What’s New in Custom Home Design – Top 6 Design Trends for 2021


Needless to say 2020 has been…a year.

The whole world is taking a collective breath and exhaling a deep sigh of relief as we round the corner to 2021.  A year spent hunkered down together in our homes altered the ways we interact with our spaces. New priorities emerged and impacted design choices.

Desire for functional spaces reigned supreme—areas for kids to play and learn virtually, the absolutely essential private home office, a home gym to grab a quick sweat, soaker tubs for a spa experience and comforting living rooms to destress.  Above all, 2020 brought to light just how integral the home is to our feelings of security, comfort and well-being.

These themes –functionality, familiarity, serenity, joy—are steering interior design trends for custom home builders in the New Year.

2021 Design Trends

  1. Paint colors – Calming colors rooted in nature

The big names in the paint industry announce their color palettes of the year, and both Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore set the mood with color choices that are calming, soothing and inspired by nature.  Sherwin Williams named Urbane Bronze (SW 7048) as their selection: “Its nature-inspired energy cultivates a sense of calm from the ground up with natural simplicity.”  

With its versatility, Urbane Bronze can be used on the interior or exterior of your home.  Inside, it is a stunning choice, especially when paired with a neutral kitchen cabinet contrasted with a bold kitchen island.  It also coordinates perfectly with white oak or cedar accents.  As a beautiful, rich color, you can use it on your built-in cabinets or doors for a statement that is not too cold or stark as a true black.  Outside, it is an excellent choice for elements of exterior elevations, with its green undertones blending well with a home’s natural elements.  Its dark, earthy properties are great for shutters and window grids.  Dark window grids are incredibly popular, adding depth and contrast for a new or existing home.

Benjamin Moore chose Aegean Teal (2136-40) as their 2021 color of the year, calling it “intriguing, balanced and deeply soothing.” The name of the color is deceptive—it’s not as teal as you might imagine. It’s actually a rich, dusty blue with a green undertone—again, inspired from the earth’s natural elements.  The color feels soft and familiar, and our eyes naturally gravitate to these properties because it makes us feel good.

Inside your home, this would be a fantastic color for a basement or dining room wet bar as a fun pop of color. Feature it on the ceiling of your powder room as a creative way to introduce an unexpected design element in a small space.  Aegean Teal can diversify your exterior home look, too—use it on the trim for a classic, French Tudor vibe or on the shutters or front door of your modern farmhouse. It would also be lovely on the ceiling of a front porch.

2.Grandmillenial Style – A throwback to antiques, wallpaper, ruffles and floral patterns              

When life becomes difficult, human nature finds comfort in what is familiar, seeking out happier memories that act like a comfort food.  Memories of Grandma’s house and a living room with colorful wallpaper, the family heirloom hutch proudly displayed in the dining room, adorned with china and all things floral are associated with a simpler time.  Fueled by access to design inspiration from social media, millennials are embracing the old and turning it new. They are shopping for antique furniture to mix with modern pieces, breaking out grandma’s china, adding slipcovers on sofas and revitalizing the use of wallpaper.

Did we say wallpaper? Yep! It’s back. People used to cringe at the thought.  But we’re seeing custom homeowners reengage with this media to bring charm, eclecticness and nostalgia to their home design.  Wallpaper is now much easier to apply and remove (thank you, technology) and relatively affordable so it’s not the huge, long-term commitment it used to be. Powder rooms, bedrooms, dining rooms, the wall behind a built-in breakfast nook and laundry room are perfect spots to incorporate wallpaper into your home.

Floral Wallpaper in a Harrison Homes Laundry Room
Grandmillenial Style, Vibrant Wallpaper

3. Light woodsScandinavian influenced, light hardwoods

For years, dark woods have been the go-to in home flooring.  We’re seeing this swing to the opposite side of the pendulum, with home owners seeking a lighter, brighter space that Nordic light-stained wood supply. This embrace of Scandinavian influence of a minimalist interior encourages calmness and serenity in the otherwise chaotic year. With that being said, too much light can feel stark, so it’s important to incorporate vintage elements and patterns to offset the look in the traditionally larger homes we have in America vs. Scandinavian architecture.

White oak and light-stained woods also add a gorgeous texture. Harrison Homes recently designed and built a hip vault ceiling in a master bedroom. The wood is white-washed, creating an open, airy feel that can only be accomplished with light wood.  

Light Hardwoods Brighten Space and Make it Feel Larger
Custom Home Master Bedroom – Whitewashed Hip Vault Ceiling

4. Bold Wall Colors – creating vibrancy and excitement

With the family room being the central heartbeat and style of the home, homeowners historically have kept design neutral and simple.  However, total immersion in our homes this year has us craving excitement and visual interest. An easy way to accomplish this is by adding a bold-colored accent wall or even painting custom built-ins to spice it up! Or, many homeowners are opting to add a moody room– completely covering walls, trim and ceilings of an office or powder room for a rich and sophisticated look. Again, social media has helped people gain confidence to venture outside comfort zones, and apply design trends they see in favorite inspiration photos.  We no longer need to be afraid of color—it’s just paint and can be updated easily when the mood strikes.

Sherwin Williams Iron Ore
Moody Office Space, Featuring Sherwin Williams Granite Peak

5. Natural elements – wood, concrete and stone

No matter what space you are in within a home, there are always natural elements present. Whether it’s a stone countertop, wood cabinets or a metal faucet, you need a balance of natural materials to breathe warmth into the home. This isn’t new, but what’s interesting is how creative homeowners are trending with incorporating these elements into their personal styles.  For example, adding floating wood shelves in the kitchen, a concrete sink in the bathroom, stained cedar beams, mixed metal hardware or unique light fixtures.   All of these elements work together in harmony to create function and design.

Floating Concrete Sink

6. Return to Tradition – functionality and comfort

With the amount of time we spend in our homes, we want space to lounge, work and play.  And, we want these spaces to be warm and comforting.   The past year has caused a fundamental shift. Our houses became our gyms, classrooms, restaurants and offices. Because of this, home sizes are growing, or they are being designed to include multi-purpose rooms.

Comfort is always important when designing custom homes. For example, where we plan the laundry room in relation to the master bedroom for ease of access and sound, avoiding placement of the baby’s room above a home office, where the mudroom is placed or how to fit a Peloton bike in a walk in closet—there are many factors to contemplate when designing your home to fit your lifestyle.  

Stylistically, we’re talking about a return to traditional patterns, art, colors, symmetrical furniture, etc.

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