The roller coaster that was 2020 is finally winding down. With a new year comes new design trends, and naturally, I’m curious about what lies ahead for 2021, specifically when it comes to living rooms. The global pandemic will continue to impact decor choices, even well into the new year, but spending time at home has also led to more innovation, too. “One of the small benefits of this wretched crisis was a sudden and profound care about and affection for our own environments,” designer Dawn Heuer says. “As all went quiet, and we were forced to get mediative with our own four walls, we became highly cognizant that our homes were more than mere shelter; they could indeed nurture us and make us more productive.”
To Heuer’s point, I spoke with a handful of other designers to hear their predictions on what shades, materials, layouts, and colors will prevail in living rooms come next year, many of which are influenced by the cultural shifts from the past year. Get ready for some fresh inspiration and ideas on how to make your living room work harder for you in 2021.
1. Frilly details
Say goodbye to the stark, sleek pieces of the 2010s and lean into more whimsical, grandmillenial touches, since it’s not going anywhere for 2021. “I think we’re going to see pleated lamp shades and ruffled skirts coming back even more,” says designer Elizabeth Stamos. Designer Adnan Anwar agrees, noting that skirted and ruffled pieces “provide softness and some visual weight to balance out a design.” These kinds of items also add a bit of drama and warmth, too.
This time around though, expect pieces to be a little more structured and rendered in surprising materials; think designer Kara Mann’s concrete ruffled table and ruffled slipcovered sofa she introduced with CB2 earlier this year. “Even if you don’t replace larger pieces, tablecloths on pieces like consoles or side tables can allow you to participate in this trend without a big commitment,” adds Anwar.
2. All comfortable everything
“I think living rooms will have a major focus on comfort, filled with soft edges, comfy textiles, organic prints, and earthy neutrals,” says designer Kerra Michele Huerta. “Living rooms are where we all go to relax and unwind, and with all the stress of 2020, I think our senses will need some extra TLC next year!”
What types of cushy pieces will become commonplace in 2021? “Think low-slung, sculptural cloud sofas, oversized ergonomic chaises, furry upholstery, and even elevated bean bags,” says Anwar. “These pieces invite you in and make a design statement in the process.”
3. Multipurpose furniture
When your living room also serves as your home office and maybe even a learning environment for kids, furniture that does double—or triple—duty is key. “Multi-purposed furniture is a growing trend, because as we continue into quarantine, we are all rethinking how we use our living spaces,” saysdesigner Rasheeda Gray. “We need spaces that are flexible and can accommodate work when needed.”
In that same vein, designer Scot Meacham Wood thinks the living room is going to lose its “precious” factor. “No longer will [the living room] be a space used twice a year,” he explains. “Living rooms are going to need to be workhorse rooms as part of a modern home.”
4. Natural elements
“As we are all yearning for more time outside, the ability to ‘bring the outside in’ with palettes from nature will be calming and soothing for us all,” designer Gemma Parker says. “Finding ways to bring in more natural light and layer different types of light within a space can really transform a room.”
The natural look can also be incorporated in the form of “wicker, rattan, and grasscloth-wrapped pieces,” Stamos notes. “The warmth and texture are great.” Last but not least, don’t forget about continuing to incorporate greenery into your home, too; designer Saudah Saleem says that plants will continue to be popular in 2021.
5. Curved pieces
Now is the time to pull the trigger on that funky curved sofa you’ve been swooning over for months. “Curves are already a thing but will continue to be so,” Stamos explains. “Plus, soft curves play really nicely with some of the natural materials [that are popular right now].”
This trend works for items beyond couches, too. In fact, pairing a squared-off sofa with a curvy marble coffee table that has a dramatic waterfall edge, for instance, can make a major statement. It’s all about creating contrast and balancing out your silhouette and material choices.
6. A bit of wanderlust
“With so many unable to travel this year, memories of [trips] and wanderlust will be front and center in the 2021 living room,” Anwar notes. “Buying authentic, global pieces for the home is a satisfying way to explore and rejuvenate your decor, especially with pillows, accessories, and textiles.”
Why not think a bit outside the box in the process? Notes Anwar, “One of my friends bought a new lampshade made of vintage saris that transformed her existing lamp—and the entire room—in the process!” Not looking to spend that much? Anwar also suggests finally framing those photos from a past adventure to commemorate a favorite trip. You can add pieces to your tabletops or work a few of those special snapshots into a gallery wall arrangement.
7. Warm colors
It may be time to give your walls—or just smaller accessories like pillow covers and throw blankets—a warm makeover once January arrives. “We started to see warm tones appear in 2020, and I think our living rooms will embrace warm tones full on in 2021,” designer Tiffany Leigh Piotrowski says. “We are in our homes more than ever right now, and we are craving warm, cozy spaces that feel like a big hug. After the year we’ve had, we need one!”
Saleem agrees and even takes her color palette predictions a step further. “I think we will see a lot less grays and neutrals,” she says. “People really want to inject their own personalities into their spaces.”
8. Lots of layers
“Minimalism is always nice, but having a heavily layered, styled coffee table, console table, mantle, or chest feels full and lovely,” Stamos notes. “It’s an Instagram moment at every turn!”
Design your dream vignette by placing a few sculptural trinkets atop a stack of books or layering two leaning pieces of framed artwork on a living room shelving unit. Don’t forget about layering rugs, too. This is the easiest way to add dimension to a space, and it’ll also protect your floors in the process.
9. Plenty of texture
Skip the bold patterns and colors, Piotrowski advises, and instead, “look out for more subtle, textural details.” She notes that nubbly fabrics like bouclé will be big on upholstered pieces like sofas, chairs, and ottomans. These kinds of details add warmth and personality to a space without the busyness that big prints can sometimes introduce into a design scheme.
Large jute rugs and seagrass baskets help to add texture to living rooms as well, Piotrowski notes. Whether your style leans boho, coastal, or transitional, it will be easy to hop on board with at least one of these textural elements for your living room.
10. Statement art
“Everything from vintage posters to large scale abstracts or drawings will be used to personalize our spaces,” Saleem says. Whether you choose to shop small, go antiquing, or even frame your own artwork, you can’t go wrong!
While a gallery wall allows you to work a lot of pieces into your place, don’t discount the power of one big painting or canvas either. Sometimes less is more, especially if you want your living room to be more of a zen den than a color and stimuli-filled space.
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