It’s a new year, a new decade, and a new era in design. You may or may not choose to follow every trend which surges in the coming months, but it’s certainly worth knowing what they are – or what they’re likely to be.

Practically Perfect

One of the growing trends in recent years, which many expect to fully blossom in 2020 is multi-use everything. Minimalist design has become a major theme on many of the more upscale home renovation shows (which will no doubt continue their popularity as well) while concepts like “tiny houses” or “back to basics” living have surged among homebuyers in real life as well as those on TV.

At its most basic, this means fewer pieces of furniture and often less space in which to put them. Whether this is a function of economic changes or simply the pendulum still swinging back from the creative opulence of previous decades, minimalism carries a simple mantra: “more is less.”

As a result, we’ll see a continuation of creative efforts to replace dead space with storage or alternative uses wherever possible. Such examples include drawers under the bed, ottomans with internal space, even desks doubling as decoration with endless shelves and cubby-holes. Instead of separate home offices, you’ll see dual-purpose dens or even portions of primary living areas that easily transform into working space. This means more USB ports in everything from recliners to reading lamps and seating, which is comfortable enough for movie night but upright enough that you can stay awake while coordinating your spreadsheets. It also encourages creative choices about lighting – soft options for informal times but ample brightness for reading or work.

Similar patterns will continue in the bedroom, and not only through our ongoing fascination with voice activating the small television on the wall or asking our tablet to dim the lights. (It’s certainly a step up from “Clap on! Clap off!”) As mattresses get “smarter,” increasingly adjustable, bendable, transformable beds will add to our comfort potential while allowing us to more easily read, watch, or even work from the bedroom. Many of them will even send data on how we’re sleeping and in what positions to our doctor, chiropractor, or phone app of our choice.

Environmental Environments

Another major development of the past decade is our commitment to “going green” – or at least to paying homage to the concept. The popularity of reclaimed wood in furniture or other design elements and the shift towards repurposed items as upscale design elements reflect our desire to play for “Team Planet,” or barring that, at least own a jersey and a bobblehead or two.

Real plants inside are likely to continue their comeback, in turn impacting color choices in their area and surrounding rooms. Wood flooring has never gone out of style, but the many quality options available in both real wood and persuasive imitations are giving new life to this look, which in turn means endless options for area rugs or more ambitious Persian-style floor coverings. Rugs set the tone for an entire room, and those which manage to balance the earthy simplicity currently in vogue with just enough daring to be memorable count as winning discoveries starting now.

Many of the more eco-friendly elements of a modern home aren’t about changing the look so much as maintaining your preferred mojo while replacing traditional elements with recycled or alternatively constructed options. Non-toxic modular carpet squares in place of traditional carpeting, for example, offer a sense of modern responsibility and lowered risk while maintaining a very traditional carpeting look. Other neo-environmental elements are sublime in their simplicity – a row of mason jars filled with water (add a drop or two of food coloring if you really want to draw the eye) lined up along a window sill will absorb heat all day and release it at night. Sure, it lowers your utility bills by a sliver or two, but also, look at your mad mason mojo!

Easily overlooked is the impact of buying previously owned furniture or other design elements. There’s no purer form of recycling than bringing something already manufactured, transported, and unwrapped into your home instead of always chasing something brand new. You may have to open yourself up to some unexpected creative possibilities, but that is, after all, half the fun.

Color Me Natural

It’s probably no surprise that this continuing push towards enviro-chic means changing color priorities as well. They’re one of the easiest components to change, and shifts in popular palettes are both common and, at times, rather sudden.

While blacks, whites, and especially grays are unlikely to go completely away, warm neutrals are primed for a comeback. Expect bright whites or glossy blacks to be replaced by softer tones of each – colors and finishes meant to draw you in rather than assert themselves into the space.

Many experts expect that “reassuring” colors will continue to flourish as citizens of an increasingly complicated and, at times, discouraging world seek a softer, more comforting environment at home. This suggests classic blues and greens will become more dominant, while we’ll see less of the red and orange “impact” features common in the recent past. (They’re unlikely to vanish altogether, of course, particularly among those who for whatever reason continue to feel confident and secure. If that’s what you wish to assert, keep those hot colors here and there, and live your best life!) The quirkier among us may find limes or other yellowish greens to offer an interesting compromise between festive and forceful.

