Winding Down the Biggest Trends of 2021

Photos courtesy of Emily Morrow Home.

As we begin to wind down 2021, it’s an ideal time to reflect, reevaluate, and reinvent what we plan to go forward with during 2022. In my past life in the meeting-happy corporate world, there was an emphasis on measuring, getting voice of the customer (VOC) feedback, creating a “benefit and effort” matrix on what should or should not be done, and so on. In the spirit of the side of our brains that savors a good Gantt chart, I thought it would be fun to do a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis on the trends of 2021 to decide what worked and what didn’t work. 




SWOT frequently is used for business projects or strategic plans. Knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses is essential to improve upon them and sometimes even capitalize on them. This is not your typical approach to design trends and is intended solely to help us look at things in a different light.

Following are 5 of the biggest design trends of 2021:

1. Renovating Existing Houses Over Buying New

Strengths: Due to increased demand for homes, more people moved from city centers to rural or suburban areas where consumers found it easier to either update their own home to their liking or purchase and renovate an existing home.

Weaknesses: With the escalation in the costs of building supplies, shortages of labor, delays in getting materials, and the highly competitive landscape among buyers for new or old homes, it’s difficult for many to navigate the various challenges.

Opportunities: The pathway to homeownership generally is much easier with an existing home. In renovation projects, typically, the costs are “known” rather than “unknown.”

Threats: The demand for homes has been exceeding the supply for quite some time, and the delays have exacerbated the already pent-up frustration of homeowners. In some of the more popular areas (e.g., Florida), the cost of homes have given rise to some buyers paying too much for a home, more than they may get out of it later as the real estate market settles down.

2. Indoor and Outdoor Living Spaces Merge

S: With a focus on healthy living in in our current world, outdoor living makes life easier for anyone who wants to enjoy social gatherings that allow for “six feet” of social distancing.

W: Outdoor living can be a little trickier in parts of the U.S., where it gets colder in the fall and winter months, or in areas where privacy or even safety may be a concern.

O: Homeowners have found it easier to get acquainted and socialize with neighbors if they see them outdoors. Studies on mental health prior to and during the pandemic have revealed that isolation has led to an increase in depression. In contrast, people report a higher sense of happiness and connection if they have and see friends, neighbors, or family nearby.

T: Once life’s harried pace returns to one that is too busy to stop and smell the roses, old habits likely are going to be quick to return.


3. Grand Millennialism and Eclecticism

The Scandinavian lifestyle known as “hygge” is about a healthy lifestyle with fresh air and sunshine. Painting the interior white opens the design plan up for opportunities to introduce bold and rich colors.

S: Due to supply chain disruptions, consumers have been forced to look at what they have around them, such as second-hand or antique shops for furnishings and accessories, rather than what they could order new and wait 12 weeks or more before getting it.

W: Some items like mattresses and upholstery just need to be new. Unless these items are produced domestically or already inventoried in a warehouse, there’s going to be a delay.

O: American consumers have been programmed to buy new. Necessity is the mother of invention, and without getting forced to take on a new perspective, consumers might not have looked into vintage furniture, and we might not have seen the reemergence of “brown wood” furniture.

T: Some consumers will not go beyond their comfort zone and bring items that are “gently used” into their homes.

4. Lighter Neutral Materials and Interiors

S: Still relevant, the Scandinavian lifestyle known as “hygge” is about a healthy lifestyle with fresh air and sunshine. Choosing light hardwood flooring and painting the interior and/or exterior white or off-white opens the design plan up for opportunities to introduce bold and rich (or calm and serene) colors in fabrics and accessories.

W: If you are choosing light-colored fabrics, be sure you’re considering your lifestyle. Sofas, chairs, and even rugs can be the biggest concern for spills and stains. Patterns and textures can help disguise and provide a “forgiveness factor” for the spills that inevitably happen.

O: There are endless performance fabrics and flooring that have emerged in the past decade that make clean-up a breeze.

T: Some stains just don’t come out. Some people are reluctant to change because they’ve been through an experience like that they’ve learned from. I, for example, prefer to wear black for almost every occasion because I’m a coffee drinker and easily spill my coffee (especially when I’m wearing white).

5. Universal Design for Aging in Place

S: Planning for a time in your life when getting up, sitting down, or moving around is difficult or impossible is what I’d call wisdom. Walk-in showers, ADA height toilets, and few to no steps are just a few of the things built into home interiors that will make life easier if ever met with a debilitating injury or as one ages. Not only for ourselves, but perhaps to care for our aging parents, having universal design in mind provides you with more options and can add to the value of your home. Whether it’s flooring or furnishings, there’s a need to look at and choose based on fundamental changes in how we live.

W: What about the “McMansions” and “mini-McMansions” of houses that have endless levels of steps, stairways, as well as the garden tubs of the ‘90s? How does one renovate or accommodate for the ambulatory-challenged?

O: There are bathtubs you can walk right into, helping to decrease the worry of falling. Elevators and inclinators are being added to existing homes at a pace that exceeds the
10 percent growth of previous years.

T: Often, the cost of these additions can be prohibitive for everyday homeowners unless they’re building in these features for a multi-generational home.

What do all of these “non-flooring” trends mean for you? It means consumers’ preferences and behaviors have gone through a significant change. Historically, it takes something seismic to make consumers change their basic behavior.

What flooring options are consumers more likely to consider today? With so much emphasis and spending on natural, healthy, and clean, we have an opportunity to shine the brightest spotlight on hardwood as one of the most hygienic and most natural of flooring materials known to man. Now is the time to spend more on your marketing plan, digitally especially, to promote your hardwood products to all generations.

Emily Morrow Finkell is an interior designer and CEO of Emily Morrow Home in Dalton, Georgia, and an NWFA design contributor. She can be reached at or 866.775.3877.


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