Don’t you love it that we can really say 2020 is hindsight! During the most unpredictable and challenging 2020, more people realized the power of design to make our environments safer, more comfortable, and personally suited. Sheltering in place created demand for better, more functional home furnishings, as our homes became the office, school, sanctuary, and recreation area. Do you sometimes feel you are working from home or living at work? People want to feel safe, comfortable and have an escape from the stressful 2020, so what have we learned and what are we seeing for 2021? One good thing about the pandemic is that it’s not about trends, but more importantly how we live, and the quality of that life.
Talking about trends and making predictions seems a little frivolous right now, and changes you make should be because you evolved, not because it’s dictated or “the trend”. But design trends are a result of the world we live in and that was true more than ever during 2020. We need to be at home with comfort and calm, and the power of design can be used to make our environments safe, functional and more of a sanctuary. The pandemic and COVID have taught people the importance and value of their environment, reminded them of the blessing and value of family, and have made us all more creative in the way we communicate and work from home. We have learned that we can do a lot virtually. In twenty days, I attended markets in High Point, New York, and India, and while it is a lot to absorb and sort virtually, how great it is that we can do this! I won’t deny that it is not the same as attendance, because I do a lot of self-inspection and curating at markets, but it does make me aware of how useful it can be and options in the future. Zoom calls will still be a time saving option, and part of our way of working when needed, but we will welcome in person exchanges. 2020 brought us wild hair, more beards, unkempt nails, and soft lounge wear – sometimes adding a “presentable” top for the Zoom call. Some of us have become better cooks, or even cooked for the first time, and some have put on a few pandemic pounds with the comfort cooking. Good thing we have those stretch pants!
So, what directions will 2021 take? What have we learned, what can we look forward to, and what still needs fixing? Wellness or well-being will be strong in 2021. Durability and functionality will be a major concern. Biophilia, nature inspired environments, or bringing the outdoors in, will be more and more important, and outdoor living spaces will be given more attention. Bringing natural elements into design can reduce stress, and improve creativity and productivity. This can be with natural light, colors, materials of nature, and window treatments. Many new materials and processes can be used in our interiors to help keep them safe. There will continue to be vigilance against the spread of germs, but with the addition of products to sanitize, treat and prevent bacteria. There may be additional use of a microsilver antimicrobial finish that is used for medical instruments and in the skin care industries now, but can be applied to so many finishes. For textiles, we already have so many performance fabrics with their excellent cleanability, but we can expect to have more antimicrobial treatments also. We have already received leather that can be cleaned like a vinyl because of a new technology. There are even fabrics that combine an anti-bacterial finish with a sound absorber and thermal features in addition to fire retardant. And we have had low VOC paints for a while for safer breathing and no odor, but now we also have anti-microbial for mold and mildew, and additionally microbicidal which kills 99.9% bacteria like staph, Ecoli, and MRSA. Enhanced indoor air quality (IAQ) and better lighting will gain more importance in construction.
But you still may be asking, what were the takeaways from the fall markets? I think a little repetitive of the last market in some ways, and understandably, with perhaps not as many new introductions during the pandemic. Contributing to this, there are fragmented supply chain issues. Different parts of the world may be shut down or with a small workforce, so there are many interruptions and delays. Therefore, and for other economic reasons as well, there will be a trend toward buying and supporting local businesses. But there is also a big interest in artisanal, and that can be local or foreign. Most of us want to support local and our own economy, but it is also very rewarding to help the impoverished in other countries to survive and maybe thrive by purchasing their crafts.
Curvaceous and organic forms were very evident and popular at all the markets. Textures were on both case goods and upholstery. Mixed materials were popular for both furniture and lighting. Home bars were plentiful. Wonder why?! Could the pandemic have anything to do with that? And, of course, color direction is always a topic of interest. Sherwin Williams announced Urbane Bronze for their color of the year, Benjamin Moore is Aegean Teal, and Pantone is both Ultimate Gray and Illuminating (gray and yellow). Overall, we will see warm, comforting hues with some pops of color like citrus green, pinks, teal greens, lemon yellow and deep coral. Black and white continues to be important, along with charcoal and navy.
Of course the supply chain disruptions are a major part of receiving your selected items. Sometimes it is one small part of an item that is needed from a supplier that is, or was, shut down by COVID; and the product cannot be completed. Sometimes it is a manufacturer that has been shut down or working on smaller shifts because of illness, so there are many delays. Appliances can be six months or more to get. Freight is also backed up and then delivery is behind. We are working hard to keep abreast of who has inventory and offer sourcing to find product or similar product for our customers. But as more people get vaccines, hopefully by summer this will ease some. The supply issues should begin to improve, and we will be able to nourish those human relationships and be a little more social. Let’s not forget those lessons learned in 2020 and value our time with family and friends even more.