Papier. “We actually want spaces we can use and live in, and that reflect our personalities and feel overall more joyful.”
Why we love it: This is your chance to make a space totally your own. Have you always wanted a craft room? What about a library? Take out that dining table and DIY the room you’ve always wanted.
Make Your Furniture Work Harder
“Now that everyone is home, I think people are looking around like, ‘OK, I’m spending more time here. I need my home to be functional, I want it to be beautiful and it also has to serve double duty,” Wayne says. When picking pieces for your home or swapping out what you already have, you can’t go wrong with multi-purpose furniture. Save space with a fold-down table, or (as Wayne did in his own New York City apartment) utilize a console table in place of a desk.
Why we love it: Multi-purpose furniture is a game-changer for our current stay-at-home life, especially if you’re in a smaller house or apartment.
Keep It Natural
When it comes to styling, Wayne says the go-to accessories in 2021 are all about natural elements. Stick to earthy tones, terracotta vases, marble coffee tables, wicker baskets and wooden furniture pieces. These all work together to add texture and warmth to a room, creating a more organic look that can produce a relaxed, calm vibe.
Why we love it: Giving your space a sense of texture is simple, especially if you go heavy on fabrics. Interior designer Oksana Kreiman recommends adding a leather pillow, a faux-fur throw or a knitted pillow or pouf to your room for an extra soft and homey touch.
Make this part of your 2021 self-care routine: surround yourself with the things you love. Papier says it’s time to abandon the minimalism route and build up your room with accessories—art, sculptures, knick knacks … basically, whatever objects speak to you. Just be mindful: your finished setup should maintain a polished, curated look—you don’t want it to look like a bunch of junk on shelves. “You’ll feel like you’re inside of this cozy little nook and it’s less of these sparse, modern spaces,” Papier says. “People just want to feel like they’re being wrapped in a warm hug when they walk into a room.”
Why we love it: As you’re building your ideal environment, take the opportunity to declutter and downsize what you own. Embrace your inner Marie Kondo!
While it’s important to surround yourself with what makes you happy, you don’t want your space to feel messy and claustrophobic. (And, let’s face it, it’s easy for clutter to pile up when you’re always home). As you’re layering decor and choosing multi-purpose pieces, always keep storage solutions in mind. Papier recommends something like a credenza; you can use the top for decorating (or something more functional, like serving a meal) and fill the interior with items. Your space stays free of clutter, and your psyche stays free of anxiety.
Why we love it: Lots of storage keeps you breathing easy in your home while still letting you have what brings you joy, like craft projects, games or books, within reach when you need them.
Welcome Back Wallpaper
Wallpaper has been rising in popularity in recent years, but Long says it’s made a full comeback for 2021—just not in ways you might expect. You can use wallpaper to create a statement wall, provide a colorful backing for cabinets or line your shelving. Here’s an outside-the-box idea from Long: use wallpaper on a ceiling to add dimension and excitement to your room.
Why we love it: Wallpaper, particularly peel-and-stick wallpaper, is an excellent decor choice for renters and those who like to frequently change up their space. “You can put it up like a giant sticker and when you get tired of it, when you want to switch your style, you can take it down and swap it out,” Wayne says.
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