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10 Home Design Trends for 2021

What's In...and What's Out...and What We Need Right Now

It’s not news…the arrival of COVID-19 to the US in spring of last year has redefined many things…including the way we interact with our homes. The real estate industry has boomed as homeowner needs, wants, and desires shifted in response to the dramatic flip in how much time we spend at home versus away.

Here are a few things to watch for this year…


Interesting Patterns & Colors

Homeowners are tired of gray, according to today’s interior designers. They say it’s time to switch to warmer, cleaner, brighter palettes -- along with softer, more plush materials. Design styles are now open to more colors, fewer rules, and pieces with special meaning.

On the exterior, doors are popping up in turquoise, robin’s egg blue, chartreuse, pink, and light citrus green in many markets. Materials such as velvet —once reserved for fancy interiors—is now used in more casual settings. New crush- and stain-resistant versions are now available in a wider color range, says Chicago designer Tom Segal of Kaufman Segal.

Flex Sheds/Built Out Garages/Bonus Rooms

Outdoor sheds, once used primarily to store sports equipment and garden paraphernalia, have morphed into new and innovative spaces. They can be outfitted as dwellings for returning grown children, renters, or quiet work-from-home quarters, as more municipalities approve ADUs. They can also be an escape to regain your sanity.

More and more bonus rooms and outbuildings have been successfully converted into craft or sewing spaces, virtual classrooms, art studios, writing enclaves, weight rooms, and yoga barns (Cool Cousin has always had one of these) -- reflecting individual interests, new or newly rediscovered hobbies, exposure concerns, or the need for alternative solutions while vendors and services are still limited.

Two For One Kitchens

Even before COVID-19 spread, many homeowners with an open floor plan were finding that there is a downside to not having walls in the kitchen. Clutter, messiness, and dirty dishes aren’t as easy to hide.

The solution? A “two part” kitchen with the back-of-house hidden (if you have the space and the renovation funds). Cheryl Kees Clendenon of In Detail Interiors in Pensacola, Florida calls it a “prep and show kitchen.” The work area for food preparation and clean-up is located in the back, hidden by a door or wall. (In the South, this is similarly referred to as a “butler’s pantry.”) It may also be used by caterers when entertaining returns with gusto, Clendenon says.

The “show” kitchen at the front remains part of the open floor plan, designed to display culinary delights in an uncluttered way. Or hide the mess from your kids making their own lunches while you were on a Zoom meeting at the kitchen island.

Outdoor Environments

The emphasis on socializing outdoors to protect from the spread of COVID-19 this past summer, coupled with the increase in amount of time spent at home, prompted many homeowners to invest in upgrading their patios, outdoor kitchens, and backyard recreational spaces. Now, as temperatures drop, homeowners are extending safe, outdoor socializing into the winter season by adding outdoor sources of warmth.

Two obvious additions are fire pits and patio heaters. Both offer warmth generated by electricity, gas, propane, word burning fires, or infrared light. Many local authorities are revising codes to permit fire features, says architect Gary Kane, with The Architectural Team (TAT) in Chelsea, Mass. It’s a good idea to check your local guidelines first.

Enhanced Home Technology

Beyond larger bandwidth to accommodate multiple people and multiple devices for longer hours, video teleconferencing capability has become more widely available for home use. Living rooms are now a desirable venue for work Zoom meetings, online classes, and virtual family celebrations – and many television sets can now accommodate both our work and school productivity needs in addition to the live streaming Internet demands of in-home entertainment.


Open Floor Plans

During the pandemic, many of us realized perhaps our kitchens, home offices, great rooms, playrooms, and living rooms shouldn’t all be the same space. Lack of privacy can quickly become lack of function. And sometimes you just need a simple way to physically separate your barking dog or music from your daughter’s virtual dance lesson from your weekly Zoom staff meeting. Or perhaps you just need a simple change in scenery.

Danielle Blundell, Home Director of Apartment Therapy, says if your home is currently an open concept, don’t be concerned. “I don't think this is going to be an overnight change, but I think the open plan concept is going away little by little," she says. "I think it's going to continue with people adding room dividers, or bringing in a door, or figuring out some sort of a solution to add privacy.”

Single Purpose Spaces & Furnishings

Although this may seem contradictory, single purpose spaces and furnishings are also falling out of favor. Our homes double as many spaces and may have to serve more than one person’s needs in the household, so it's still important to keep some level of separation.

If you don't have a spare room, you can still be creative. “Set up a desk vignette in the corner of your bedroom or transform a section of your dining table into a home office by adding a table lamp, your computer monitor, fresh flowers, and of course, your favorite things,” says Roxy Te Owens, founder and creative director of Society Social. “A pretty and dedicated space means more productivity, in our opinion.”I agree.

In my world, it's also nice to be able to leave whatever I'm working on out, rather than having to pack it all up and move it, then set it all back up again the next day. (Those of you who have gotten kicked out of your normal home office space by a family member -- or live with a neat freak -- know exactly what I mean.)

Dark Rooms

Barbara Karpf, founder, and president of Decorators Best says dark wall colors are done, at least for now, because they make the room feel more closed in. Many people will continue to work remotely (or indefinitely), and multi-purpose rooms are a necessity. “Dark colors limit the usage of a space, and without expert lighting, a dark room is less adaptable,” she says.

So, unless you have a big home or a larger room, it is best to go with lighter colored furniture, accessories, and paint. Mix in earthy tones to add an element of comfort.

Whatever your color palette preference, invest in appropriate lighting, particularly for spaces in which you spend multiple hours on a regular basis. Natural light is always a plus.

White Kitchens

Nancy Epstein, founder, and president of Artistic Tile explains, The high end of the market has moved away from the staid whites and man-made agglomerates that dominated design for the last decade, and is once more embracing the exotic, rare stones, and detailed patterns that have historically defined luxury tile and stone.”

Suggested alternative options include breccias, richly veined marbles, and onyxes, which have incredible history and can become focal points. Finishes with more variety and color are also more interesting to the eye, add energy and can break up monotony.

Modern Farmhouse

According to a recent article in Forbes magazine, “the modern farmhouse look is finally on its way out to pasture.” According to Kelley Mason, Manager of Creative and Content at Lulu and Georgia, it has been overdone, particularly in places like apartments where a modern farmhouse look isn’t remotely organic, so we’ve become tired of it. “Shiplap wall treatments, barn doors, and other hallmarks of the modern farmhouse style are still beautiful but look clearly out of place in city apartments and suburban homes,” she says.

Perhaps this could be why Joanna Gaines is now hosting a cooking show...??

The moral of the story? Your design should not only match your taste, but also align with the style and location of your home. Or you should get rich being a trend setter and then move on to something else while you're still hot.


In 1628, Sir Edward Coke famously said, "For a (wo)man's house is his castle, and each (wo)man's home is his safest refuge." This has never been more true than now.

So I say fill your space with what you like, what you need, what makes you feel at home. And whichever trends you adopt (or create yourself) as we continue to navigate our changing world, may your home and life be filled with peace, productivity and prosperity in 2021.

Adapted from various articles appearing in Forbes magazine, the New York Times, and Realtor magazine, December 2020


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