7 interiors trends for 2021: from Japandi decor to the rise of the kitchen shelfie

29 Dec 2020 | Updated on: 27 Sep 2022 |By Annabel Harrison

From Pantone's colour(s) of the year to the ultimate home office, what will we be buying, and prioritising, for our homes in 2021?

‘For the first time ever’ is something we all said at some point in 2020 – whether it was to do with the number of days WFH, mastering a recipe/ language / new skill or actually looking forward to a run. For Pantone it was no different and for the first time ever, it has chosen not one but two colours of the year – we’re to see in 2021 with expanses of ‘practical, rock-solid’ Gray and sunny Illuminating yellow – ‘a marriage of colour conveying a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting’. Feeling hopeful and uplifted is definitely what we all need right now, and there’s no place better to start than at home.

It stands to reason, after a year in which we have spent so much time at home, that colour choices are mattering more than ever. So too are home offices – which for many are in fact corners or revolve around a simple desk set-up – outdoor space, clever storage solutions and zen bathrooms, not to mention what actually goes into each ‘zone’. Home design website Houzz’ report for 2021 offers “a generous dose of trends impacted by our response to the pandemic”: based on what its millions of users have been searching and posting on the site, as well as interviews with the interiors pros, the report gives a glimpse of a year ahead spent much like 2020 – hunkering down in hardworking, flexible, calming spaces. If we do have to stay at home, let’s create a place we love inside out. So without further ado, these are our top trends for 2021 – it’s time to feel inspired and make some changes.

1. Bathrooms: upgrade & spa at home

Oak Suite at Foxhill Manor

We’ve had a thing for free-standing baths since we stayed in Foxhill Manor’s open-plan Oak Suite – spectacular for many reasons, two of which are bath-shaped. And we’re not alone. Pinterest reported a 50% year-on-year increase in people searching ‘bath in bedroom free-standing’, along with 145% increase for ‘deep soaking tub’. Going to a spa has become somewhat less relaxing, with understandably stringent measures in place, so take time to plan out a bathroom upgrade, invest in a bath of epic proportions and create that spa vibe at home.

Handmade wooden bath, from £3,930, William Garvey, designed by Nico Rensch, williamgarvey.co.uk

Ticking both the bath and Japandi trend boxes (keep reading for more on this style) are William Garvey’s amazing handmade wooden Geo Baths, inspired by the Japanese Ofuro. They can be made to any size and the teak wood helps to keep the water warmer for longer. We also love Witt & Berg’s statement bateaux in metallic/enamel combinations – when it comes to bathroom decor, a modern vintage mix is increasing in popularity so surround your bateau with ornate mirrors, add a vintage chair and combine a bold paint with on-trend wooden panelling to get this look.

Nickel & White Enamel bateau, from £3,800, Witt & Berg wittandberg.com

2. Lighting: let there be neon

Let’s Stay Home neon sign, £225, Bag & Bones bagandbones.co.uk

We certainly don’t need reminding about staying home right now, but this bright and cheery Let’s Stay Home gives a pleasing impression of control over the situation. Gen Z’s obsession with vibe lighting can’t be entirely blamed on TikTok but it has had an undoubtedly massive impact on the on-going popularity of LED strip lights, neon signs and filters like Disco Room. Searches are up for ‘neon room’ and ‘LED light signs’, and the latter is a really easy, impactful way to reinvent a bedroom, office space or living room, resulting in colour-drenched, atmospheric looks.

Sausage dog neon sign, £195, Bag & Bones www.bagandbones.co.uk

There are two brilliant London-based brands doing the neon thing and between them they have 600k followers on Instagram who are as passionate about colour as they are. bag&bones, launched back in 2016, is an innovative LED neon art and homeware label creating high-quality pieces for customers all over the world. Neon Beach was inspired by a 2019 trip with friends to Tokyo which “confirmed a lifelong love and appreciation for the aesthetic and emotional impact of neon lighting, and the vibe that colourful lighting of all forms creates in every use case”. Their products use LED neon strips instead of traditional neon glass piping and allow completely custom designs. What would you opt for? We’d take a leaf out of Charlie Mackesy’s book and go for One Day

3. Storage: the perfect kitchen shelfie

Rainbow glassware, courtesy of abeautifulmess.com

The trend forecasters at Pinterest are calling it now: they say kitchen shelves will be the new favourite corner of the house in 2021, and who are we to disagree? People will collect and invest in eye-catching dinnerware, from copper cookware to coloured glasses, displayed in innovative ways on floating shelves and plate racks. We can but dream of a day when we’ll actually need all those glasses.


Add colour by turning to cast-iron cult brand Le Creuset as, incongruously, millions of TikTok users did in 2020. We don’t quite get it either – perhaps the Cottagecore trend was to blame, or maybe owning Le Creuset cookware is symbolic of these teenagers’ future lives as Star Bakers or Masterchefs – but we do love the colour pops in our kitchen, and they’d made the perfect focal point for a kitchen shelfie. If you’re more of a neutral lover, @carlanatalia_’s pared back shelves with accents of green will inspire you, as will Made’s chic glass cabinet and Aria Islington’s open shelving – ideal for showing off your homeware.

