Advice and Opinion

Top 2020 interior design trends and beyond: reflection and perspective

An example of biophilia by Isola Design Studio. (Image courtesy ITALIANBARK and SOMA).
An example of biophilia by Isola Design Studio. (Image courtesy ITALIANBARK and SOMA).

As 2020 comes to an end, it is important to gain perspective for 2021. Cape Town based interior creative and behavioural specialist, Kim Williams, shares her top design trends from 2020 and how these are likely to evolve in 2021:


Bringing nature into a space provides a visual comfort. In the professional world, a lot more greenery in workspaces shows that our need to reconnect with nature has been intensified by the pandemic. The concept of biophilia embraces connecting with nature on all levels, from organic materials to earthy tones and colours, natural elements permeate a space with the recreation of a connection to nature. One key element of this trend is the relationship to wellbeing. In Europe, the concept of biophilia is evolving to incorporate a mindful awareness of one’s self in a space as integral to our health. With Covid-19, the increased focus on health and how we look after ourselves in our spaces is far more at the forefront of our minds as we become more aware of the importance of being and not just being productive.

Modern retro

Kim Williams Design

The modern retro style is one of Kim’s favourite styles to have emerged this year particularly how this style centres around incorporating elements of nostalgia which has always been a core tenant in her designs. The modern retro style has signature, lovely, lush elements which include gold taps and classic patterns that make spaces timelessly stylish and classic. More than that, the new modern retro draw puts an interesting twist on the idea of vintage as it draws inspiration from more recent decades including the 1970s and the 1990s which takes inspiration for pop culture such as PC and video games. The beauty of the old has evolved; the use of pattern and the return of velvet and classical elements of retro has been seen presented in a modern way.

Nostalgic design

Kim Williams Design

One of Kim’s most recognisable design signatures is to bring in elements of emotion into a space to assist people in engaging and connecting with their environment. By creating an experience with nostalgic items, you can induce emotion, enhance productivity, or imbue a sense of relaxation. Because of the pandemic, we have naturally started to design with nostalgia, putting more emotive meaningful objects into our spaces. These objects are not necessarily chosen for their aesthetic quality either, but rather for the emotional significance they carry and how we connect with them. In 2021, this will continue but in a more light-hearted manner as we begin to incorporate more playfulness into our spaces and fulfil our need to bring colour and fun into our lives.


Isola Design Studio. Image courtesy ITALIANBARK and SOMA.

2020 witnessed golds, coppers, and silvers all glistening and adding glam to our spaces and undoubtedly, metals took off this year especially in South Africa. Some noticeable trends include black taps and coloured sanitary ware. The pop of bling that metals add and how this links perfectly with the modern retro school of thought is sure to see 2021 continue to incorporate metallics into our modern spaces.

Patterned tiles

Scenario Collection – Marazzi. Image courtesy ITALIANBARK and SOMA.

Pattern tiles are a great tool in creating a classic retro style and a useful way to incorporate colour with Europe boasting beautiful designs this year. In general, designers are incorporating imperfection into their designs as the beauty of hand-crafted items are embraced and this new appreciation for imperfection has resulted in more use of handmade ceramic tiles. The need to connect on a human level with imperfections is more important now than it has ever been given the surge of artificial intelligence across industries. We will see the continued use of patterns in interiors that is likely to evolve further into a more modern inclination in 2021.

New minimalism

Matteo Nunziati – Architect. Image courtesy ITALIANBARK and SOMA.

During the pandemic, there was an intense decluttering process that many went through and the need to have less things – with more space – introduced minimalism into our everyday lives. Organic, highly tactile materials that encourage us to engage more with specific objects in our homes make our spaces enriching environments to be in. Minimalism is built on sustainable, intentional living and an emotional relationship with a home, looking after it by keeping it tidy. However, new minimalism is not sparse like its predecessor, but rather about reducing to what we really need. Where classical minimalism was about the absence of things, new minimalism is about choosing what to retain in a space which speaks to how important mindfulness is in new minimalism.


Seletti Studio Maison and Objet 2020. Image courtesy ITALIANBARK and SOMA.

