The Home Trends We’ll See in 2021, As Predicted by Real Estate Pros

published Dec 13, 2020
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A year ago, starry-eyed and teeming with hope, I interviewed some real estate experts to get their takes on what home trends they anticipated for 2020—a year full of promise, of endless possibilities! None of us could have predicted how, a year later, this moment would look, with my Rick Steves London 2020 guidebook collecting dust; the unworn bridesmaid dress awaiting an undetermined date; and my poor sofa working overtime as my desk, dining table, and setting for more than a handful of emotional meltdowns.

From this same couch, I recently spoke with real estate professionals who spent this whirlwind year examining our new needs and adapting our spaces. As we approach the new year with months of a global pandemic behind us (and hopefully few awaiting us), experts share their home trend predictions for 2021. 

An established home office

I realize it doesn’t require an expert to predict that home offices will continue to play an integral role in the American home this coming year. But the sheer surge in demand and prevalence of these spaces in such a short span has transformed the way we conceive of our homes. 

“This is an area that used to be a bonus in a house, and while certainly useful, it has never risen to the top of a buyer or tenant’s checklist like it has now,” says Chicago-based realtor Amy Wu.

As distance-learning has begun factoring into many families’ households, quantity makes the difference. Nashville-area real estate agent Zach Opheim says, “Buyers are starting to want more of a dedicated home office space, if not two office-like locations within the house as the work-from-home lifestyle continues to grow.” Real estate agents, home stagers, and designers are focusing on ways to designate catch-all areas or quirky nooks into spaces for concentration and productivity.

Now that the nation has become acclimated to living through a pandemic, Daniela Benloulou and Nicole Graff, co-owners and principal designers for Los Angeles-based interior design firm Hamsa Home, attest that the makeshift home office is out, and the established workspace is in. 

“I think when people used to have home offices, they were very office-y looking… just kind of cold, corporate looking,” says Benloulou. With many institutions adapting working from home into their company’s procedures indefinitely, Graff adds, “We really want to see people embracing the home offices… in a way that isn’t going to look like a sharp difference from the rest of your home.” Residents have begun the second phase of establishing their home office by treating it as a permanent space that deserves cohesion with the home, as opposed to a temporary site that can be packed away when the world declares victory over the pandemic. (Can you even imagine?)

Warmth and coziness

While mastering sheltering in place, households have been embracing all things warm and cozy—very hygge of us all. The trend is taking root in the design and construction of our homes. Krisztina Bell, founder of No Vacancy Home Staging in Atlanta, puts it best when she says, “Cozy is the new luxury.” Bell was surprised and delighted to see the hue that Sherwin Williams selected as its color of the year: Urbane Bronze. “It’s so calming… and it’s a warm color, and people adhere to being warm and feeling cozy,” Bell says.

Experts agree that in 2021, these comforting details will expand beyond color to manifest in the texture and design elements of homes as well. Benloulou predicts a shift in everything from fixtures to textiles as “Comfy, cozy, and round versus what used to be ‘in’ a few years ago, which is more sharp lines and cooler colors and cooler metals.” This trend is a major departure from the stark whites and grays that Benloulou and Graff are used to seeing. Bell is seeing the same warm tones and cozy vibes in the South as well. Even as new constructions pop up, “The builders are realizing… the same old thing is not working anymore.” 

Textured accent walls 

As households are cooped up inside, folks have needed to develop new ways to stimulate the senses. One such method? Textured accent walls. “Instead of just the color change on one wall, homeowners are looking to make a more ‘creative’ way of changing the room’s look,” Opheim says.

Home improvement projects have surged this year, and homeowners are discovering that a simple weekend project can have a massive impact on a room. Opheim says that “With designers and carpenters getting more creative with their geometric designs, people are starting to catch on.”

Bell has witnessed the sudden prevalence of textured accent walls, too, recalling, “Wood on the walls—either light colored wood or dark colored wood—just one wall, and sometimes it’s in a dining area, sometimes it’s in a living area.” Wherever a home is in need of a little character, the wooden material or geometric pattern is surprisingly doable, and will cure some shelter in place boredom while adding some intrigue—and maybe even value—to a home.

Customized spaces

Experts are finding that households are reevaluating their spaces and transforming them to meet their distinct needs. During the warmer months, one of the more obvious trends experts saw this past summer was the upgrading of outdoor spaces, which will continue well into 2021. 

We will start to see more care being placed into creating the ideal backyard with features such as a patio and/or deck, a fence for privacy, pergolas, pools, etc.,” Wu says. Privacy for safety’s sake is more important than ever, as is the innate need for fresh air and recreation. This past year has imprinted this into the nation’s collective psyche, and the demand is proof.

In addition to custom yards, households are converting rooms into other unique spaces that meet a family’s specific needs. Says Benloulou of a recent project, “What started as this catch-all wearing a lot of different hats ended up being the gem of the home, the room that everybody was in pretty much all the time and served so many purposes.” 

The duo also transformed a space into an occupational and physical therapy room for a family with that specific need. Identifying gaps in the resources that are currently inaccessible and recreating a zone that meets that need has proven crucial for many households. Bell has taken to incorporating unique options for inspiration, saying, “We’ve even done yoga spaces in our virtual staging.” (When I shared this with Benloulou and Graff, Graff chuckled and shared, “I just turned one of my bedrooms into my yoga studio.”) 

Experts understand intimately the value that a home imparts on its dwellers. Bell gets to the heart of the matter when she says of the year of sheltering in place, “It’s almost like forcing the homeowners to kind of transform their home into more like the home of their dreams.” And while trends can be predicted, we all are learning that some things just can’t be anticipated. Bell shares the thought we’ve all been wondering of our former lives: “It’ll be interesting to see if anyone goes back.”