1stDibs Reveals 2021 Trends From Annual Designer Survey

1970s styles, nature-inspired patterns, more outdoor spaces and a huge shift to online shopping will lead design next year.

12/10/2020
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2021 design trends
Solis Betancourt & Sherrill (designer), Walter Smalling (photographer)

1stDibs,​ the leading marketplace for extraordinary design and those passionate about it, has announced the results of its fourth annual Interior Designer Trends Survey, completed by hundreds of interior designers around the world. The data reflect the tastes of design experts, informing the industry and consumers of the interiors trends we will likely see in 2021.

Highlights from this year’s survey include color trends, with jewel tones like Emerald and Cobalt Blue/Navy coming in on top for 2021 and a significant shift toward warm earth tones like Burnt Orange and Mustard Yellow. Additional findings include a return of 1970s-era styles, a focus on bringing the outdoors “in” through nature and organic-inspired patterns, more outdoor spaces and a major uptick in the amount of online shopping for home furnishings.

“In the past year, our relationships with our homes have evolved dramatically. We’re spending so much more time thinking about the spaces we love — and would love to update — and also about how design helps us meet the needs of everyday life,” said Anthony Barzilay Freund, Editorial Director and Director of Fine Art for 1stDibs. “The designer survey provides us with insight into interior trends that represent our shifting decorative preferences and our new attitudes toward pursuing work and leisure activities at home. It’s been a year of big changes, to say the least, and the survey results reflect that.”

Here’s what the interior designers had to say.

Part 1: What’s In

Color Trends: Warm & Earthy Are on the Rise

2021 design trends
Shelton Mindel (Designer), Michael Moran (Photographer)

 While jewel tones came out on top for the second year in a row — with Emerald picked by 24% and Cobalt Blue/Navy by 23% — warm, earth tones saw a dramatic rise, indicating that cozier hues are gaining in popularity. Burnt Orange and Mustard Yellow tied with 22% of the vote, showing the biggest increase from last year: In fact Yellow and Orange hues as a whole were up 13% and 15%, respectively.

"The use of color in design is often a sign of the times as much as of the inhabitants. Jewel tones such as Cobalt Blue and Emerald Green are gaining favor in 2021 and definitely add luxury and maturity to a palette,” said designer Gil Melott. “What I find telling is how as people have spent more time indoors, the desire to embrace the outdoors by using more grounded colors to evoke a sense of calm and comfort is, just that, comforting. There seems to be a subtle shift toward the humbler earth tones and we believe richer hues will redefine how the whole home feels - comforting, safe and inviting.”

Rounding out the Top 5 is white, which also came in with 22% of the vote, an increase of 11% YOY.

The 1970s Are Back

As in fashion, trends in interior design are often cyclical, with references to past eras. On the question about which decade’s design styles are expected to make a comeback in 2021 — with options that spanned the 1950s to the 2010s — the 1970s (associated with bright colors and earth tones) led the pack, with 29% of the vote. This second nod to earth tones reinforces the prediction that these hues will be increasingly popular in 2021.

“If I had to pick a favorite decade, the 1970s might be it. From the fashion, to the earthy color palettes, to the sense of freedom and individuality, I have always found inspiration in this bohemian decade. But it seems to be having a renaissance,” said designer Angie Hranowsky. “Whether it's modern furniture or traditional details like floral and fringe, we can see these now through a more modern lens.”

Nature-Inspired Patterns

2021 design trends
M Interiors (Designer), Stephen Karlisch (Photographer)

On the question about patterns and motifs expected to be on-trend in 2021, Florals/Plants and Organic were tied for first place, with both receiving 25% of the vote. Their selection suggests that nature-inspired patterns are a popular way to bring the outdoors in.

“We inherently have a connection to outdoor spaces and often find inspiration in nature. Increasingly, we’re finding ways to bring that natural beauty indoors with botanical wallpapers and hand-painted nature-inspired murals, as well as potted plants, trees and vertical gardens." said designer Laura Hodges.

Artisanal Furniture on the Rise

Designers are increasingly favoring one-of-a-kind looks to create unique living spaces. For the fourth straight year, the percentage of designers saying that when purchasing new and contemporary pieces, they’ll source from artisanal makers increased — to 61% this year from 55% in 2019, 49% in 2018 and 42% in 2017.

