A year ago as the decade began, home design predictions focused on being at one with the environment through indoor plants, color and more. No one could have foreseen a global pandemic and stay-at-home orders upending everything we thought we knew about our surroundings. It’s little wonder then that this year’s predictions are almost solely focused on the need for well-designed, healthy homes that work better for the whole family.
These predictions range from the well-documented surges in interest for functional home office and distance-learning spaces to the futuristic-like touchless and voice-activated kitchen and bathroom fixtures and the health-centered like more germ-resistant materials. They also include the less apparent, such as garages being pressed into more duties.
People will always want stylish surroundings, but the emphasis now is on safe, multifunctional, comfortable and resilient spaces and materials. The following trends emerged among the lists of forecasts and studies for 2021 from Modsy, Etsy and Yelp and architects, interior designers and real estate experts.
1. Flexible, adaptable spaces are in demand as layouts are reimagined.
For years, one of the most common refrains from homebuyers was the desire for open-concept floor plans, with no walls separating the main living and dining spaces from the kitchen. Now, many experts and specialists predict privacy and noise concerns will see more people preferring that square footage go toward spaces separated by walls and doors.
Those added rooms are likely to be pulling double duty. The American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) most recent home design trends study found 43% of respondents wanted to add multifunctional and flexible spaces to their homes. This might mean the guest bedroom is used most often as an exercise room, or the kids’ bedrooms are their classrooms. Kitchen counters and islands with seating options can also be pressed into duty as workstations or kids’ desks, and dining room buffets can store office and school supplies.
Multifunctional furniture can help these rooms transition more easily. Etsy, in its Year in Review and First Look at 2021 Trends, reported there has been a 399% increase in searches for wall or foldable desks, a 159% increase in searches for Murphy beds and a 134% increase in searches for room dividers when compared to 2019.
The AIA study also mentioned more interest in mudrooms, which in most Southern California homes are usually entryway “drop zones.” These are seen as increasingly necessary as specific spaces to leave shoes, purses, backpacks and other items that might need to be kept separate for health reasons.
2. Home offices are here to stay.
In the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) 2020 Interior Design Resiliency Report, the top-ranked change to homes viewed as necessary was more defined office spaces or workstations, chosen by 75% of respondents. In the 2021 Modsy Trends report, the online home design service found offices have replaced bedrooms as the second most popular room to redesign in 2021 (living rooms remain first).
Some of the work-from-home setups spawned by the pandemic might have been ramshackle to start, but now they are part of everyday life. As such, the most coveted home office components, according to the Modsy report, include good natural lighting and windows, soundproofing, ergonomic chairs and desks and lots of storage space. As for aesthetics, Modsy found the most popular design styles in offices are modern and minimal, with 27% requesting the design to be “clean and functional” with a “mid-century modern slant.”
3. A home health check.
The need for cleaning and good hygiene has been taken to heart when it comes to homes. Interest has surged in naturally and engineered antimicrobial materials as well as the advantages of low-maintenance materials and surfaces.
Copper, the first metallic antimicrobial agent recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency, and its alloys like brass and bronze are growing in popularity when it comes to sinks, faucets, cabinet hardware and doorknobs. The same is true for the naturally antimicrobial cork, which can be used in flooring. Many common household surfaces also can include antimicrobial additives like Microban; these include countertops, backsplashes, appliances, flooring, paints, fabrics and plastics.
Low-maintenance surfaces that can help make homes healthier include using nonporous surfaces and those with less germ-trapping detailing, such as simplified cabinetry and trim work and the use of larger tiles with less germ-trapping grout.
Beyond surfaces, the AIA study found a 56% increase in respondents’ interest in products like air purifiers that can help improve your home’s air quality. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said these do help to reduce airborne contaminants when used properly, as do heating, cooling and other air-circulation systems when in use. The federal agency stressed running such systems must be combined with other preventative measures to protect against contaminants.
4. Technology to the rescue.
The pandemic has fueled even more interest in touch-free, voice-activated and other advanced home fixtures, with additional technology ranking second among expected changes to homes in ASID’s 2021 report.
For example, take HVAC systems. With a smart-home thermostat, you can quickly set a schedule for the system fan to run longer or continuously to keep air moving. Motion-activated faucets, toilets and soap dispensers and voice- and app-controlled door locks, lights, shades, televisions, speakers, appliances, security systems and more help you limit contact with so much around the home.
5. Finding space in an overlooked area.
So that spare guest room or the dining room are already pressed into duty as offices and classrooms. In the search for extra room, whether it be for a more private workspace, storage, a place to work out or somewhere to socialize away from the kids, many have looked to their garages as a possible solution.
A garage was the top-sought home feature before COVID-19, and interest has increased since, according to Realtor.com’s “Home Buying 2020: Consumer Preferences Post-COVID” report. It offers a separate space that is still accessible to the house, but a key part of tapping that space is organization. It already is a clutter magnet, so going through and clearing out what you don’t need and setting up an organizing system to easily find what you keep will go a long way toward clearing the space needed to add on to its function.
An added bonus of finding more space in the garage: You’ll have a place to put any items you might need to stock up on due to shortages or a designated safe space in which to receive online purchase deliveries, such as currently offered through Amazon Key.
6. The great outdoors.
The quest for more livable space also extends to the yard, especially as outdoors is seen as a healthier choice than indoors for small gatherings. The AIA study found booming interest in outdoor living areas, and according to Yelp’s 2021 Home Trend Forecast, searches and review mentions for outdoor kitchens have risen 85% from 2019 as more people stay at home amid restaurant and bar closures.
With the Southern California climate, outdoor living areas can be used most of the months of the year. It’s not just the elaborate patio setups with full kitchens, fireplaces and built-in seating that is fueling interest in the great outdoors. No open-air space is too small, with tables, lights and planters that attach to balcony railings and other built-to-scale furniture available.
Courtesy of The OCR