12 ways our homes are set to change in 2021 and beyond

From work spaces to pet-friendly finishes, here are the home design trends for this year

Working from home

One of the most significant changes for many this year was the transition from working in an office to working from home. For those without the luxury of a separate room for an office at home, this was a challenge. But it’s incredible how so many have adapted. So much so that working from home is a trend that looks like it is here to stay.

Carving out designated spaces to work comfortably and productively is something that will continue into 2021. When it comes to the decor of our home working spaces, more consideration will be given to lighting and the decor of our walls – especially our backdrop as, like it or not, video conferencing and virtual meetings will continue well into 2021.

Gardens/outdoor living

Spending time in our gardens and outdoor spaces was one of the few pleasures we could indulge over the spring and summer months in 2020. This time spent outdoors sparked a rise in garden transformation projects.

Houzz, the online platform for home design and renovation reported an increase in web searches for “summer houses”, “firepits”, “hot tubs” and “outdoor kitchens” last year. Meanwhile, outdoor furniture and garden retailers around the country reported large increases in sales of outdoor heaters, proving that gardens are not just for the summer months, even in Ireland.


This trend for enhancing the area around our homes will continue into 2021, with demand predicted for outdoor kitchens, and covered dining and entertainment spaces.


Nature-inspired palettes will dominate 2021. Clean fresh and bright interiors will be popular for home interiors. The trend of connecting more with nature will continue and warm earth tones, such as burnt umber, terracotta and sandy hues combined with soft greens like sage, pine and turquoise will all prove to be particularly popular.


Adoptions and sales of cats and dogs soared in 2020. Many people who ordinarily would have been out at work for most of the day found themselves at home, and now able to look after a pet. Pets also provided much-needed company for those isolated by the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.

Pet-friendly materials for flooring and upholstery will be a consideration for many in 2021. Boot rooms or mud rooms will also become more popular as they provide additional storage for the outdoor boots, shoes and coats used by owners when walking their dogs, as well as creating space to store pet food, beds and other pet-related items.

House plants

Pets were not the only addition to many households in 2020. There was also a huge increase in the number of “plant parents” this year. House plants are an excellent way to bring a little bit of nature into a home. Not only do they look lovely, but they have a wealth of health benefits both mental and physical, making them the ideal antidote to the stress of being cooped up indoors, especially for those without outdoor spaces in their homes. House plants are easy to care for; they are also natural air purifiers and are proven to reduce stress.


Lockdown has led many to prioritise comfort in their homes. Certainly comfort trumped aesthetics as the first priority when choosing furniture in 2020. Sales of throws and other comforting accessories increased last year and will continue to be popular in 2021.

Making our homes more comfortable also means ensuring it is warm and free from draughts. Many homeowners are looking to replace their windows and upgrade their insulation and heating systems to make their homes more energy efficient and pleasant to live in.

Bathroom revamps

Before the coronavirus lockdown, renovations typically focused on communal areas of the home, such as the kitchen and livingroom. Now, however, renovations centre more on the individual. We saw an increase in small projects this year, involving en suite or bathroom refurbs, which offered a massive boost to our clients’ enjoyment of their homes.

Bathrooms, en suites and guest toilets are also rooms where we saw people getting a little bit braver with their design choices. They chose colourful tiles, bold wallpapers and special finishes for brassware like brass, bronze and black. The trend for tackling smaller projects which yield significant results is likely to continue.

Working out at home

With the use of gyms and personal trainers restricted as part of the series of lockdowns that began last March, many people took to exercising at home. Demand for garden rooms for workout spaces and home offices surged and there is no sign of that demand abating judging by the number of orders still on providers’ books.

Requests for attic and garage conversions also rose in 2020 with clients looking to create dual-purpose rooms for working and exercising at home. These kinds of projects will continue to grow in popularity, and we expect to see more novel solutions for exercise equipment that fit seamlessly and elegantly into interiors.


A lack of access to tradespeople and more time on our hands saw a rise in DIY projects in 2020. Be it a painting project, building a treehouse for the kids, wallpapering a bedroom or more ambitious projects such as laying a patio, people are more prepared now to tackle a home improvement project themselves armed with little more than the basic materials and the guidance of a YouTube tutorial.


While the kitchen has always been one of the busiest rooms in any home, the pandemic has made it more important than ever. With restaurants, cafes and gastro pubs closed, we’ve been spending a lot more time cooking and entertaining in our kitchens. It’s no surprise then that this was one of the most popular home renovation projects in 2020.

With the demand for new kitchens set to continue this year, the combination of functionality and quality appliances will dominate design choices. Clean lines and smart storage will be popular with larder and pantry cupboards becoming a must-have feature. When it comes to the choice of finishes, durability and ease of maintenance are critical with homeowners being much more hygiene-conscious due to the pandemic. Copper finishes and fixtures will also also be popular owing to their antimicrobial properties.

Smart homes

Technology more commonly associated with commercial spaces such as infrared and sensor-controlled switches and taps will become more common in our homes in 2021. With the lessons learned from the virus, this touch-free technology is set to replace remote controls and other household appliances that tend to act as germ hotspots. Voice recognition applications such as Google Home and Alexa that enable the operation of appliances through voice command will become ever more popular.


Although the amplified chorus of birdsong and noticeably-cleaner air stood out as the more immediate benefits of the global lockdown, they also served as stark reminders of the detrimental impact of our way of life on the planet.

This awakened environmental awareness has prompted a desire from many of us to make more sustainable choices, especially when it comes to our homes and how we furnish them. There has been a growing interest in high-end second-hand and antique furniture since last March, and this looks likely to continue in 2021.

Denise O'Connor is an architect and design consultant @optimisedesign

Denise O'Connor

Denise O'Connor

Denise O’Connor, a contributor to The Irish Times, is an architect and design consultant