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What Design Trends Will Have Staying Power in 2021?

Privacy, health, and space will lead design requests in 2021. 

June 01, 2021
interior natural light

In a reversal from the recent trend toward more open-concept spaces within the home, private spaces and multi-purpose outdoor areas will likely lead remodeling requests in 2021.

As families stayed home in 2020 because of the pandemic, secluded spaces for work and school became more desirable, and the need for outdoor space became imperative as public spaces and vacation options were severely limited.

These big trends are being requested in home owners’ existing homes and in recently purchased homes remodeled before the new owners move in. Additionally, they are coming from clients across the economic spectrum, adapted to meet their budgets and provide them spaces within their homes that are both functional and beautiful.

Some remodelers have had requests for the transition of existing rooms within the home into office spaces, from spare bedrooms to walk-in pantries. Wherever a desk will fit, remodelers have created spaces for parents looking for seclusion and quiet.

The key component for each of these spaces has been a door: Whether a pocket door, barn door, or traditional door, the need for privacy from other family members or roommates is the biggest request remodelers are seeing now that they weren’t prior to the pandemic and the beginning of work from home and virtual school.

Expansion of 2020 trends

On the other hand, it’s apparent that some trends that were big in 2020 were already in place and then expanded when most of the country quarantined at home for a year. The 2016 NAHB Remodeler of the Year, Michael Menn, a remodeler in Northbrook, Ill., said that the desire for a clean home fueled remodeling projects in newly purchased and owner-occupied homes.

Whether found through easier-to-clean materials, like quartz and quartzite, or through entirely separate mudrooms (including a shower space) to allow for a “detox” upon entering the home, home owners are looking for ways to make sure their families are healthy at home.

No stranger to the concept of a “healthy home,” Jillian Pritchard-Cooke, founder of Wellness Within Your Walls, spoke to this phenomenon. “Many of us, because we’re spending so much time at home, we’ve started placing more importance on the way our home impacts our health," Pritchard-Cooke says.

"We see baggers at the grocery store behind a shield to stay safe and start to think about the ways to shield our families from things that could make them sick. COVID has specifically brought attention to how important air quality is.”

Despite supply chain delays, remodeling leads keep rolling in. One of the more interesting vestiges left behind by COVID-19 is the installation of permanent hand sanitizing stations. However, Menn said not to expect to see them in many remodeling photos. “We hide those on purpose, but they have gotten really popular for home owners.”

Growth of green remodeling

Another trend that was growing prior to COVID and accelerated in the pandemic is the demand for green upgrades as home owners seek to save on utility costs, improve air quality and increase the value of their homes. A survey by NAHB Remodelers showed that high-performing, low-emissivity (Low-E) windows are the most common green building product installed by residential remodelers. Programmable thermostats and high-efficiency HVAC systems also ranked highly among the most common green products used.

Finally, remodelers are seeing an increased desire for year-around, multifunctional outdoor spaces. Backyards, patios, three- or four-season rooms (depending on location), outdoor living environments, covered spaces, outdoor kitchens ... the list goes on for what home owners are looking for in their remodel projects. In fact, according to Menn, the wait time for a pool installation in the Chicago area is over two years due to the high demand.

It’s not just pools that are delayed. Remodelers across the country are reporting difficulty and delays in acquiring appliances and materials for various jobs. Many are having to change their business practices from ordering appliances based on when they need them for the project and instead ordering them all up front to ensure they are delivered in time to complete the project on schedule. That means appliances may sit on the job site for weeks before they are ready to be installed.

Not one to ask clients to settle or make snap decisions, Menn said he is now having clients pick out appliances and materials right after signing the initial contract. “These supply chain issues, which are pandemic related, are going to be the biggest stumbling block of our industry in 2021, and it’s a remodeler’s nightmare.”

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