Home & Design Trends

9 Home Decor Trends that Surprised (& Delighted) Us in 2021

Hint: We're taking it back to the classics.

December 29, 2021
Photo by Food52

2020's home trends were... kind of all over the place. Mirrors and furniture made with spray foam insulation (what?), lots of squiggly lines, colors reminiscent of the '80s, and every kind of hunkered-down-in-your-home DIY project imaginable. But we'll cut last year some slack because let's be real—we were all over the place.

Thankfully, 2021 mellowed out in the decor department, and we've seen a return to more palatable colors and more intentional choices. More than anything, though, the trends have pointed in one direction: the past. Design and decor is always cyclical, and we know that what was once cool will probably become cool again. That certainly is true if we look back at what was popular this year, and look back we will! Read on for 10 of the most surprising interior trends we saw in 2021.

1. Burl Wood

Burl wood is a material that results from a tree growing a big ol' knob on the side of it (you've probably seen one before). The tree then develops an unusual grain pattern which is sought after to make sheets of veneer (thin slices of wood which are adhered to furniture to create the look of a solid piece of wood) or turned into small bowls or vessels. This technique has been around for a long time, but this year, we saw a huge surge in interest for this one-of-a-kind material, particularly when it comes to coffee and side tables, trinket boxes, and dressers.

2. Textured Walls

I'm just as surprised as you are that textured walls have not only remained trendy, but actually continued to increase in popularity. While I used to think of textured paint as a bygone '90s technique done with sponges, this old-but-new method of texturizing walls is actually a throwback to even older ways of doing things. In particular, roman clay, limewash, and different versions of plaster have become go-tos for designers and homeowners hoping to add interest to their walls without wallpaper or other forms of decoration. These types of finishes are reminiscent of walls aged by decades, if not centuries, creating a worn and well-loved look.

3. Disco Balls

Disco's never dead, baby. Not so long as millennials have anything to say about it, that is. Peek into the home of many a trendsetter and you're likely to see a disco ball somewhere around their home. Hung near the window to cast a shimmer around the room, leaning against a bookshelf as a kitschy little accent, or cut in half to create a clever hanging planter. Even renowned designer Kelly Wearstler came out with a line of droopy disco balls this year, so we'll call it a trend fully documented. We happen to love the way a disco ball adds a little playfulness to any room, no matter how serious the space.

4. Black & White Floors

When I picture black and white diamond-patterned floors, I immediately think of the long-shuttered supermarket in my hometown whose floors I used to skip and jump on while my mom shopped, only stepping on the black or white tiles to avoid "the lava" underfoot. But, like anything else, what is old has once again become new, and I've seen countless new builds and renovations include these almost-checkerboard tiles for a decidedly retro vibe, and I absolutely love it.

5. Board & Batten Walls

You know what's never gone out of style? Careful construction and attention to detail. That's why on nearly every episode of House Hunters, one half of a couple is pushing for "an old house with character"—the character being: original hardwood floors, crown moulding, intricate tile work... you get the picture. It's of course, more difficult to add that much character into a newer home, but one extremely easy way to accomplish a more traditional feel is to add board and batten walls. They're simple, too. Pieces of wood are cut to size, nail-gunned to the walls, and painted over to give the impression of having always been there.

6. Plinths & Pedestals

Ever had an empty corner in your home that needed something, but not like, a big something? Or needed a side table that would only take up a minute amount of square footage? Or needed to get a piece of art or a plant off the floor? Good news: plinths and pedestals are back in. While you could opt for a pricey version carved out of stone, I've also seen just-as-cool DIY options that won't set you back an... Olympian amount. Sorry, I had to.

7. All Things Arches

Some people on social media have declared that arches are over, but I tend to disagree with them. Arches (and not just the painted accent wall kind) are everywhere from stately doorways to furniture accents. I think, perhaps even very subconsciously, what we're really over is a room full of rectangles. Sectional couches, TVs, tables, countertops—it's a whole lot of squared-off edges to make you wish for something a little more organic, and arches are it!

8. Even More Vintage

I don't need to bring up the spply chin issues do I? No, I think we're all traumatized enough by our missing couches. And while it's no surprise that there is a continued interest in vintage, it was a bit of a surprise that 2020 and 2021 made it difficult to get absolutely anything new shipped in a timely fashion. Enter: furniture that is already made, and made well, at that. Sites like Chairish, Facebook Marketplace, and 1st Dibs have all seen an increase in interest for ready-to-ship items (i.e. vintage items that don't need manufacturing), which means more houses than ever are home to pieces with lots of stories to tell.

9. Olive Trees

Most of us know by now that tropical trees (like the fiddle leaf fig) are difficult to care for and keep alive, so I have to say I was surprised that olive trees, of all things, have found their way into many a home this year. It makes sense though since this Mediterranean plant has muted sage-colored foliage, which means it fits into nearly any color scheme. But they do require about six hours of direct sunlight a day, so they're best-suited to homes with lots of light. If you're not ready for the challenge, there are lots of faux options on the market to try before you take the plunge.

Which of these trends would you take or leave? Have you incorporated any into your home? Tell us in the comments below!

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When I'm not writing & editing for Home52, I'm likely to be found DIY-ing a new piece of furniture (or restoring an old one), hanging things on the wall in my apartment, or watching hours of vintage RHONY.

1 Comment

Sheppard March 21, 2022
If you have allergies, you might want to avoid the olive tree. They are actually banned in many municipalities in Arizona and cannot be planted outside. That said, as long as your tree doesn’t get to the point of blooming, you should be fine.