New Year Welcomes Emerging Trends

A new era of design is beginning to unfold with this new year


We welcome this new year with renewed energy and strong motivation to tackle what lies ahead. In design, each new year lends itself to fresh outlooks and emerging trends. All of us are eagerly striding into January with a host of new home design ambitions.

Location – the return to the ‘burbs. People are trending outward as a result of the pandemic and increased telecommuting capabilities. Trends are showing that many are migrating out of dense, expensive cities to more spacious, affordable suburbs and exurbs. This growing opportunity for housing and location choice, provides housing that is more attainable, desirable and appreciated by the workforce. However, with home prices rising and inventories low, this outward exodus is not just from homeowners, renters are exiting as well. Single-family for-rent communities that are designed similar to for-sale communities have become popular and are growing in the development industry.

Homes – a return to minimalism, function and form. I.M. Pei said, “The essence of architecture is form and space, and light is the essential element to the key to architectural design, probably more important than anything. Technology and materials are secondary.” Ringing true, consumers are preferring homes that provide more space to meet their needs looking toward plans that are simple, calming and organized, but also flexible for multiple activities. With the ongoing trans- formation of homes becoming “machines for living,” working, playing and educating, people are looking for houses that provide areas to suitably meet all of these requirements. Trending home designs are ones that can satisfy multi-tasking, but also provide solace from daily stresses. Utilized for more than personal care, people are now wanting bath- rooms that offer greater relaxation. Whether it is achieved through color, textures, light- ing, furniture, space planning or a combination thereof, sanctuary bathrooms are on the emerging trends list for 2021. Calm aesthetic, adaptable spaces, and storage areas are also on the list. In sum, home trends are about designs for usability and mental ease.

Nature – designing in an earth-centric way. It can enable visual simplicity and be highly functional. This combination can result in a more powerful and calming living environment which in turn, helps with mental relaxation and happiness. Connecting to the earth can be accomplished through methods such as windows and outdoor space or using materials such as wood and stone. These design features give a grounded feel and a link to nature.

Le Corbusier said, “Space and light and order. Those are the things that men need just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep.” Decades ahead of his time, Le Corbusier summed up 2021 home trends by focusing on how space is used, the benefits of natural light, and ways to organize for a de-cluttered environment. Organization rather than visual chaos can lead to a better state of mind, a topic that has been at the forefront of many during the past year. Along with simplicity, natural light can have the same positive effect.

Additionally, air quality can be a contributing factor for better indoor environments. Trends (and codes) are continually moving in this direction, with codes outpacing trends, requiring improved indoor air quality and temperature. These strategies all lead back to the sustainable home — building and design methods that focus on improved building envelopes and energy efficiency. Although states like California have enacted green building codes, consumers nationwide are refocusing on health and wellness, efficiency, and conservation. Sustainable and earth-centric design can help address these on-going trends, assisting people with their wellness goals.

Technology – the way forward. It is hard to believe that phones were once connected to chords and information came by way of paper. Smart homes are on-trend. For work-from-home capabilities and sustainable living, technology is more important than ever. Operable smart technologies to monitor thermostats, lighting, energy use and air qual- ity, are all possible because of technological infrastructure. Such technology has moved up in the consumer trends lists.

Emerging trends are good guidance and inspiration, but they are also indicators of how consumers feel and where their priorities lie.

Emerging trends are good guidance and inspiration, but they are also indicators of how consumers feel and where their priorities lie. There are numerous trends emerging in this new year, however the one trend we all hope will be everlasting, is the support that people have shown for each other and the desire to make our world a better place.

Julia Malisos, LEED AP is a Principal- Planning/ Community Design at WHA Architecture, Planning and Design with offices in Newport Beach, Long Beach, and San Ramon. Julia can be reached at

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