Last year was unusual in many respects, but that's no reason to break from the new year, new you tradition. Physical health aside, the spaces we work, play and sleep in are important for overall feelings of pleasure and well-being.
So if you're planning to spruce up your home this year, we've rounded up the key looks, materials, inspirations and trends that are coming through the design world. And we think you're going to like them.
Most adults spent more time in their homes last year than pretty much ever before, owing to the pandemic and various levels of lockdowns around the world. And with remote working likely to be a continuing trend even once the coronavirus is just an unpleasant memory, it doesn't look like that will be changing any time soon.
As a result, we've all become much more aware of our home environment and the effects it has on us. We've needed to make our living – and working – spaces more comfortable and more functional. We're reimagining our rooms, creating more flexible and fluid spaces that can easily transform from office to entertainment centre to family hub.
So we'll see more of what designers are calling "broken-plan living". This is a compromise between traditional and open-plan living, with moveable screens and partitions, and multifunctional furniture that can adapt to our needs throughout the day.
There will also be a focus on using our homes to support wellness, and keeping our homes germ-free will be high on the agenda this year. In that sense, we'll be aiming for plenty of natural light, air-purifying plants, easy-clean surfaces and great ventilation.
Because of this shifting nature of our inside spaces, it’s getting harder to define individual rooms and give each its own style. Which is why eclectic is a big trend for 2021. Look at the latest room set imagery coming from brands, designers and influencers on social media, and you’ll see a combination of vintage and modern, of city and country, of bold and pared back.
Closely linked to the eclectic style is maximalism. The opposite of minimalism, this is about embracing our love of stuff and putting it all on display. It's got a hint of the opulent, but is more about achieving a sense of nesting and making our mark – establishing our small safe corner of the world, when so much of it is in chaos.
Whether it's a collection of much-loved artworks or a treasure trove of trinkets displayed cleverly to form a focal point in a room, putting your personality on show is definitely in. Travel-inspired accessories are especially prevalent for this year, probably inspired by the fact we haven't been able to do much globe-trotting recently.
And don't forget the cottagecore scene, which started on social media in 2019, grew in 2020 and is only going to get bigger.
In essence, this aesthetic is as much a lifestyle choice as anything else, embracing all things rural, with thrift shop clothing and furniture playing a central part, alongside plenty of wood and animal motifs.
Distinct trends are that bit harder to pull out for this year as styles begin to meet in the middle. Luxe looks have become more relaxed, for example, while rustic ones are more polished. It's like we no longer feel the need to label our preferred styles, embracing that fluidity in the same way we've had to adapt to the changes the world has gone through over the past year.
A take on "natural luxe" will be big, combining earthy, tactile elements such as wood, raw fabrics (boucle is going to be huge) and stone with metallics, velvet and modern lines. Think of burnished, hand-beaten gold, faux horn and fur, marble and agate. It's all about being comforting yet indulgent.
Similarly, we're seeing a "polished nature" look emerging. This is softer and more rural than natural luxe, but not as homespun as nature-inspired styles of the past. Think rattan chairs with a mid-century modern silhouette, as well as rich leathers buffed and shining. You can also add woollen cushions in sophisticated shell pink and chalky grey, high-end woven artworks and artisan glazed ceramics.
But don't let your imagination stop there. Anything goes, and we've seen unusual pairings such as Japanese and Nordic, and Art Deco and nautical, working wonderfully to create truly personal spaces. Choosing from the heart, and surrounding yourself with colours, textures and materials that make you happy, will result in the perfect post-pandemic living environment.
Hero materials, colours and patterns
We've mentioned rattan already, but it deserves a few column inches of its own, because if one thing is guaranteed it's that this cost-effective, lightweight material is going to be absolutely everywhere this year. We're talking about chairs, cabinets, coffee tables, headboards, screens and lamps. If you only buy one new item for your home, make sure it's rattan.
Velvet is another material you won't be able to get away from in 2021. Combining both a natural, warming, tactile element that is so comforting with a sense of luxury and richness, it is an ideal choice that makes us feel spoilt.
If you want to bring print into your home in the New Year, you actually won't have a huge amount of choice because texture is going to rule the roost. But nature-inspired prints such as leaves, flowers, tree silhouettes and so on can be found, as can those that speak of faraway places – think Indonesian ikat or Persian rug-style patterns.
And finally, the announcement that always keeps the design world on the edge of its seat: Pantone's colour of the year. For 2021, the institute has given us a double whammy with Ultimate Grey and Illuminating.
The former is a practical, solid and dependable colour, while the latter is a bright, cheerful and hopeful shade of yellow. Together, Pantone says, they will "create an aspirational colour pairing" and provide "a marriage of colour, conveying a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting". The two shades can be used in tandem (think a grey couch juxtaposed against a yellow accent wall), or individually (say, an all-yellow front door).
If you don’t like grey and yellow, or neither goes with your current set-up, furniture and accessories, don’t panic. Pantone’s combo hints at a wider shade trend, which is neutral with pops of colour. Keep your base calm and soothing with chalky whites, creamy beiges and even sophisticated black, then add energy and fun with vibrant tones such as jade green, moody blue or golden tangerine.