Ironically, there has been an emergence of minimalisms, opposite, maximalism. Constructed around a ‘more is more’ mentality, this style uses every element of our space as an opportunity to make a statement, grab our attention, and to entertain our minds and eyes so that every rooms becomes an experience rather than just a room. It is a powerful style, full of colour, pattern, and boldness, and it is certainly interesting that we have seen the simultaneous emergence of both sides of the spectrum. Kim believes that this is because as individuals, we are becoming more aware of what is right for each person rather than simply following another’s choices.

Looking ahead for 2021:


Studio Quincoces Drago Partners. Image courtesy ITALIANBARK and SOMA.

Biophilia will continue to evolve into mindful living. We will see the extensive use of natural and organic materials as a way to make our spaces organically imperfect. An increasing and evolving awareness on our part, where we are very aware of every element in our environment, is likely to motivate more of us towards better choices concerning sustainable living and our impact on the environment. 

Modern retro

Private residence, Port Rotondo. Image courtesy: ITALIANBARK and SOMA.

The new modern is very relevant for our South African context given our outdoor lifestyle as it embraces simplicity, brightness, and the line between indoor and outdoor living. Incorporating beautiful ceramics, more woods, and texture into our space it is excellent as a guiding tool to create simple, beautiful, and elegant spaces. It’s a modern, clean, and fresh approach that will evolve from the combination of wanting to connect with nature but in a simple decluttered way. 


The Importance of Colour – Davide Buscaglia. Image courtesy ITALIANBARK and SOMA.

The importance of colour is hard to understate. It will continue to play an important role as we are being more mindful of our colour selections. From very soft hues and colours to create a sense of comfort and connection, to very bright hues in modernism, and playful living to create excitement. The beauty of bright reds combined with vibrant blues, harnesses the power of contrast to create impact. By mixing and matching objects from various decades, the impact is reminiscent of art deco trends and style. The use of colour will be about creating those experiences and being very specific about how you design colour into your space. As a medium, colour is extremely powerful, and Kim hopes that we will see a lot more boldness, akin to what we saw in the 1980s, in 2021.

Playful living

Playful living – Vitra. Image courtesy ITALIANBARK and SOMA.

The evolution of maximalism, playful living invites us to mix and match bold colour, textures, patterns, and unconventional shapes. It is about what lies beyond functionality and invites us to explore and play in our spaces. It will incorporate pop culture from the 1980s and 1990s. Driven particularly by Instagram’s influence over our perspective on spaces and interior design, it is about evolving our thinking to push creativity and fantasy beyond the usual into an escapist realm, creating optimism and joy in our spaces.  It is about creating new realities in our home space and our workspaces, so that we can evolve our living and our thinking.

The new world of work

The New World of Work, Christophe Gernigon Studio. Image courtesy ITALIANBARK and SOMA.

A move towards self-managed schedules, limited team meetings and smaller offices makes it imperative that we truly focus on the function we need our spaces to fill, as well as the emotions they induce in 2021 and beyond. What is clear, is that people are prioritising their happiness within a space, and that casual, playful, and flexible workspaces facilitate a sense of wellbeing, creativity and therefore productivity. So, as we go into 2021, comfort, happiness and fluidity are set to be our guiding factors as the lines between our home and our offices blur.   

Rethinking ownership

Rethinking Ownership, FAT Llama. Image courtesy ITALIANBARK and SOMA.

The new generation is not as materialistic as the generations past and are rethinking ownership. Kim predicts that we are no longer are going to have a product driven environment but rather a service driven one. This is likely to present in design services, such as being able to rent furniture and rotate it out as the seasons and styles change, rather than having to buy and keep pieces. It will also be a way of embracing a more sustainable recycling perspective.  

The importance of silence

Room dividers by Dutch Invertuals for High Tech Software Cluster. Image courtesy ITALIANBARK.

Another aspect of being in our spaces is that we have become very aware of noise given all the activity that happens within the context of the home. For example, understanding the impact of white noise in a home environment where you are in a work from home model and how it affects your ability to work and be. Even in workspaces, as we become more mindful, the need for silence will play more of a role in the way we design.  

Looking back, the trends that stand out for Kim in 2020 from a design perspective are intertwined with our need to reconnect with nature, to find comfort, beauty and engagement in our homes and workspaces, given that we spent the year disconnected from each other and the world.