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Design Trends: What COVID-19 Will Mean for Interiors in 2021

The year 2020 yielded many occurrences we never expected, and chief among them was collectively spending far more time in our homes than we’d ever anticipated. And while there is hope that COVID-19 might soon release its grip on the world, the pandemic has so far managed to leave a significant mark on design trends, particularly surrounding the look and feel of our domiciles.

Last year’s trend predictions correctly singled out a shift toward home as sanctuary, but never did we imagine just how significant that transformation would be. So what do forecasters think will be the dominating aesthetic for home interiors in 2021? In a word: soothing. From calming, nature-inspired hues to dreamy, cozy shapes to the simplicity of bygone eras, we’re all looking to our domestic spaces to bring that sense of comfort, stability, and solace we can’t find elsewhere in the world.

“Our homes and homelife have new purpose,” says Ellen Sideri, founder and CEO of consulting firm the Trendpreneurs. “For many, in the past, the home or apartment was a pitstop between work hours. In the future, home will be built on a new foundation beyond being a simple nest—it will be our safe place to cherish and spend time, be designed to flex in a multipurpose way, foster a healthy environment for our kids and the spirit of its inhabitants, and honor nature and the earth.”

We asked Sideri and four other trend forecasters—Patti Carpenter, Gemma Riberti, Michelle Lamb, and Leslie J. Ghize—for their predictions on exactly how the COVID-19 pandemic will shape interior design in 2021.

Nostalgic flair

When uncertainty abounds, it’s human nature to yearn for a simpler life. Gemma Riberti, head of interiors at WGSN Lifestyle & Interiors, asserts that nostalgia will reign in 2021. “It has an incredibly reassuring power—in times of uncertainty, a well-known past is looked at with fondness and longing,” she explains. “This is impacting the rising appreciation of vintage and antiques as well—and the growing numbers of designers and retailers that are exploring these for a contemporary audience. Repurposing, revamping, and refreshing antique furniture and pieces otherwise discarded is motivated by both sustainability and nostalgia.”

In a similar vein, Patti Carpenter, global trend ambassador of Carpenter + Company, anticipates the strengthening of design trends that “harken back to a slower, kinder, and gentler approach to life” such as the Victorian era–inspired Cottagecore. “We will see small ditsy floral prints on upholstery and wallpaper and a continuation of quieter pastimes including reading books, bicycling, baking, gardening, and picnics,” Carpenter says. “This is a decidedly more feminine trend despite the rise of the nonbinary approach to life.”

Michelle Lamb, editorial director at The Trend Curve, sees influences coming from even further back in history. “Greek keys and columns (always modernized or adapted) are nowhere near the peak of their ascent,” she says. “As consumers continue to feel unsettled by the pandemic, they are reaching back for features that have stood the test of time and can give them the feeling (even if subconsciously) that mankind has been through times as bad as this one, or worse, and we have survived.”

Earthy tones including soothing blues and greens will also take off. Nicole Hollis shows how it’s done in her San Francisco home.

Douglas Friedman

Natural-inspired tones

“Color and texture will be key to comforting and reassuring,” says Riberti. “Warm to the eye as much as to the hand, palettes of organic, natural colors will be important to have a nourishing effect. The focus will be on nuances of greens, blues, and earthy pigments such as terra-cotta.”