July 14, 2024


Interior spice

What’s in and out for 2021

What’s in and out for 2021

Thanks to the lessons learned while staying home in 2020, interior design in the year ahead promises to put more meaning behind some of the most popular home design clichés.

What once were wish list items to create warm, inviting, functional or multipurpose spaces are now a real need, as homeowners strive to utilize every square foot of surface and sofa far more frequently as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

“People are looking at their homes differently to decide if it will fit a work-from-home, teach-from-home lifestyle,” said Leslie Dollinger, director of operations at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, The Goodlife Group. “We’re right-sizing not only our living spaces, but how we live our entire lives.”

And so, designers are expecting to work with clients on what might be the next phase of the many do-it-yourself spirited projects started while on mandatory lockdown, from updating trim paint and reorganizing closets, to more thoughtful redesigns focused on function and fun.

“Homeowners are finally investing in their unfinished spaces,” said Andrea Zappone, a self-taught interior designer and winner of the Times Union’s 2020 Home Design contest. “They want to create places for the entire family to enjoy, like basements, game rooms and movie theaters.”

Zappone, who told the Times Union back in March about her hopes to turn her eye for design into a professional career, now works with 23rd and Fourth, a full-service interior design firm in Saratoga Springs, where she helps reimagine clients’ homes with a modern, authentic twist.

“As we update these living spaces, performance materials have also become ultra important,” said Zappone, of materials like olefin fiber, acrylic, nylon and polyester, which each have properties like being washable or mildew-resistant. “Sofas are being upholstered in more durable, easy-to-clean fabrics because people are using them more. When you’re home all the time, there’s no excuse not to eat a slice of pizza in your fancy chair.”

The meshing of form and function, especially in COVID times, was echoed by Brendan Flanigan, interior designer and founder of Brendan Flanigan Interiors.

“(A) blush swivel chair adds flexible seating for socializing, or an impromptu algebra lesson, while Mom and Dad work at the sideboard,” he said, of one space he designed in under 30 days, reflecting how quickly a room can come together. “People now more than ever see the power of space, the necessity of function, and that, yes, beauty can be included.”

Aside from creating media-focused entertainment spaces, there’s hope that 2021 will bring renewed use to the tired formal dining area, though many might think that space is better suited for a shared workspace or storage. (Both of which are also needed, but can be achieved elsewhere by incorporating custom carpentry for hard-to-find desks, or built-ins for tucked away organization.)

“This could be the year to let your formal dining room shine,” said Zappone. “I predict this winter brings back small, formal and intimate dinner parties as a social reprieve from quarantine fatigue. What else are we going to do in January?”

Lee Owens, owner and principal interior designer at Lee Owens Design in Niskayuna, agrees to keeping the formal dining room intact, and reimagining it with fresh design for a break from the eat-in kitchen. There’s opportunity throughout the entire home to embrace what’s new for the year ahead.


IN: Detailed tile with beveled edges or a hand-cut finish
OUT: Standard subway tile used as backsplash

IN: Grayish, green or dark cabinetry
OUT: White cabinets

IN: Creative storage solutions; appliances in cabinets
OUT: Over-the-range appliances

Living spaces

IN: Statement wallpaper; from wall-to-wall or inside boxes of applied molding
OUT: Painted accent walls

IN: Natural stone slabs with dramatic veining for countertops or fireplace mantels
OUT: Dark granite

IN: Earthy paint colors
OUT: White or light gray walls

IN: Durable furniture fabrics and textures
OUT: Fancy furniture not used in daily life

“I like to encourage my clients to take risks and move outside their comfort zones,” said Owens. “Often the design concepts that make homeowners a bit nervous become the most successful finished spaces and the ones they love the most.”

When it comes to trends to try, on both Owens’ and Zappone’s radar is the shift to warmer spaces that move beyond function and elicit an emotional response with its thoughtfulness and authenticity.

“We’re phasing out bohemian, rustic and fake farmhouse looks in 2021,” said Owens. “Now it’s new-traditional or, ‘grandmillennial’ — a style that involves mixing contemporary pieces with vintage or antiques.”

Zappone has seen personal success in her own home’s design with a commitment to curate an inspiring, unique collection of items turned design elements to make each room stand out.

“Add character and interest to rooms by having personal drawings, children’s artwork or important heirlooms and photographs professionally framed,” Zappone said. “Large scale artwork can be very expensive, so an alternative is to collect important pieces from throughout the home and group them together to be framed.”

Not only is this a cost effective design tactic, but one that creates meaning and the sense that these ordinary living spaces are truly lived in and enjoyed as intended.

“Social media has put a spotlight on beautiful interiors,” added Owens. “Homeowners seem eager to create their own retreats, and so I’m seeing more requests for master bathroom remodels and media room design as well.”

Melding different pieces – from materials and colors to varied seating – is something Flanigan agrees with. Going away from neutrals and embracing color – especially in art pieces and collections – can be one way to invest in one’s home.

Having a living space with enhanced seating gives “the ability to entertain and meander, or hang with family and take a work call in comfort.”

In the kitchen — one of the home’s primary spaces — each designer describes a shift from stark, all-white cabinetry and countertops in the kitchen. Instead, they encourage mid-tones, like an earthy grayish green or, “greige.”

Zappone says Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore is a fan favorite, warmer paint color that falls within the neutral family. Owens likes earthy, moody paint colors like olive or charcoal.

And since you don’t have to be a design professional to spend any part of your day scrolling design-related hashtags on Instagram, many homeowners might already know wallpaper won’t be going anywhere within the next 365 days. It will actually be going everywhere.

“Statement wallpaper in small spaces continues to reign, but it’s moving beyond the powder room now,” said Owens. “We’re seeing bold wallpaper and statement prints in larger spaces like entrance halls and dining rooms.”

After a year like 2020, there’s a strong hope anything will go when creating liveable, unique living spaces that must live up to all we’re asking them to do. It’s time to be bold with pops of color, find a place for everything and understand home is where it’s at for the immediate future.

“During these heavy times, design is a great way to lighten the mood,” said Owens. “It shouldn’t be taken too seriously.”

Taylor Rao is a frequent contributor to the Times Union. Reach her at [email protected] or @whodatgirl_2bd