These Are the Biggest Home Decor Trends of 2021 So Far, According to Designers
We’re nearly halfway through 2021, so it feels like a good opportunity for a design pulse check, don’t you think? When it comes to trends, mid-year is around the time when we get to see if all those predictions made in December and January are in fact coming to fruition (helllllooooo, curved furniture).
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To really gauge what is popping this year — and what’s yet to come — we checked in with some in-the-know pros and got all the info on the design trends they’re seeing everywhere so far.
1. Slim Shaker Cabinets
While a Shaker cabinet profile will always be a design superstar, the popular style has seen a bit of a refresh for 2021, with a focus on slimmer, more streamlined edges.
“Flat panel cabinets and Shaker cabinets are both classic styles that aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but one trend we’re loving and implementing a lot lately is the slim Shaker door style,” says Cathie Hong, owner and designer at Cathie Hong Interiors. “Instead of the standard 2-inch Shaker trim, we’ve been opting for anywhere from ¼-inch to ¾-inch trim for a more modern take. It doesn’t feel as chunky and heavy as a standard Shaker, but also isn’t as bare as a flat panel door — it’s the perfect blend between modern and traditional, and we’re all for it!”
2. Contrasting Cabinets
Another very 2021 kitchen trend: adding a bit of dynamic design by juxtaposing time-honored painted cabinetry (think: creamy white, soft gray, or subtle beige) with stained wood that wows.
“White kitchens are classic and timeless, but there’s something so fresh about mixing materials, finishes, and different styles of cabinetry,” says Erika Marini, owner and designer at [Fixe] Design House. “We just did a project where we paired a white slim Shaker with fully-integrated black stained oak cabinet faces for the hood, flanking wall, and island. Pairing the contrasting colors and cabinet styles gave the space something extra, creating a warm, modern vibe that felt current but also embodied a casual, timeless sensibility.”
3. Curved Furniture
The phrase “modern” used to be ubiquitous with sharp lines, but these days it can evoke a softer approach. In fact, some of the freshest rooms out there have no edge at all (at least, not literally). The newest way to be ahead of the curve design-wise is to embrace it all together.
“We are seeing an increase in popularity when it comes to curved sofas especially,” says Jean Liu, designer and owner of Jean Liu Design. “They’re a great way to make a space more dynamic, especially when all the other elements around them are linear or feel very structured. When going with a curved sofa, we suggest either using them in pairs or arranging one with lounge chairs floating in the middle of the room, rather than having any piece up against a wall.”
4. Custom Wood Details
We’ll admit that wood in a home is nothing groundbreaking — but the way we’re seeing it used in 2021 is! Gone are the days when wood was used just as flooring or as a shiplap accent. Instead, fresh applications are rising in popularity, like reeded or tambour applications on cabinetry, as well as walls, stove hoods, and furniture.
“Wood isn’t new, but the way that we’re seeing it used in design these days can make such a cool impact on a space,” says Marini. “After an unexpected flood in our own home, we had an opportunity to refresh our space on a minimal budget. In order to add a little interest and detail, we created a tambour wood wall to complement the bunk beds we currently owned.”
5. Working Pantries
With a resurgence of cooking (and eating) at home, it’s no wonder that homeowners everywhere are getting their master chef on, complete with souped-up pantries that would make even Gordon Ramsay swoon. From coffee bars and “slop sinks” to extra refrigerators and counter space galore, these tucked-away spots give new meaning to the phrase #pantrygoals.
“We’re definitely seeing a shift from the traditional butler and food storage pantries to working pantries,” says Tiffany Skilling, owner and designer behind Tiffany Skilling Interiors. “For instance, in one home, we created a ‘baker’s pantry,’ outfitted with Miele wall ovens and a U-shaped countertop for plenty of space to work. In another, we wanted to keep smaller appliances out of the main kitchen and create a true working pantry, complete with an induction cooktop. Just because these spaces are hard-working doesn’t mean they need to lack design — rich and colorful tiles, cabinetry details and hardware, interesting lighting, and space to display art and objects makes each one unique to an individual client’s story.”
6. Lots of Decor Accents
Thanks to the popularity of maximalism, we’re definitely finding accessories on accessories dotting shelves, counters, and coffee tables. While the effect is aesthetically pleasing, of course, the reason is emotionally based: People just want to be surrounded by things they love.
“In the last year, so many people have been working from home, going out less, and staring at their spaces, giving them a chance to notice all the things they may have previously been too busy to pay attention to,” explains Christine Kohut, owner and designer at Christine Kohut Interiors. “Many homeowners are clearing out meaningless clutter and filling their homes with prettier, more sentimental things to look at.”
Kohut also suggests styling up your shelves or tables with items that do double duty, like a pretty basket that houses your postcard collection or an antique box that hides your Amazon Fire remote.
7. Statement Ceilings
Upgrading the “fifth wall” (aka the ceiling) can pack personality into your room, no floor space required, and Skilling doesn’t see the bold trend going anywhere.
“A ceiling detail can be the difference in taking a design from ordinary to extraordinary,” she says. “From a plaster relief, to pairing a deep color with a decorative light fixture, textured wallpaper, or whimsical print, we love to think outside of the box when it comes to ceiling details.”
8. Kit Kat Tiles
Subway tile has far and away proved itself to be a design MVP, easily flexing between modern, rustic, and even glam interiors, and upgrading everything from kitchens to mudrooms to bathrooms. This year, though, we’re seeing slight twists on the classic tile, whether that means remixing the vibe with a handmade, unglazed finish, or tweaking the shape just slightly.
Case in point? Kit kat tiles. “We’ve been loving tiny rectangular tiles, which often go by the name kit kat tiles or finger tiles,” says Hong. “They’re a nice break from the often utilized 2- by 8-inch tiles and have the perfect balance of texture and clean lines. Many of these kit kat tiles originate from Japan, which makes absolute sense since they’re the best at soft and minimal design.”
9. Comfort Over Everything
Perhaps the most obvious (and logical) trend to come out of a year-plus spent at home is the attainable comfort so many designers are generating for their clients these days. And this includes both designing spaces that are truly reflective of those that dwell within them and putting a focus on livability (think: washable slipcovers, closed floor plans, and family-friendly finishes).
“Essentially the ultimate ‘trend’ this year really isn’t a trend — it’s something that designers try to achieve for their clients often, which is creating a space that feels good to be in,” says Kohut. “From the visual like wallpaper, to tactile elements like velvety fabrics and cozy blankets, to cleaner air using purifiers, to smart home systems that play music and can adjust lighting, homeowners are craving comfort and sanctuary.”
10. Flex Spaces
“The pandemic forced many of us to create or add work-from-home spaces,” says Liu, “and while some of us already had dedicated home offices, many of us needed to carve out work surfaces in a meaningful and functional way.” So it’s no wonder flexible areas that can morph throughout the day are currently at the top of many homeowners’ design wish lists.
For example, some of Liu’s clients have decided to remove a nightstand in the bedroom and replace it with a desk. “Choose one that has similar tones or colors as the existing room’s scheme and take into consideration the scale of it, ensuring that it doesn’t look dwarfed by the bed. The same considerations apply when it comes to the chair that will be used in conjunction with the desk,” Liu says.
Our homes truly had to do it all over the past year, and the places where they succeeded (or failed) will inform our design and renovation goals for years to come.