My thoughts on the most notable, and particularly ASI-ish, interior design trends of the 2020s.
I think the word “trend” gets a really bad rap. Would I be thrilled if someone called all my work extremely trendy? Probably not. But I’m certainly not afraid of the word trend or the concept of something being “in” at a particular time. In fact, I think trying to be completely trend-averse is silly and honestly, impossible. We live in a society with very collective behaviors and psychological patterns, and we almost constantly consume media from tons of other humans doing amazing things–how could we, and maybe more importantly why would we, consider it unimpressive or bland to participate in some of these collective behaviors? I certainly think it is important to exercise your creativity and think outside the box, but mostly importantly I think we should all feel free to use whatever materials and products we genuinely love without worrying about whether or not they're super trendy.
There are also a lot of ways that something can be trendy. For example, some interior design trends go viral on TikTok but probably aren't going to make it to the pages of Architectural Digest. On the flip side, some of the most prolific and impressive design studios across the world, with multi-million dollar projects and extensive portfolios, use on-trend materials and concepts frequently. The important things to consider when using trendier concepts are the architectural style of your home, and geographic context, and what you typically gravitate towards. I, for example, have always loved neutral colors and natural materials. Even when the organic, warm-minimalism trends of the 2020s are out of style, I will still be using and loving many of the elements from this era because they are genuinely my style. Use and do what you really love and it'll never go out of style.
Before we talk trends, let me just emphasize once more that trendy should not be a negative thing. I have chosen to share some of my favorite trends of the 2020s and what I consider some incredible examples of such trends. I am using a lot of other designers' work in this blog, and I am doing so with absolutely nothing but love and respect to all of them. I am majorly inspired by each of these designers and have chosen examples of each of these trends that I think are done brilliantly. Mwah!
No. 1 - Wallpaper
I feel like starting this one off SPICY. People are so defensive of their wallpaper. “WaLlPApeR hAs AlwAYs BeEN aRouNd, it’S nOT tRenDY!” Untrue. Wallpaper has had such a major comeback that it feels timeless, but don’t we all remember when we were ripping out rooms and rooms of wallpaper in 1920s-40s houses? The difference is that the wallpaper trend 80 years ago was small-scale, usually light-colored and feminine floral wallpaper. Today, we are seeing much bolder colors, larger-scale patterns, and more organic styles in our wall-coverings. Do I love it? Yes. Do I think we’ll all collectively love it forever? Maybe not. Should you still do it if you really love it? Heck yeah.
No. 2 - Zellige tile
This Morrocan tile, characterized by a super-glossy finish, high color variation, and natural imperfections, has been hyper-trendy for a few years now. It’s kind of a chicken-or-egg situation–which came first, the love and acceptance of imperfections in our designs, or Zellige tile? This wabi-sabi, antiqued, patina-ed surface trend has been around for years and to be honest, it is the entire ethos of my design. I love Zellige tile for the same reason I love these wabi-sabi principles–perfect is awkward! Life is messy, homes will be messy, and accepting and living with imperfections feels so much better than constantly resisting them. Plus, these “flaws” add a story and character that shiny new things will never have. So the verdict on Zellige tile? I love it.
No. 3 - Plaster
Plaster, and other textured wall treatments like lime wash, concrete skim coats, etc., are taking the design world by storm. For the last few years, it seems like every big-name designer and most major design publications have heavily featured warm, minimalist interiors, and textured wall treatments have been a huge part of that. Instead of walls full of tile, we’re seeing Tadelakt showers, for example. The interest and depth is still there, but the busy, more maximalist style (and dirty grout lines!) is not. I for one am HERE FOR IT. I literally describe my design style as warm minimalism, and for me adding texture anywhere is a total hit.
Though these wall treatments are definitely majorly “in,” I think they can be done in a timeless way. I mean, these are really old, almost ancient, materials that we are just re-inventing to work for our 2020s homes. For me, the key to making plaster or lime wash look timeless is to only use it in homes and rooms that make sense. Much easier said than done, (hire an interior designer, that’s our whole thing!!) but when I see homes with traditional architecture filled with lime washed walls, I cringe a little. Even if you have the perfect house for these textured treatments, which in my opinion would be a mid-century, post-modern, or European farmhouse style home, practice restraint. A few rooms is just enough of this lovely trend.
photo and design credit - Jersey Ice Cream Co.
No. 4 - Bold marble
Another heavily featured trend of the past few years is marble with extremely heavy, bold veining. Compared to more subtle stones like Carrara or Danby marbles, these high-contrast marbles are intended to be the focal point of a room and to make a huge statement. Most notably, Calacatta Gold, Arabescato, and Breccia Viola marbles are having a major moment. More recently, I’ve started to see some designers playing with colored marbles which is really fun and can be STUNNING, but in my opinion is likely a little less timeless than the bold-veined marbles.