Ralph Glass Cabinet, Oak & Teal, £499, made.com
Planner Shelving, Fritz Hansen, £1,523 ariashop.co.uk

4. Paint: the new neutrals & colour trends

Green Smoke No.47 paint, Farrow & Ball, farrow-ball.com

While Pantone chose gray and yellow as its colours of 2021, Dulux decided its warm neutral Brave Ground is “the colour that will enable people to draw upon the strength of nature to help them find the courage to embrace the future”. Pre-Covid we might have found this mystic description of a paint colour a bit much, but we’ve seen green having a real moment across the board as we turn to nature to help us weather the pandemic – Dulux, bring on Brave Ground.

Farrow & Ball’s Colour Curator Joa Studholme – an inspiring woman who made us want to bin all our black and fill our wardrobe with colour when we met her – suggests Treron, Green Smoke and Sap Green; protective and grounding, all evoke feelings of calm. Earth Colours are also what we need right now – F&B’s India Yellow, a strong and moody hue, is “the perfect colour for 2021 with its mix of aged ease and modern strength”.

India Yellow, No.66, Farrow & Ball, farrow-ball.com

Dark blue kitchens are also tipped to be popular in 2021 – a smart, modern change from beige. As we are spending a frankly ridiculous time in them, it’s time for a fresh look (although we do know plenty of great places that deliver if you can’t face any more cooking – click here). We can’t wait for Smallbone’s 15,000 sq ft London showroom to open so we can browse its bespoke kitchen designs, all hand-painted and immaculately crafted at the brand’s Wiltshire workshop. Who knew a day would come when having just the right place for everything in a beautifully painted kitchen would bring us so much joy?

Iconic Collection kitchen, POA, Smallbone of Devizes smallbone.co.uk

5. Japandi: Scandi style with Japanese sensibility

Courtesy of John Lewis

This look – Japanese design meets Scandinavian minimalism – was a key trend last year too, but 2020 has merely cemented its popularity, and so our love of all things Japandi continues. Those of us who find the idea of neon lights outside of a club, quite frankly, horrifying are hankering after the sleek lines, neutral colour schemes and calming set-ups adored by many Japanese and Scandinavian kindred spirits, and there are plenty of ways to create the style at home.

Tulma Wide Sideboard, Oak Effect, £279, Made made.com

First: declutter. Mess and stuff and piles of paperwork do not a Japandi space make. Use neutral colours and natural materials – wood, bamboo, stone – as much as possible. Pick one or two statement pieces that you love, and stop there – Made’s Tulma sideboard ticks all the boxes. Don’t forget to consider lighting, both artificial and natural, and add greenery wherever you can to bring the outside in. Pinterest comes into its own for trends like these; create a board and channel your inner interior designer.

6. Decor inspiration: dreaming of distant shores

Planes, trains and automobiles ground to a halt in 2020 and our travel plans shrank further and further, until that idyllic holiday to rural Italy downsized to a week-long staycation at our parents’ house, an hour down the road. So we’re all dreaming of places unfamiliar and exotic, of distant shores, blue skies and warm weather; Homes and Gardens predict that the laid-back lifestyle of Hawaii and other exotic getaways will inspire the look of calm and relaxing living spaces in 2021. Marie Parry of Prestigious Textiles has launched a Maui collection of prints, because “tropical leaves and florals can be used to bring the outside indoors, with an introduction to greenery into homes. Easy-living digital prints are designed to work in any home with complementary color palettes to emulate the varied Hawaiian landscape.”

Courtesy of Prestigious Textiles, prestigious.co.uk

London-based Barlow & Barlow Design has a pineapple as its logo, because “this once rare fruit remains a popular motif in architecture and interiors and is perfectly in accord with our gregarious philosophy of exuberant interiors where clients can live, dream and entertain”. We like the sound of exuberant interiors, plus B&B is well-placed to provide inspiration for this trend, whether you plan on going all out, a la this brilliant bedroom they designed, below, or just dipping your toes in (a lamp, crockery, a print, even one statement piece, like this armchair).

Interior design by Barlow & Barlow, barlowandbarlow.com
Moby Accent Armchair, Curator Pattern, £349, Made made.com

7. Home Office: the ultimate WFH space

Roll desk in walnut, Ligne Roset, £810 ariashop.co.uk

We couldn’t end without mentioning the home office; once a relatively unused space which perhaps moonlighted as a homework desk or present wrapping station, now occupied for as many hours as our beloved bed. WFH is a divisive topic but whether you love it or hate it, it might be the reality for a good chunk of 2021 so your ‘office’ needs to be as enticing as possible. It might be a room, it might be a corner or it might be one end of the dining table; wherever you have to work, you won’t regret making it that bit more user-friendly, and aesthetically appealing.

Robot Tables, &New, from £672 ariashop.co.uk

We love the clean lines of Islington-based Aria’s selection of desks, from the smooth walnut curves of the Ligne Roset creations to the spindly-legged, colour-popping &New work stations. #homeofficedecor has been used 230k times on Instagram, so you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to inspiration, and finding a style you love. Use screens cleverly to separate areas, or even shelving, and take your time to populate your work space with things that inspire you. We really hope we won’t be repeating this trend in 12 months’ time… but in the meantime, we’ll be scouring our favourite sites to treat our homes, and ourselves.