These Are the 7 Trends That Will Rule the Home This Year

published Jan 17, 2022
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Life has never centered around the family home more than it has these past two years of pandemic living, and it’s fundamentally altered the ways in which kids and parents alike interact with their living spaces. As realities shift and needs change, we’re beginning to see new trends on the horizon that may subtly — and not-so-subtly — remake the family home as we know it. 

What will be in, what will be out, and what won’t we see coming? We asked some of our favorite interior designers, architects, and home design tastemakers to look into their crystal balls and share what they see — and why they think they’re right.

Spaces designed for one person

After nearly two years stuck inside together, everyone is understandably craving some alone time. Anti-gathering spaces — aka zones meant for only one or two people that encourage solitude — are on the horizon, experts say. 

Leigh Lincoln, cofounder of Pure Salt Interiors in Newport Beach, California, understands the value of this future trend firsthand. The interior design pro (and the mother of two young kids) recently installed a single-person sauna in her backyard, right next to her herb garden.

“It’s like a little box, but it’s incredible — I lock myself in there!” Lincoln gushed. Her cofounder, Aly Morford, a mom of three, adds that such spaces might be especially attractive to exhausted parents who’ve borne the brunt of pandemic-era school cancellations. For them, some serious “me time” is in order.

“That’s [Leigh’s] place, where she goes to get away, but she’s still at home,” Morford said. “It’s literally 10 feet away from a child at any point, but she’s alone in the sauna and having her own time.” 

Giving kids their own individual play zones may also help to encourage this healthy separation. In both Lincoln and Morford’s homes, the designers removed under-the-staircase closets and replaced them with itsy-bitsy playrooms complete with a door to hide all the clutter. The spaces are just deep enough to fit a play kitchen and a kid or two.

“We’ll just open up that door, and the kids will be in there hanging out by themselves,” Lincoln said. “The adults are right there” — both micro-playrooms are located just off Lincoln and Morford’s main living spaces — “so they’re still able to watch the kids, but also enjoy their own time. It’s the way that we can all coexist peacefully.”

Credit: Lindsey Stewart

Kid-focused kitchen built-ins 

Any parent of a toddler who’s purchased a kid stool for “helping out” in the kitchen knows that even the best of these bulky contraptions gobble up precious square footage. Current models are “massive but great,” said Jocelyn Dickson, the principal at Jocelyn O Dickson Architecture in Portland, Maine. “They allow the kid to step up and be at counter height, so they can be involved in the cooking or whatever’s happening at home.” But space is at a premium in most American kitchens, she said. What if, instead, a kitchen’s design incorporated pull-out stepping stools?

“Instead of a [lower] drawer in some location, you could essentially have a stool that was built-in,” Dickson offered. The stool could either be attached on hinges or be removable and designed to fit inside a custom nook, which would enable the stool to move around to wherever it’s needed.

But why stop at stools? Dickson imagines parents investing in flip-up kitchen benches that double as child-sized countertops, like this butcher block model from Sparrow Peak that can hold up to 500 pounds. “You’re giving your child this area where they can work alongside you, but in a space at their height,” Dickson said. It all serves to encourage kids to be more independent in the kitchen, she added.

Even families without the bandwidth for a remodel might benefit from rethinking their kitchen organization strategies, said Marie Flanigan, founder of Marie Flanigan Interiors in Houston, Texas. She’s already rethought her own kitchen’s storage by stashing kid bowls, plates, and utensils in low drawers easily accessible to tiny hands.

“Even the stuff for making lunches is in there,” Flanigan said. “Making lunches is such a production sometimes when you have multiple children. Having the zip-top bags low, where they can pull them out and make their own things, is really important.”

Credit: KKHorhn Photography.

Outdoor teaching gardens 

Kitchen gardens have been popular for a while (thanks, Michelle Obama!), but as more families invest in outdoor, family-friendly entertaining spaces (see: outdoor kitchens), experts predict that the two trends are on a direct collision course. Get ready to see a lot of outdoor teaching gardens, the at-home educational tool that keeps kids’ faces out and away from their smartphones.

“Exterior spaces need activities for kids,” said interior designer Leigh Jendrusina, owner of Salthouse Collective in Carlsbad, CA. “Garden boxes where kids can help grow their own vegetables [are] simple and impactful.” Jendrusina’s own yard is no exception: “Our garden beds and fruit trees are always planted with fruits and vegetables that my children love to eat and help pick for family meals,” she said. 

