The 10 Most Important Design Lessons Interior Designers Learned This Year

published Dec 15, 2020
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Workspace with navy walls and planet wallpaper on ceiling

2020 taught us a lot of valuable lessons, including ones about the home. “This year has helped so many of us understand the importance of ‘home’ and what it means to have a safe place,” says designer Ashley Moore of Moore House Interiors. “Not only do our homes need to provide us with shelter, but they also should also bring us joy.” To that end, I asked 10 interior designers to share the biggest design lesson they learned this year, and they had some advice that everyone can use in their own space, no matter what it looks like.

1. Functionality is key

“The biggest lesson I think we have learned is that function in a space is the ultimate luxury,” says designer Breegan Jane. “We are seeing the importance of how design affects our lives and hopefully simplifies it, and that luxury is not just how pretty your sofa is, but how much beauty and functionality you’re able to get out of your home.”

2. Lighting is everything

“Working from home due to the pandemic has reinforced the importance of good lighting in a space,” says designer Emma Kemper Beryl of Emma Beryl Interiors. “For me, it’s really everything! I’m so grateful for the incredible sunlight that we get in our apartment because not only does it help me to see swatch samples clearly without interference from shadows or reflections, it’s also such a mood booster.”

3. Memories matter

“I would say our biggest lesson from 2020 is to decorate your home with items that remind you of positive times, like a unique piece of art that showcases a favorite place you’ve traveled to,” designer Kate Taylor says. “We tried to do this pre-pandemic, but it became even more important and evident as 2020 unfolded.”

4. Spaces should be multifunctional

“This year, more than ever before, I realized the importance of creating spaces for my family and my clients that have the flexibility to serve multiple purposes,” says designer Marie Flanigan says. “Whether it’s nestling a desk in the corner of a bedroom or having room to practice yoga in a guest suite, multi-functionality is increasingly top of mind in my designs.”

5. Bathrooms are a sanctuary

“If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that the bathroom is one of the most valuable rooms in our home,” designer Carneil Griffin of Griffin Direction Interiors says. Whether you’re taking a few minutes for yourself to get ready for a Zoom meeting or enjoying a nice bath after a long day, our bathrooms are a refuge and should be decorated as such.”

6. Kids deserve their own workspaces

“As grown-ups have created their own WFH offices, it’s equally important to create virtual learning spaces for kids,” designer Isabel Ladd says. “During this era of homeschooling, a nook or room dedicated to an individual child, with all of their school things in a centralized location, is tremendously important to keep the kids (and house!) organized and the parents sane.”

7. Multifunctional furniture makes a difference

“2020 taught me that it’s important to look for items that pull double duty in your home,” says designer Marika Meyer. “I turned a vintage secretary that was in use as a bar into a work-from-home space. Instead of a typical nightstand, why not use a small desk as a bedroom side table?”

8. A streamlined WFH spot is essential

“Working from home requires an organized workspace that promotes productivity,” says designer Abbe Fenimore of Studio Ten 25. “Using traditional dressers, or a media cabinet as a credenza in your work area, will provide a place to tuck unsightly paperwork out of plain sight and help you stay focused on the task at hand.”

9. Privacy is important

“Privacy in a home is every bit as valuable as having access to a shared space,” designers Beth Dotolo and Carolina V. Gentry of Pulp Design Studios say. “It’s important to have a designated space to be able to close things off for some focused alone time.” If you can’t put up walls, try a room divider or curtain for some semblance of separation.

10. Design should be meaningful

“Design and decor should be personal and should speak to the people who call those spaces home,” says designer Emily Spanos of Emily June Designs. “These unique elements bring joy to families when they’re forced to do everything from the confines of their homes—it’s about creating compelling and livable environments that are distinctive to their story.”