If we’ve decided that ubiquitous is a fair synonym for trendy, I don’t think these marbles will ever be super “trendy.” They’ll never be everywhere. These materials come with an extravagant price tag, which I think dramatically limits their trendiness. But, if the question is whether or not I think we’ll remember them as a 2020s fad, I think the answer is yes. We’ll remember it fondly.
No. 5 - Paper lanterns
The apple of my eye, the light of my life, the absolute cornerstone of Abigail Shea Interiors. The paper lantern. I, along with lots of designers and homeowners in the last few years, absolutely adore the use of paper lanterns as light fixtures or ceiling decor. Paper lanterns have come into vogue right alongside other mid-century modern trends, as they originated during the mid-century movement. Isamu Noguchi, a renowned sculptor, designed the Akari lights in 1951 and they have been replicated countless times since. My feelings towards paper lanterns is a great example of why we should be careful to criticize someone for using trends. I am completely aware that most people won’t be using paper lanterns forever, and maybe I’ll eat my words in 5 years, but for now I can confidently say that I love them far beyond their trendiness. The light and effortless ease that they bring to a space is something I imagine using in my designs for a long time. If you really love something, USE IT. Don’t be afraid of trends, trust your gut and go with what you love.
No. 6 - Mohair
Mohair is such a yummy texture, I absolutely love that we are seeing more of it these days. Though it is actually wool fibers, I would say that mohair is the modern and slightly more elevated version of velvet, which had its moment in like 2012. Here’s my thing about a fabric being trendy--when I say velvet, what do you automatically picture? For me, I see an emerald green Wayfair loveseat with skinny gold legs. Or a purple velvet chair. I would never automatically envision velvet in a neutral tone, it is definitely jewel tones in my mind. And I think the exact same thing will happen with mohair, but with more muddy neutral tones. Designers are almost exclusively using mohair in these camel, chocolate, plum, ochre colors that are so in right now. So, I don’t think that mohair will ever go out of style but I do think we’ll be able to spot a 2020s mohair sofa in a few years!
photo and design credit: Jake Arnold
No. 7 - Stone sinks
I'm just now noticing that I think I only picked trends that I really love? The raw edge stone sink has been really popular for the last few years and I think that in the right space, they are stunning. In my opinion, application is the key to this trend being a bit more timeless. I have seen many bathrooms with stone sinks that will look stunning forever, but I've also seen some that feel really out of place and in my opinion, will look fairly dated in a few years because the context isn't quite right. Think critically about your whole home, specifically the geographic and architectural context, before deciding to use a stone sink. And then, if you really love them, use one no matter what and love it forever. :)
No. 8 - Crazy pavers
In general, the trends of the 2020s include a ton of natural materials applied in a playful, youthful way. I love it! Crazy pavers are such a fun way to add some natural material and lightheartedness to your home. Even the name is fun! This kind of floor was definitely on-trend in the 80s, again another subtle resurrection from the mid-century era, but this time around the colors are a little more muted (80's crazy pavers were a little orange) and often they are over-grouted. I do think a little bit of this material can go a long way, so maybe use it sparingly? Also, be particularly careful about the architecture of your home here! This flooring sticks out like a sore thumb in the wrong context.
photo and design credit: Leanne Ford
No. 9 - Reeded wood and glass
Again, we're seeing a more playful use of textures and materials in this design era. Adding a little texture and interest to standard wood or glass applications--I particularly love reeded materials on bathroom vanities--is such a fun way to add some character, especially to a new build. I'm here for anything that adds character and texture, so I'm into it! Once again though, a little goes a long way. Bathrooms are a perfect application for this trend, but maybe avoid it in larger, more expensive applications, like a kitchen.
photo and design credit: Amber Interiors
No. 10 - White oak
I’ll wrap this up with what I consider the biggest trend of the past decade—white oak wood. It is absolutely dominating the world of interiors, and has been for years. Designers have filled entire portfolios, and honestly created entire brands and careers, with painted white paneling and white oak floors (and cabinets, and handrails, and tables, etc.) I have only recently started to notice a departure from such heavy use of white oak and have seen lots more dark wood, mostly walnut, these days. I don’t necessarily think that a particular kind of wood can be trendy, that would be like saying that denim is trendy—it’s just about the application. I absolutely do think that white oak (particularly paired with white shiplap) will stand out as a 2020s trend, but people will undoubtedly be using this wood in their homes forever.
Thanks for being here and letting me distill my thoughts on this fun design era!