Perhaps most importantly, outdoor teaching gardens can be a means of exploration and adventure at a time when travel remains elusive for so many families — especially those with children under the age of 5 who can’t yet be vaccinated. Plant herbs as a family, or learn about the life cycles of flowers. Even weed-picking sessions can be fun when the whole crew pitches in.

Not sure how to get started? Cubby has a great rundown of ideas and products to get your creative teaching garden juices flowing.

Credit: Viv Yapp

More space-saving, multi-functional furniture and toys

Despite evidence that people are moving to ever-bigger houses in the suburbs, experts are also beginning to see a trend in the opposite direction. Families are increasingly interested in smaller spaces filled with fewer possessions, heralding the era of multi-functional furniture and toys.

“Quality over quantity wins the day, once again, and forever,” said interior designer Elspeth Keller Scott of Keller Scott Studio. Oversized foam blocks, for example, which can be assembled and reassembled in an endless number of configurations (peep this toy, which can be a fort or a couch depending on your kid’s imagination) are a great way to maximize a single item’s playtime possibilities. The potential of even something like a toy kitchen can be maximized if it’s multifunctional, like this family’s, which has a big blackboard on its backside perfect for chalk masterpieces. The greater the functionality of toys and furniture, the less of them you’ll have to buy.

“Square footage cannot create cozy or homey,” Scott said. “The edited home is the quickest path to creating [a sense of] calm.”

Flexible design for lives in flux 

Families are beginning to understand that needs can change on a whim, and experts predict that the days of buying hyper-specific furniture may soon be behind us. Forget hot pink dressers only suited to a stereotypical young girls’ room. Instead, people are interested in furniture that can float around their homes — bedrooms, the dining room, the family room, offices, and more — to best suit a family’s requirements as they arise.

“Instead of large sectionals in a living room, separate sofas or sofas and chairs are an easier way to move the room around if needed,” said Jendrusina. “Modular sofas are also a great idea for families, which allow them to edit the space based on current needs.”

“I think everything is moving much more towards non-gendered decor,” added Dickson. It’s a win-win design move: Furniture can easily pass from a boy’s room to a girl’s, plus it helps to break down traditional gender stereotypes around design. “Whether it’s for gender or age, it’s just incorporating more flexibility into design,” Dickson continued. Doing so makes it “less likely that a kid is going to outgrow things so fast. These things can grow with the child or with the family.”

Credit: Grace Picot

Investing in the mudroom

We’re living more of our lives outdoors these days, which means that families need a better plan for when they come back inside. Cue the rise of the mudroom.

“The trend toward mudrooms results from increased interest in nature and the outdoors, combined with people being more casual and not wanting a formal entry hall for their home,” said Drew Lang, the founding principal of New York City-based Lang Architecture. Functional storage and hard-wearing, easy-to-clean materials are absolute musts in the mudrooms of tomorrow, but they still have to look good. “We like to use wood paneling on mudroom walls,” Lang said. “It’s durable, beautiful, and evocative of nature.”

Another future mudroom staple? Heated floors. “They’re really nice from a comfort perspective in the winter, but also you can put wet stuff on the floor and it helps to dry them out,” said Dickson. Putting in heated floors might be simpler to do than you think, too. “It’s just these thin electrical pads, so they’re pretty easy to install,” she explained.
“They’re a fairly sustainable, low-energy electrical source of heat.”

Credit: Hannah Brooke Photography

Concealed storage is back in

No one wants to stare at their possessions all day, every day anymore. For those of us who can’t Marie Kondo our way out of this mess, it’s “goodbye, open-shelving” and “hello, concealed storage.”

“There should be a home for everything,” said Dickson, noting that benches with built-in storage are great places to stash family gear. Dedicated toy closets — with doors that can shut closed — are also easy ways to remove visual clutter. Seasonal storage can be your best friend, too. “At least twice a year, if not more, I switch stuff out and have some of our gear stored in the attic and some of it in other closets,” she explained. “It’s the idea of ‘more people means more stuff,’ and making the best effort to only have the things that you really need readily accessible.” 

Baskets can be a great organizing tool, too, but only when used correctly. “We go into houses all the time where they do a good job of putting their toys in baskets, but there’s no lid on the basket so you still see these toys exploding out of it,” Morford said. She suggests instead to “buy baskets with a lid. Buy a cabinet that you can shut. Or if it’s an open shelf, put baskets on it.”

If our experts are on the money, the family home of the future sounds like an uber-functional, well-designed retreat. But most importantly? It’s flexible. Because if we’ve learned anything these past two years, it’s that change is the only constant. The best family home is one that can roll with the punches.