It’s hard to put an exact date, place or time on when minimalism became a trend in interior design as we know it today. The concept, based on simplicity, openness and freedom, originated in the post-World War II era, and showed up in everything from art to lifestyles.
In the 21st century, it looks a lot like unfinished wood shelves or furniture, accented metal finishings and exposed ceilings. The trends we see today, such as Chipotle restaurants with bare-minimum furniture and exposed ceilings and walls, as well as coffee shops with unfinished wood signs and white countertops, don’t just take influence from the minimalism movement either.
Combined with influences from Japanese architecture and Zen philosophy (which was popular in the 1980s) according to The Modern Dane, as well as Scandanavian Design and the concept of hygge, and the popularity of HGTV’s Fixer Upper through Chip and Joanna Gaines of Magnolia, this mashup of a style has dominated social media in recent years and influenced everything from our bedroom comforters to kitchen utensil drawers.
But as we spend more time at home seeking comfort and solace in our own spaces, are we starting to see this modern-day minimalist design transform, or disappear entirely? Not exactly, says Alexandria-based interior designer Stuart Nordin of Stuart Nordin Design. But trends are shifting, and it might just be time for you to make some adjustments.
“I think the cold, modern and hard lines [of minimalism] are softening and people are gravitating toward softer shapes and more layers of design elements,” says Nordin. “More natural materials and less industrial ones.”
For example, rather than the “less is more” mentality and harder, less-cozy furniture, trends are shifting toward simple yet decorative and comforting styles, such as grandmillenial, the use of timeless decor and traditional colors found in what could be considered the millennial generation’s grandparent’s style, and layering old and new, rather than a focus on only new, modern-looking furniture that’s clean and simple.
“I’m really excited that ‘timeless’ design is picking back up. It’s not so stylized or trendy in the sense that ‘blue is in’ or ‘bold prints are in,’” says Nordin. “And I do love the minimally treated, natural woods that are being used more and more. These more ‘natural’ elements have definitely been trending over the last few years and are only getting more popular as they trickle down into mainstream decor vendors, such as Target. And I’m hearing more and more requests for oak, when it used to be walnut; unlacquered brass when it used to be polished nickel; exposed natural wood beams when it used to be coffered ceilings; and more.”
But some things are staying put through 2020’s shift in design, such as white walls. Forget accented walls—although wallpaper has been making a comeback—this simple yet effective style is sticking around.
“I might be the most excited about white paint though. I love white walls!” says Nordin. “White walls could be considered a carry-over from minimalism and some people are afraid of them because they think they’re cold, which is true if the rest of the space is minimalistic, but if you use layers of other design elements to furnish and decorate the space, it’s those things that stand out and create the feel of the room. I’m hoping the days of ‘this is the blue living room, this is the red dining room, this is the yellow bedroom, etc.’ are over.”
When it comes to noticing overall trends shifting, Nordin cites social media (especially Instagram) as the biggest proponent of change. Influencers aren’t just common in beauty product trends and fashion-forward outfits, they’re also becoming the go-to inspiration for many when redesigning their spaces.
“Design influencers like Studio McGee, Amber Interiors and our own native Lauren Liess have huge followings and their designs are so beautiful and livable,” says Nordin. “All three are super generous with sharing vendor information, so anyone who loves a room that they post can almost always find the pieces in the tags in the image. Studio McGee has an amazing collection at Target right now and Lauren has a beautiful collection at Bed Bath & Beyond. I bought everything!”
View this post on Instagram
A post shared by Studio McGee (@studiomcgee) on
So when it comes to those warmer colors, softer fabrics and more comfortable furniture pieces, how can you get started putting them in your own spaces? Well, remember the keys from minimalism, but implement techniques you might not have done before, such as layering colors and fabrics, thrifting for unique pieces and more.
“An easy go-to would be a neutral sofa, a seagrass or jute rug that fills the room with or without a softly colored area rug on top, linen draperies on a simple rod,” says Nordin. “The trend is mixing elements in their more natural state, so woods, linens, untreated/ natural metals and more. But I don’t think you can go wrong by going with what you love. Don’t ever buy something because it’s popular. I think timeless design is the best trend of all!”
With us all spending more time at home this summer and potentially beyond thanks to the global pandemic, Nordin is looking forward to designing more “full, warm spaces” that are a little more complex and dynamic, but still calm, comforting and curated. Whether that’s through your own adaptation of new trends, or sticking with the elements of minimalism that make you feel at home.
View this post on Instagram
“[In 2020] I’m looking forward to people being happier in their homes and in their surroundings. We have been working really hard with so many clients right now who just don’t love their spaces and since we have all been pretty cooped up over the last several months, being happy in your home is more important than ever,” says Nordin. “Having a refuge and place of comfort and joy is good for the soul.”
For more home and design trends, subscribe to our Home newsletter.