These Are the 7 Biggest and Best Design Trends of 2021 So Far

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As the end of the year approaches, it’s only natural to look back and see how far we’ve come. Now that summer’s over, you can reflect on your progress on your yearly goals — or you can think back on the home decor trends you’ve loved this year. We covered what was making waves a few months back (hello, custom wood details and working pantries!), and now it’s time to see what’s still around, what’s emerged in the months since, and what to expect as 2021 comes to an end. 

It’s never too late to redecorate, and there’s plenty of fresh inspo below to help you hit your end-of-year design goals.

Neutrals will always have a place in design, but throughout this year (and into 2022), you can expect color to continue returning with exuberance into homes. “The pandemic has played a huge role in the reemergence of color,” says designer Travis London of Studio London. “People were stuck at home and realized their spaces had no color. The last few years of design have been ruled by neutral colors, and now we are seeing the shift into people wanting color in the home more than ever. They want a different environment — they want their rooms to tell a story.”

Amanda Walker from Dwell Aware agrees, citing an unexpected hue at the forefront of the colorful revival. “While neutrals have had a beautiful moment, deeper and darker colors are going to be showing up in a big way,” she says. “Red tones are circling back again, bringing with them energy and striking beauty.”

Designer Brenda Thomson of House Life Design also calls attention to jewel tones for homeowners looking to play with color in a saturated, trendy way. “Jewel tones are having a moment,” says Thomson. “When using color, it’s important to be intentional so the colors accomplish what you’re after. If you want to add depth to a space, add color to the furthest wall. To add interest, repeat the color around the room. Both options add warmth to a space and provided just enough interest for a custom look.” 

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Another by-product of the pandemic? The desire — and need — for homes that allow you to escape from daily life without leaving the safety of your four walls. “If we’ve learned anything recently, it’s that we have to find spaces and ways to retreat and relax at home,” says Walker. “Creating designated spots for this is important for our mental health — whether it’s a corner or a whole room, creating beautiful places to be free to rest and reset are key.”

While you might think of this trend as causing a boom in home exercise nooks, meditation rooms, or even dressing areas, don’t discount the power of a little cocktail or coffee corner either. “There’s never been more of a collective need to unwind at the end of the day than there has been this year,” says Molly Torres, designer and owner of DATE Interiors. “I’ve noticed a huge uptick in home bars especially, which we’ve found easy and affordable ways to incorporate into our clients’ projects.”

Things have been getting a little softer and sexier in 2021 — at least when it comes to furniture lines. From curved sofas to rounded display cabinets, these new shapes are surprisingly sharp for something with so little edge (see what I did there?). According to design pros, architectural features are getting in on the action, too. “Rounded shapes are having a moment, and one of the ways I see that coming to life is a resurgence of the classic archway,” says Walker. “Turning a traditional squared doorway into an archway is an instant way to add character and charm to your space.” Of course, this kind of a project requires construction, so you can always paint an arch or half arch instead.

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A recurring theme throughout the past few years has been filling your home with things that matter to you and make you happy, and this directive has inevitably trickled over into the art people bring into their homes. “While art isn’t necessarily a trend, clients’ recent willingness to spend time and money sourcing and commissioning special pieces is, and I think it’s one that’s here to stay,” says Torres, who adds that boring white walls just “aren’t going to cut it anymore.” 

“We are seeing more people than ever celebrate themselves and family with custom portraits and paintings,” adds London. “We live in a world now where we are always taking photos, and everyone is on social media. Clients now are taking that a step further and having portraits and paintings done of themselves or family and friends and hanging them in their home.” 

Germs have been top-of-mind for many people in recent times, so it’s no surprise that design innovations and features have played into this ethos. “As a result of the pandemic, we want anti-microbial everything,” says designer Jeanne Chung, owner of Cozy Stylish Chic. “Thankfully, technology has been on our side, and many of the products and materials available have only gotten better and better. We’ve been seeing a lot of anti-microbial fabrics from companies such as Crypton, while hard surfaces have seen a bigger demand for porcelain, especially countertops. Porcelain is not porous like a natural stone might be, so no liquids can seep in, and it’s hygienic as well as durable and stain- and UV-resistant.”

The impact of this health-conscious attitude can also be seen in the emergence of touchless appliances, chic hand sanitizers, and more, says Chung. “While touchless and voice control features have been around for a while, they have gained popularity in the past 18 months as a result of the pandemic,” she says.

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If you’re one of the many (many) homeowners who adopted a dog or cat during the pandemic, you’re not alone. The ASPCA reports a staggering 23 million American households added a new fur baby bestie to their homes over the past 18 months, and with that can come changes to decor. “Many people became new pet owners during the pandemic, while others became closer to their pets during this time,” explains London. “Due to that, we’re now seeing a home trend where the pets have their own space.”

Consider carving out an under-the-staircase hideout for Fido or a bookshelf hangout for your kitty. Not in the budget? Don’t worry — loads of stylish solutions out there can still make you and your pet happy, from sculptural cat scratch posts to mid-century inspired food bowls. “Now, pet products aren’t just stand-alone solutions but stylish extensions of your home decor,” London says. 

Practicality (and longevity) will never not be important to homeowners, but gone are the years where we expect our countertops and finishes to remain pristine for decades. In fact, that ethos has almost switched entirely now, with many embracing a new version of permanence and livability that emphasizes a well-worn, patinated aesthetic. 

“We have been seeing a big shift towards more honed, matte, and leathered ‘lived-in’ finishes,” says Chung. “Polished finishes can be a bit harsh, so we prefer going with a softer look. It’s about achieving balance — in a recent modern French kitchen that we completed (pictured here), we opted for a leathered white marble island but used a polished Alpi Verde stone (it read as black but is actually green) on the perimeter.” The idea is for these materials to show their age and just feel more causal in general.