What Google knows about our home interiors

Google Analytics data from the past 14 years offers a fascinating insight into how interior design trends have evolved

Futons: 550,000 monthly searches. Courtesy Ikea
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Google really is a wonderful thing. Not just because it allows us to access pretty much any information that we might need at the touch of a few buttons, but also because it's a wealth of fascinating data. If you have ever ventured into the world of Google Analytics, you will know just how much can be learnt by tracking the way people search.

Home interiors are no exception. This year, a study from US online retailer Pots Planters and More looked back at data from the past 14 years to see the trends that can be revealed by the items we have been searching for. Their analysis – which covered a huge range of items, from beanbags to palette furniture – turned up some interesting results.

Fun with furniture

Featuring: futons, floating shelves, pallet furniture, mid-century modern furniture

Floating shelves: 201,000. Courtesy Ikea

Futons were the surprise No 1 search result in the study, with an average of 550,000 monthly searches – despite falling in popularity over the 14 years. It seems that space remains a big issue for us all. On the other hand, floating shelves, with less than half the monthly searches (201,000), recorded a big rise in demand.

It’s perhaps less surprising that searches for pallet furniture first started increasing in 2012 and peaked in 2014 during the height of the trend. Their moment in the sun has been slowly subsiding since then, but there are still peaks in spring months when people start thinking about getting out into the garden.

Finally, although search numbers are low at about 33,100, mid-century modern furniture shows no sign of going away, with interest increasing steadily over the years. 

Going green

Featuring: terrariums, succulents, bonsai trees, Zen gardens, ferns

Terraniums: 450,000. Courtesy bNifty

Terrariums came second on the list with an average of 450,000 searches, followed closely by succulents with 368,000. Both have been rising steadily in popularity in recent years, so this is definitely a trend you can still buy into. The fact that these plants are so easy to care for – not to mention Instagram-worthy – is no doubt part of their appeal.

Bonsai trees, on the other hand, may stand at a pretty decent 201,000 monthly searches, but have been generally falling in popularity, as have Zen gardens (74,000). Japanese style is a classic, though, so no doubt it will come back again. Ferns (165,000) remain uniformly popular, spiking only during spring and summer months when people’s thoughts turn towards the outdoors.

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In the kitchen

Featuring: KitchenAid mixers, Crock-Pots, French presses, mason jars, juicers

KitchenAid mixers: 301,000. Courtesy KitchenAid

The KitchenAid mixer remains universally popular, generating 301,000 searches every month. It’s interesting to see that there are big spikes every winter, especially around Christmas – one can only assume because they make such good gifts. Other seasonal products include Crock-Pots (246,000), which peaked in popularity in 2016, and French presses (201,000), which are slowly becoming more trendy.

Mason jars (also 201,000) show a Christmas spike as well as a small summertime one. They had their heyday between 2010 and 2015, but have stayed fairly consistent since then. Juicers came out surprisingly low on the list at just 60,000 searches a month – they had a little surge in popularity between 2012 and 2014, but have since fallen again.

The hippy shake

Featuring: beanbags, lava lamps, incense, geodes, dreamcatchers, wind chimes

Beanbags: 301,000. Courtesy Gyrofish

Retro homeware featured big on the list, hinting at the fact that the 1970s revival isn’t just a recent phenomenon. Beanbags proved their longevity by racking up an average of 301,000 searches each month, no doubt because they’re super-practical and utterly comfy.

Lava lamps, despite enjoying a resurgence in 2005 and getting an average of 165,000 monthly searches, quickly fell in popularity and haven’t really buoyed again since 2010. Incense (135,000) had a bit of a swell in 2011 and 2012, and an odd spike in the middle of 2016, whereas geodes (those pretty rock-crystal formations that come in all sorts of glittering colours) have been rising steady and stand at 110,000 a month. Similarly, dreamcatchers and wind chimes (both 90,500) have been making a comeback in recent years, hand-in-hand with the American Wild West revival.

And the accessories ...

Featuring: throw pillows, Edison bulbs, cowhide rugs, Tiffany lamps, floating candles

Cowhide rugs: 33,100. Courtesy The Design Hunter Pty Ltd

Possibly the most unexpected result among the accessories on the list was the humble throw pillow, which has been making a slow and steady rise up the charts since 2011. Although it only gets about 90,500 a month, it’s still a pretty safe bet, as far as good buys go.

Other sharply rising trends since 2011 include uber-trendy Edison bulbs (40,500) and cowhide rugs (33,100) – that 'Wild West trend again – but whether they have reached their peak remains to be seen. Two items not worth the investment if you're hoping to stay "of the moment", though, are Tiffany lamps (49,500) and floating candles, both of which have been in a slow decline for years.

What can we learn from this?

There's one very big lesson in this meta-analysis of home interiors search data from Google: trends really do have a mind of their own. Sometimes a product will spike in popularity and then fade into insignificance almost as quickly, such as pallet furniture. Others will steadily make their way into the mainstream, remaining there for years – take throw pillows, for example.

Some products, such as mason jars and Crock-Pots, show clear seasonal patterns, slipping out of consciousness until the hot or cold weather reminds us that we need them. And there are a lot of trends that circle back, bringing items that our parents and grandparents loved – from beanbags to dreamcatchers – back in to demand.

This all goes to show that there is nothing as consistent as change. Something your friends jealously swoon over today may be out of vogue tomorrow. The safest thing to do is to follow your heart and buy only that which you truly love. After all, personal taste will never go out of fashion, and is more important than a search term.