Contemporary Continues to Reign

Out of 14 design styles, Contemporary came out on top for 2021 (with 31% of the vote, an increase from 27% last year). Coming in second and third were Mid-Century Modern and Art Deco, whose vote percentages — 24% and 22%, respectively — have remained consistent over the past four years.

Part 2: What’s Out

5 Colors Likely to Fall Out of Favor

On the question about which color is expected to reign in 2021, Bright Red received the fewest votes, with only 1% — a dramatic drop from 8% last year. Millennial Pink dropped to 4%, from 11% last year. Light Yellow received 5%. Rounding out the 5 least-favored colors are Bright Orange and Dark Purple, both of which received 6%.

These Patterns May Not Pop Up Next Year

While Florals/Plants and Organic were the top patterns for 2021, the pattern with the least votes was Ikat, with only 1%. Coming in second to last was Stripes, with 3%.

This Material is Losing Its Luster

Which material will fall out of favor in 2021? Brass earned the most votes from designers asked this question, with 13% of the vote. The other materials with the highest vote percentages were Wood (12%) and Polished Metals (12%).

The Raw Truth about Industrial Design

On the question about which decade’s design styles are expected to make a comeback in 2021, the 2010s and its industrial aesthetic had the least support, with only 2% of the votes. What’s more, out of the 10 materials designers predicted would be big next year, cement/concrete, associated with the Industrial aesthetic, had the fewest adherents, with 4% of the vote.

Part 3: The Impact of COVID-19

2021 design trends
Bella Mancini Design (Designer), Brittany Ambridge (photographer)

“Building on our traditional survey approach, which is focused on what’s in style and what’s anticipated to fall out, we wanted to understand the main shifts in how COVID-19 has impacted the design industry,” said 1stDibs Editorial Director Freund, explaining how the survey addressed this year’s unique circumstances. Here’s a look at the major changes the respondents noted in the past year, and their forecasts for next year.

Looking Back at 2020

There was a sharp uptick in home furnishings purchased online this year. According to designers, the proportion of items they purchased online versus in-store or at a gallery shot up sharply, to 73% in 2020 from 56% in 2019.

The pandemic also changed how designers are developing their designs for clients. In 2020, 41% of projects were designed virtually or remotely.

2021 design trends
Shelton Mindel (Designer), Michael Moran (Photographer)

The most requested designs in 2020 were for living rooms (66%), kitchens (48%), bedrooms (32%), bathrooms (29%), home offices (28%), dining rooms (21%) and home gyms/wellness rooms (7%).

On the question about top challenges presented by COVID, delayed procurement and delivery time received the most votes (76%), followed by project delays and cancellations (62%) and general product availability (57%). Overhead and business operations were cited by just a small percentage of designers (21%), as most have been busy with projects to facilitate working from home.

Looking Ahead to 2021

Looking at next year, the most anticipated residential design change was more outdoor spaces (e.g., patios, porches, terraces), receiving 78% of the vote. Home offices were also predicted to be big, receiving 76% of the vote. Other top-ranked spaces included home gyms and wellness spaces, with 48%; and those associated with a “healthy home” (e.g., air quality, renewable energy), with 48%. On the question of anticipated changes, the fewest votes went to a shift to minimalist design (19%), more “smart” products and touchless appliances (23%), kid-friendly playrooms (23%) and closed (versus open) floor plans (23%).

The vast majority of residential designers (91%) expected to continue to integrate virtual services in their practices in 2021.

Designers suggested that he impact of COVID-19 on commercial design would center on the need for social distancing and open floor plans (47%), smaller private offices and work areas (18%) and designs that allow for maximum flexibility in the commercial space, depending on needs/conditions (14%).

When asked about the future prospects of the design industry, designers were generally positive. Many commented that COVID-19 has made people more aware of the importance of good design, and that designers have a role to play in solving some of the critical issues surrounding the nature of work.

1stDibs commissioned researchers with Surveys & Forecasts LLC, a full-service strategic research consultancy based in South Norwalk, CT, to conduct more than 600 online interviews between September 1 and October 31, 2020, with interior designers who are part of the 1stDibs Trade 1st Program, which consists of 50,000 registered designers.

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