It often felt like there wasn’t much to celebrate in 2020, so we’re ready for design that celebrates life and unapologetically screams happiness and joy through patterns, forms, and colors. For pure design delight, look no further than the work of U.K.-based British-Nigerian designer Yinka Ilori’s provocative but fun home goods, furniture, and installations. Get ready for outspoken color combos like fuchsia and grassy green, retro orange and punchy turquoise in eye-catching, not-so-subtle patterns and shapes. You’ll find that even though life is still taking place inside for at least the first half of 2021, you can still have fun, and these lively colors and spaces will help you get there.
On a similarly energetic note, we’re seeing organic, undulating shapes everywhere, from cups to carpets, mirrors to makeup packaging. There’s a long-standing connection between organic, biophilic forms and the subtle use of natural shapes to enhance human connection to nature and creativity (think everything from the work of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí to the undulations of a curved couch). And after 10+ months of being confined indoors, we’re looking for all the nature we can get. While biomimicry—the design strategy that imitates uses, forms, colors, and more that are found in nature—has been on the rise as an interest in sustainability has grown, we’re seeing it combined with celebratory colors in unexpected places, such as a coffee table or pillow.
It’s no secret that an increasing environmental consciousness has been on everyone’s minds, and companies that highlight the diverse voices (and the minds, eyes, and hands!) behind their products are becoming increasingly popular. “I think consumers should expect to know how things are made, who makes them, are they working in fair conditions, are the people selling it to you happy as well?” says Sara Berks, founder and creative director of MINNA, a queer-owned, ethically made home goods brand rooted in traditional craft techniques. Just as consumers are questioning where their organic, farm-grown food comes from, they want to know the facts behind the objects in their homes: small-batch ceramics, handmade pillowcases, furniture from a company that pays its workers a real living wage, products from a BIPOC designer who sources her materials from ethically made fabrics.
Sustainability relates not only to environmental best practices, but also to sourcing and labor. And Sara agrees: “We really want sustainability to be a requirement and not a trend!” she says. 2020 was a major year for social change, she notes, and “people are shopping with their values in mind now.”
Kitchens are shifting away from the longtime classic white, and experts are welcoming a new color trend: black. Alyssa Clough, director of content and growth at Semihandmade, says that they’ve been seeing black cabinetry incorporated into new kitchens for a few reasons: The strong color choice helps to create a distinction between a kitchen and living area in an open-plan space without needing to put up any walls, and the black helps to create visual interest in a space that may not have stood out previously.
But fear not, says Alyssa: “The black kitchens we’re seeing today aren’t the super sterile, mega-modern designs we saw a few years back. These are warm, grounding spaces, no matter if the styles are more traditional like a Shaker front or a more minimal slab profile.” Thinking of going this route in your own kitchen? Consider black lower cabinets with a lighter color for the uppers so that the look isn’t overwhelming, or pairing black with open shelving for a lighter look. And, most importantly, Alyssa points out, black is a neutral, so it’s always going to be versatile.
If staying inside and wearing the same sweatpants every day has really cramped your style and opportunity for self-expression, designers have noticed people turning to their homes as the place for creativity and personalization. Alexa Backal, head of design at Mexico City–based hospitality brand Casai, says that she sees people “looking for tools that help [them] communicate and express themselves after almost a year of holding back on social interactions.” As a result, she’s noticed “people seeking ways to show their personalities in every corner of their home.”
And when Alexa says every corner, she means it: Videoconferencing nooks are a perfect place to express one’s individuality. Bold, highly detailed wallpapers and saturated tones, she says, will help “show how our spaces represent who we are,” and lean toward maximalism rather than the minimalist, Scandinavian-inspired interiors of previous years.
And finally, if you thought that the ’80s and Memphis style were everywhere in the past few years, get ready for even more of a flashback: to postmodernism, a broad movement that developed in the late 20th century in art, design, and architecture as a departure from modernism. Many see 1970 as the start of postmodernism (or PoMo, as it’s often affectionately called), and we’re now celebrating the 50th anniversary of some of the era’s most significant design debuts and declarations, which will bring a new wave of appreciation.
As a reaction to the austerity and overly strict formality of modernism and the International Style, PoMo embraced ornament, new materials, and history. In the words of famed postmodern architect Robert Venturi, “I am for messy vitality over obvious unity.” You can expect to see playful proportions of objects like columns and arches, retro color palettes like pale pink with deep red, and materials like glass block.