Nice Touch

With the rise in simplicity has come a collective yearning for softer, deeper textures. Velvet has been making an impressive comeback, this time as a more accessible form of luxury. Some of this is thanks to improved technologies which allow the familiar softness and welcoming plushness of velvet to be manufactured in both stain-resistant and fade-resistant varieties, and without prohibitive expense. It’s also a flexible fabric, working well in almost any color, and does an effective job as an accent on throw pillows or covering your entire living room ensemble. Used judiciously, velvet still adds class and style to any room despite being far more practical than it was a few short decades ago.

Faux Furs (as opposed to real fur – see “environmentalism” above) are less common, but can bring daring texture to eclectic designs. Even unexpected materials like lace, corduroy, or flannel will be making their appearances more often, along with daring mixes like leather with cotton or rough designs sewn into soft pillows.

Don’t overlook the power of varying patterns and textures by simply combining different items in creative ways. Some items match one another, others “go” together, but some combinations do neither and work brilliantly anyway. It’s OK to experiment a bit and see what works, whether it follows “the rules” or not. Besides, just by saying that, it becomes one of the rules. You’re welcome.

Rural Americana

The trend towards natural elements and welcoming colors naturally lends itself to the revival of a style that has never much waned to begin with. The sliding scale from “rural” to “farmhouse” to “Americana” need not be overly clarified in order to be effective. Rustic designs, natural materials, and even faux sentimentality can combine effectively into a look which is not only warm and welcoming but hearkens back to an idealized time and lifestyle which may or may not have ever existed for most, but which nevertheless make for wonderful and coherent surroundings.

Reality is not overly important when it comes to comfort or design or mood. If you yearn for simpler times, whether that leans “rugged cowboy” or “Little House on the Prairie,” your options are nearly unlimited and largely timeless. If you feel particularly daring, consider bringing in some of that modern brass or velvet to complement your shiplap walls and exposed brick archways.

Speaking of brass…

Back In Brass

Metallics owned 2019 and won’t be going away any time soon, but chances are good you’ll see a shift from so much chrome or black metal towards brass. It more easily compliments the earthy elements previously discussed while pairing well with leather, almost any fabric, and pretty much any color.
Few materials are more versatile. Lamps, furniture legs, handles, frames, bases, even art – brass is subtle and bold, textured and smooth, classic and fresh all at the same time. There are still roles for copper, chrome, and other metallics, but expect brass to take the point in 2020 and beyond.

Don’t Know Much About Geometry

One trend which might at first feel out of sync with the rest is the growing use of geometric designs in rugs, as upholstery, or in accent pieces. A geometric pattern can be creative and add interest to almost any item or an entire room without requiring bold colors or intrusive design. Throw blankets and pillows are a safe way to experiment with geometric contributions while still allowing you to change the entire mood of a room by swapping out a few light, easily stored elements. If you’re feeling eclectic but aren’t ready to throw out everything that matches something else, consider a rug or other supplemental element with a little geometric aggression.

Closing Thoughts

Keep in mind that there are no objectively “right” or “wrong” ways to decorate your home or design your living space. There are trends, and guidelines, and things that are more likely than others to impress your friends or help your family feel comfortable. There are certainly some choices which are more practical than others for your particular lifestyle – whatever that might be.

If your goal is to one day be photographed for your favorite home living magazine or get that feature spread in the local Sunday paper, you’ll want to proceed carefully when it comes to choosing the individual elements and overall design of each room.

If you’re more like the rest of us, however, what you most want is to live in relative comfort and address a few practical issues as you redesign your interior spaces. You’ll host social gatherings from time to time, and there are family functions to consider, but, by and large, your home is about you and yours loving and playing and working and relaxing and eating and sleeping and recovering and living there.

The primary goal of most interior design should be to facilitate those things. In other words, the stuff is there to serve you and make you happy – not the other way around.

And that’s the biggest design trend expected to continue and flourish in 2020 and beyond – independent design choices based on individual choices. In some cases, this will no doubt look like a mess. Freedom means some combinations won’t work; such is the nature of risk and broken boundaries. Many other times, however, freedom means you’ll draw from the various possibilities and figure out something that resonates for you. And if that changes in a month, or a year, or a decade, that’s OK, too – we’re not going to run out of possibilities, and neither will you.