We’re finally closing the book on 2020, and many of us have never felt more desperate for a fresh start and a new beginning. And since it’s not like we’re leaving the house anytime soon, it makes perfect sense that the first place to start anew would be at home. (Plus, decorating and home renovation projects are a pretty good distraction from ever-present existential dread, if we do say so ourselves.)
If you’re looking to do a design overhaul, you’re probably also looking for some inspiration—so we asked real estate and design experts to weigh in on what they anticipate will be the biggest home trends of 2021. It turns out, with all the stress that 2020 brought to our lives, it also influenced some defining changes in the way we decorate, design, and live in our homes.
So get cozy on your sunken-in couch cushion—you know, the one you’ve barely left since March 14—and join along for some inspiration as we prepare for the new year.
1. Dedicated home offices
We can probably all admit: Working from the kitchen table was kind of cute when you thought you would be doing it for only a few weeks. But now? Not so much. That’s why, in 2021 (and beyond) home offices will be more important than ever.
“One of the most prevalent design trends currently is adding or renovating home offices. People are working from home and do not want to field calls from the kitchen table,” says Simon Isaacs, owner/broker of Simon Isaacs Real Estate.
If you don’t have a spare room for an office, there are plenty of ways to get creative and set up a space with some personality. In fact, one of the biggest trends on Pinterest this year is the rise of the “cloffice,” a portmanteau of “closet” and “office.”
“I’ve seen clients transform hall closets into amazing offices with high-gloss paint, some wallpaper, and a few shelves,” Isaacs says. “A can of paint can go a long way.”
2. Clearly delineated spaces
It’s quaint to think back on our obsession with open floor plans. They’re not completely passé (yet), but people are increasingly interested in closing off those wide-open spaces we so used to covet.
“The pandemic has completely shaped home design trends for 2020 and 2021,” Isaacs says. “Not only do people want to create a cozy shared living space, but they also are carving out areas to have some space to themselves.”
“The trend will be to create different living spaces within the open floor plan so people will have pockets or nooks in the home for e-learning, Zoom calls, a conversation, lounging, exercising, etc.,” adds Julie Busby, founder of the Busby Group at Compass in Chicago.
The need for separate spaces is also shifting home buyers’ priorities in the new year.
“New buyers are asking for homes with more separation, as sometimes multigenerational families share a home and need space and privacy amongst themselves,” says Yorgos Tsibiridis, a Hamptons broker at Douglas Elliman.
3. Houseplants and indoor gardens
“During the pandemic when it was difficult for some to get their daily dose of nature, people started bringing the outdoors in with natural materials in their home,” Busby says.
With the pandemic raging on, the pros say the indoor houseplant trend is here to stay—which is good news for your collection of monsteras and air plants.
“For houseplants, definitely do your homework before investing,” she says. “Take into account your natural light, exposures, and how much you will remember to water.”
4. Rattan accents
In line with the houseplant trend, natural materials are having a “huge moment,” Busby says. In particular, rattan is the material du jour, appearing everywhere from drink holders to bed frames.
Try out the trend by choosing a rattan accessory or accent piece that you love; just don’t go overboard.
“Rattan is best in small doses, so pick your favorite piece and work from there,” Busby suggests.
5. Wood-grain kitchen cabinets and counters
Organic touches are also sprouting up in the heart of the home: the kitchen.
“For the kitchen, our designer members are seeing more minimalist styles with touches of organic and natural materials such as wood grain—perhaps as part of a desire to connect with nature,” says Bill Darcy, CEO of the National Kitchen & Bath Association.
Instead of painted kitchen cabinets or the ubiquitous all-white kitchen, expect to see homeowners embracing a more natural look with wood-grain cabinets and wood countertops on islands.
6. Next-level playgrounds
Speaking of connecting with nature, 2020 has taken our cabin fever to record levels. Experts say enhanced outdoor spaces will continue to trend in the new year—including elaborate custom playgrounds, which Isaacs says are one of the hottest trends he’s seeing right now in South Florida.
To create the ultimate kids’ club, homeowners are even going beyond store-bought swingsets and adding zip lines, adventure courses, and climbing walls to their backyard playgrounds.
7. Outdoor kitchens
Multiseason spaces that feature “fireplaces or fire pits, patio/deck areas, or screened-in porches that can be used year-round” are on the rise, Darcy says. That includes outdoor kitchens, which have become more popular than ever during the pandemic.
An outdoor kitchen can be as elaborate (read: expensive) or as modest as you like. Some homeowners may simply add an outdoor refrigerator and dining area to the backyard to create an expanded entertaining space. Others will invest in a stovetop, ample counter space, and appliances to create a fully equipped outdoor kitchen.
8. Smart bathroom innovations
We won’t soon forget the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020, when grocery shelves were cleared of Charmin and bidets sold out at home improvement stores.
Never embraced the bidet in your home bathroom? Well, hold on to your butts: That’s just the start of things—you can expect to see a slew of new bathroom innovations in 2021 as homeowners continue to focus more than ever on hygiene (and perhaps prepare for the next Great Toilet Paper Shortage).
“Touchless appliances, including motion sensors for lighting, and smart temperature control for bathroom floors will be more popular in the next year,” Darcy says.
9. Retro furniture and color palettes
The pandemic brought on a serious wave of nostalgia for people seeking comfort from the past, and Busby says that wistfulness will influence our home decor in 2021.
Expect to see funky color palettes (think mauve, forest green, and burnt orange) and furniture throwbacks like ’80s curves and ’90s traditionalism.
“I think people are nostalgic for simpler times, and we are seeing this desire reflected back in home design,” Busby says.
An easy way to try the trend for yourself is with a quick coat of paint.
“Pick a bold color and one wall, or a smaller bathroom, and paint your way back to the ’80s or ’90s,” Busby says.
10. Cozy, layered vibes
“Overall, the design pendulum is swinging to be more traditional,” Busby says.
That means warm colors and natural wood in lieu of cool grays and blues. Instead of stark white minimalism, expect to see more color and personality in 2021’s home decor—less uber-modern and more boho chic.
So go ahead and pile on those mismatched blankets and throw pillows, and don’t be afraid to embrace a design that reflects your personality.
“People want to feel at ease in their homes now more than ever,” she says. “Before the pandemic, people may have put form before function to create the out-of-a-magazine look for their living room. Trends now lean toward a more casual and layered aesthetic.”