Design Trends for Uncertain Times

2020 design trends based on comfort and ease are expected to continue  

By Mary Dewalt

With all the uncertainty in today’s world, homebuyers are being more cautious with their spending and more particular with the amenities that floorplans can offer. They are looking for a quality product that is a solution to have the ability to work, learn and exercise from home, without compromising current style and trends. Builders should strategize ways to improve this “new normal” lifestyle.

During the pandemic with more individuals working from home and families trying to balance virtual learning and careers, the flex space is evolving.”

For the next year, light and bright paint finishes and lighting trends will be driven by a need for uplifting personal surroundings. Scandinavian inspired lighter wood finishes are on the horizon for the next year. These will be prevalent in furnishings as well as flooring and cabinetry. White walls will replace the light gray trend that has been so popular in the last few years. There will also be a new face to accent walls. Instead of a bold color behind a bed, trim features will serve as the main focal wall. These can be as simple as the ever-popular shiplap, or as complex as a custom geometric pattern of trim on flat drywall.

But have no fear! Some trends are here to stay. There will be a continuation of the desire for a lot of natural light. As more and more people are working and learning from home, they will be losing some exposure to sun light during their commute. Open floorplans, large windows and versatile outdoor spaces will continue to strengthen the human-nature relationship. During the pandemic, many Americans were confined to their homes and sought refuge in their outdoor living spaces. Design trends will continue to promote these spaces with more comfortable seating, living accent walls and nature inspired décor. Fresh green found in palm leaves will continue to be a fashionable pop of color throughout the new year.

Kitchens will be uber functional and well equipped for substantial everyday use. The kitchen continues to be a room in the house that requires the lion’s share of the budget but maybe not for the same reasons as in the past. In lieu of luxurious backsplashes and expensive raised paneled cabinetry, kitchen design is being focused on functionality. Open shelving is out, and more closed storage is in. The young family demographic is particularly looking for plenty of storage to house the snacks and meals that are not being served at school or work. People are still wary of eating out in restaurants as often as usual. Therefore, more involved home-cooked meals and in-house entertainment has gained in popularity. Home builders should pay close attention to their kitchen layouts in regards to ample storage and counterspace.

Mixing cabinet finishes will continue to be a popular trend. This can be achieved by choosing a bold accent color, such as navy, for the island. Mixing wood and black stain cabinets will also bring character and interest to the heart of the home. Although a simple, large subway tile will remain as a fail-safe backsplash option, design trends are leaning toward larger format tiles with minimal grout lines. Cleanability is more important than ever because the kitchen is serving as a highly used, multi-functional hub of activity.

Flex spaces will become essential instead of a luxury. The flex spaces of yesterday were considered a bonus instead of a necessity. They were either used as small media rooms, kids play areas or lightly utilized home offices. During the pandemic with more individuals working from home and families trying to balance virtual learning and careers, the flex space is evolving. Design trends should lend comfort and style to this new essential room in the house. Bright lighting and ergonomic seating are fundamental. In lieu of an open concept, this space should have the ability to be completely closed off for privacy during online meetings or create a quiet place to study. Barn doors with glass lights are an upcoming trend that will solve this dilemma stylishly. Homebuilders should consider allocating more square footage to this space, allowing for the duality of work and education.

2021 design trends may possibly be the most influential of this generation. Even post-pandemic, many people will continue to work, learn, and exercise at home. Buyers will still require the elements that fit this lifestyle; bright finishes, lots of storage, and multifunctional spaces. The solutions designers and builders have created will forever have an impact on how we live.

Mary Dewalt, IRM Fellow, MIRM, CMP, is recognized nationally as a leader in the field of model home merchandising and she is a frequent speaker at the International Builders Show as well as state and local conferences.

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