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Here's a look at the top home decor trends in 2021

As a concept, Cottagecore is about a simpler, sustainable existence that is in harmony with nature. Photos: 123rf.com

Our houses have been more well lived in this past year compared to before, due to Covid-19 stay-home orders.

As a result, many people have been paying more attention to their home interiors, either doing small refurbishing work, serious renovations or simply decluttering.

As the year comes to an end, some thoughts will centre on how different we want our living space to be next year.

Do we want to start 2021 with a brighter shade for the living room? Or incorporate more houseplants to bring a bit of nature in? Will one of our New Year resolutions be living with less and more sustainably?

Pinterest revealed in its trends forecast for 2021 that a big focus will be on Japandi home styling. Japandi refers to a hybrid style combining Japanese minimalism and rustic Scandinavian aesthetic.

Searches for Japandi have increased 100% year-on-year, according to Pinterest.

Azlan Syarawi Mokhtar Bajunid, director of Seshandesign, agrees that the style is something to look out for next year.

“Nothing beats Scandinavian functionality and Japanese aesthetic, at least in my books, ” he says.

He adds that being clutter-free is the sole drive behind the trend for many homeowners these days.

Pinterest revealed in its trends forecast for 2021 that a big focus will be on Japandi home styling.

“Particularly due to the pandemic, more and more homeowners are cooped up at home. The more clutter you see, the less productive you are. So we start seeing homeowners clearing up. “Therefore, Japandi comes through naturally, and makes the most sense, ” says Azlan.

Wong Pei San, director of Essential Design Integrated, says minimalism, Japandi and the semi-industrial look are seen to be in trend due to the rise in younger families starting their first home in established areas within the city.

“Developed suburbs in cities like Kuala Lumpur offer good locations but aged houses will need extensive work and refurbishment to be liveable for the next 20 years.

“As most renovations are often a pre-planned budget allocation (which may not be part of the mortgage instalments), doing the “necessary, or just enough” has become a trend in itself. That is, to just do what is required to live with a bit of style. Good designers then play with space, light, materials and simple furniture, ” shares Wong.

“On the other hand, trends that move away from minimalist designs – contemporary, urban resort, Hamptons, etc – are growing in demand with new custom-built and bespoke homes. This is a trend that is more customised to the client’s own set of requirements and style, and a bit more timeless, ” she says.

The Hamptons style refers to bright and whitewashed interiors that have a sophisticated yet beachy feel.

Nik Ida Juliana Nik Mohamed, managing director of Ident3, says that for homes, “styles of choice will be more light and airy to symbolise the escape from the debilitating and captive environment of 2020”.

Another interior trend buzzword that has surfaced this year is Cottagecore. As a concept, Cottagecore is about a simpler, sustainable existence that is in harmony with nature. Aesthetic elements lean towards a traditional English countryside, playing on romanticism and nostalgia.

Neutral colours (like grey) tend to convey interiors that are stable and grounded, says interior designer Nik Ida Juliana. Photos: Ident3

“The Cottagecore appeal lies in the pastoral homeliness of the style as well as the availability of materials that complement the style itself. In terms of residential trends, the Cottagecore style has always been a staple go-to style for a majority of Malaysian homeowners because of its homely and comfortable disposition, ” says Nik Ida Juliana.

While Azlan believes it may not be a focal trend, he says it’s here to stay.

“Cottagecore, in a nutshell, is appealing to homeowners who are keen on home gardening and indoor plants. Cottagecore works for them simply because the aesthetic enables a utilitarian display of their tools but still keeps the essence of a ‘home’ intact with warm colours and fabrics. This goes back to the owner’s lifestyle, definitely. You can have a Cottagecore-inspired theme at home but, without heavily investing in it, the space may end up being mistaken for clutter instead, ” he says.

“As the Cottagecore style inclines itself to a romanticised interpretation of western agricultural life, it would be more interesting if eastern rural sensibilities (especially Malaysian elements) be more directly utilised and incorporated. This would make the environment feel more “at home” within a Malaysian setting, with greater attention to making the indoor-outdoor connection more prominent, ” adds Nik Ida Juliana.

In its 2021 trends forecast, Pinterest also revealed that searches for “neutral colour palettes” and “earth tones” have tripled.

Meanwhile, Pantone recently unveiled two Colours of the Year for 2021 – Illuminating, a bright yellow, and Ultimate Grey. The two independent colours were chosen to highlight how different elements come together to support one another. Illuminating and Ultimate Grey represent warmth, optimism, strength and positivity.


Nik Ida Juliana says homes will feature styles that are more light and airy next year.


“I sincerely believe that next year will mark a point where we will start to move away from the sad and dour cloud of Covid-19 and start having more optimism and hope. Colours for interiors will also start to show such optimism through the use of warm and comforting hues with flashes of bright, fun and popping colours to enliven the interior atmosphere, ” says Nik Ida Juliana.


“Bright and “pop” colours have always been more transitory and temporary in character. Neutral colours always have more permanence within an indoor environment as they tend to convey interiors that are stable and grounded. These calming environments can then be enlivened by colourful elements such as loose pillows, decorative elements and artwork, ” she adds.


Wong shares that “neutral and monotones will never go too wrong, as the character of a design can often be accessorised with a strong art piece, pattern rug and so on”.


Azlan highlights the timeless appeal that neutral colours embody.


“Bold colours tend to die out, as the idea of swapping out short-lived colours is a turnoff for some. Sticking to popular colours may be a good idea if you are keen on refreshing the look of the house, but keep it adaptable enough that it’ll last you for a while should you lack the strength to repaint the following year.”


However, the designers emphasise that interior styles should be about personal preference and affordability.


“I’m not a proponent of design trends in particular. Homeowners should choose what suits their lifestyle (and budget) the most, ” says Azlan.


Wong adds that social media, trendy cafes, home design exhibitions, frequent travelling around the world, and one’s budget are some factors that affect how owners want their homes to be.


Nik Ida Juliana says that design trends are always driven by a number of factors.


“Among them are our own need to (re)create and innovate our environmental surroundings, our desire to reminisce, a need to stand out and be different, as well as commercial and financial considerations, ” she says.


“Oftentimes, people grow tired of styles that have surrounded them for quite some time and yearn to re-invent their surroundings. This need to rejuvenate one’s spirit often pushes people to change the ‘feel’ of the environment around them. The changes made are often felt as being cathartic as well as signalling a new start to their lives and outlook.”


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