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There’s something so satisfying about a year in review, especially when it comes to home decor and design. At Apartment Therapy, we’re in the business of making decorating predictions, so this kind of year-end exercise is also about taking stock of whether our home decor premonitions came true. While 2021 may have been another strange year in the world, plenty of inspiring things happened from a decorating standpoint, and a lot of what took off in terms of interiors will still be relevant long after the clock strikes midnight, on Dec. 31. Take this walk down memory lane with me, and you’ll be more than ready to redecorate and do something different after rediscovering these seven 2021 trends — many of which, yes, we predicted correctly!
Biophilic beauty kicked the year off
In 2020, many people didn’t feel safe doing much outside of their homes, other than relishing in the seclusion and beauty the great outdoors has to offer. Going into 2021 then, it came as no surprise that designers, architects, and dwellers alike all channeled the influence of nature into their spaces in various ways: earthy textures, green-forward color palettes, plants galore, and even wallpaper and fabric prints that featured flora and fauna. The buzzword for all of these nature-inspired motifs? Biophilic design, which creates a strong connection with nature through use of all the aforementioned elements as well as the inclusion of as much natural light as possible. The idea is to bring nature into your home for all of the benefits it can bring: calmness, serenity, and a breath of (literal) fresh air.
Neotenic design made its debut
If 2020 was all about curvy silhouettes for home furnishings, those rounded shapes evolved into squiggles and wiggles with full-force for 2021. You probably couldn’t scroll on Instagram without a wavy mirror, pillow, or lamp popping up on on your discovery page or in your feed. What’s more, many spaces just became less serious in general, with a subset of designers and dwellers using design references from childhood, which is essentially a resurgence of neotenic style.
“This style of design essentially embraces exaggerated childlike qualities, which are often reflected in curved pieces of furniture, lighting, and decor,” says Amber Dunford, style director for Overstock.com. “This style adds softness to a design and brings more soothing energy.” With the pandemic still a factor in everyday life, self-soothing through decor is something almost everyone can get behind, so I’d expect to see more of this in 2022. Though comfort looks different for everyone, people will likely still be finding decorative joy in primary colors and silly shapes for a while.
Arches continued to put neoclassic and classical design back on the map
The painted arch might have been 2020’s answer to simplifying 2019’s painted mural trend, but in 2021, real arches started creeping back into interiors everywhere. From doorway openings to shower surrounds and even windows, the arch made its triumphant return to renovations and home projects across the globe, culminating in this epic bathroom renovation project by designer and creative Ann Sage that Apartment Therapy showcased earlier this year. I’d expect to see more of this in 2022 as well, with arched windows adding even more classic character to new construction, too. Arched and circular windows are both dramatic and invite even more sunlight into a space than their rectangular counterparts, according to a trend report by Andersen Windows and Doors.
’80s design returned to the home space
Another hit with the Instagram and TikTok set, quintessential 1980s interior elements really surged in popularity this past year, with everything from shell lamps and brass shelves to pastel furniture and Memphis accents all enjoying time in the design spotlight. The interesting take on this ’80s revival style? This time around, millennials and Gen Zers took to mixing these pieces with reckless abandon, particularly with Art Deco-style furnishings to create a new mashup style called “Memphis-Deco.” Apparently what’s old is actually new again right now.
Closed floorplans came back in a big way
Our 2021 designer survey predicted the return of walls, and certainly, closed floor plans have made a comeback in newer construction. If there’s anything the pandemic has taught many of us, it’s that a little bit of separation is good, especially when it comes to creating distinct zones for specific uses that require a bit of quiet and privacy. For many though, construction was and still isn’t an option, and partitions became a thing of pivoting. People found ways to work within the confines of their square footage, adding dividers made out of bookshelves, living plant “walls,” curtains, and store-bought privacy screens.
Home offices popped up in tiny corners and spacious spare rooms alike
As some people continued to telecommute to the “office” in 2021, many began finding more long-term solutions for their workspaces. Whether that meant using a dining table as a desk or turning a spare closet into a nook for Zoom, these “rooms” look different for everyone. But the concept of a home office is officially here to stay, and this year gave rise to a bevy of solutions and spending on decor in the name of professional development.
All the feels came to the fore with warm minimalism
Sherpa blankets, bouclé decor, low-slung sofas: Cozy design peaked in 2021 and really shows no sign of slowing down for 2022, thanks to the dominance of warm minimalism, which puts emphasis on texture above pattern. This past year though, interiors weren’t just about all things soft. Natural textures continued to creep into the design conversation, and the slotted, clean look of tambour wood picked up where rattan, cane, and sisal left off, adding yet another way to bring warmth into a space without overwhelming the senses.