20+ Ways to Liven Up Your Home
With more people working from home, people are realizing their interior spaces need improvement. Drab walls, standard light fixtures, and beige carpets don't spark creativity. It becomes unpleasant when you have to spend hours in the same old dull space.
The big takeaway: People's impressions of what a room should look like are changing to better suit individual needs. This is a reaction to the gray-beige movement where every room in every house on every street looks the same.
Variety Is the Spice of Life
Not everyone is opting for flamingo wallpaper and giant neon signs, others are opting for simplicity and minimalism. Some millennials are nostalgic for the trends of their grandparents or great-grandparents; in fact, I know a young couple in Springfield, MO, who bought a Victorian house. They're painstakingly restoring it and learning about the house's forgotten past.
In the post-2020 world, people are turning to interior design as a form of therapy. Flipping through pictures of living rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens is an excellent reprieve from political scandals and general doom and gloom. Gorgeous photos of living room arrangements look clean, organized, and artistic. Tidiness is good for the soul, and it's okay every once in a while to take a break from the conflict-oriented world to dream a little.
What to Expect on This Page
The following article highlights trends that interior designers are seeing in homes. The list is written in no particular order. For expert insights, I spoke with Devin Shaffer, the lead interior designer at Decorilla. He has helped thousands of clients with custom designs for residential, commercial, industrial, and hospitality spaces.
I was surprised by some of the trends he mentioned, such as people wanting outdoor showers or the revival of crown molding.
1. Vivid Paint Colors
I'm excited that people are finally embracing color in their homes. I grew up during the trend when people painted their walls beige and gray to be safe. I remember my dad painting our living room beige around the 2008 recession. There was comfort in generic colors at that time, but now people don't want to blend in with everyone else. Homeowners want to rebel a little (or a lot).
Beautiful paint colors can transform a room into something far more personal and interesting. It will, however, take more understanding of how colors work together when you pick something vivid, like turquoise.
I don't recommend painting every room in your house the same bright color. For instance, red should be limited to a room or two. Red paint is one of the more challenging paints to work with (for scientific reasons, the red paint pigments don't spread as well. . . it takes several coats to get it to work right). Red isn’t the easiest color to change out if you decide you want something else.
I recommend playing with paint swatches and samples in different colors and shades. You can get swatches for free at home improvement stores.
Suggestion: Pick vivid colors for the side of your house that faces the west. Pick lighter, pastel colors for the side of your house that faces the east. Why? The west side gets light from sunset, and the east side gets light from sunrise. Sunset and sunrise have completely different lighting effects on color.
There Is a Time and Place to Use Neutrals
Don't get me wrong, there are times to use gray and beige, but I don't think it should be used for all occasions and seasons. Neutrals are best in areas where you want to give your eyes a break, or in between spaces like nooks and halls.
Vivid Greens Are Trending
What I've noticed recently is that people are picking more stunning colors for their homes, particularly emerald or teal greens. Current TV shows are replicating this trend, guaranteeing that you will be drawn to eye candy one way or another.
Admittedly, I was pretty distracted while watching an episode of The Crown where a scene takes place in a gorgeous green room outfitted with purple accessories. The actual dialogue in the scene isn’t that interesting; it’s the colors of the room that enchant the audience.
2. French Doors
A friend of mine just bought a house in Kansas City. One of the selling points for him was the French doors that opened up to their deck. He immediately started thinking about the magical parties he would host in the future.
Homeowners are rethinking their doors. Some people want something more creative and elegant than the typical door with a doorknob. My husband and I installed a barn door upstairs where there was no door for the master bathroom. It's one of the more original, beautiful things in the house that makes us feel like we've made our mark.
What's the appeal of French doors? They're classy, and possibly more important, they're great for grand entrances (think George Costanza and his obsession with making a grand entrance to a party with someone in a backless dress). French doors with lots of glass panels can give the illusion of more space, whereas solid doors suppress how much depth the eyes can travel down.
I'm a sucker for French doors with fun colors. Stain it a deep red or blue to add allure. White works for elegance. Purple will come off quirky. I'm all for French doors that open out to a lush backyard. Keep in mind the backdoor is the gateway to a home's outdoor space, so it's better to build intrigue before your guests go out the door to meander among the daffodils and dahlias.
3. The New Neutral Color: Dusty Pink
Gray, beige, and white have a new neutral color friend: dusty pink. You could also refer to it as distilled pink, subdued pink, or a hint of pink. I've noticed this trend for a while now. Some people opt for a pink accent wall rather than a whole pink room. It's an unobtrusive color, but it adds just a little more warmth to a room than other more common neutrals.
I almost selected this color for an office, but I decided to go with a bolder pink. I wanted the room to promote energy, so a more saturated pink was necessary.
When it comes to dusty pink, like in the photo above with the sofa, you can blend the color easily with other neutrals. The color looks dignified and mature. It's not a cutesy pink found in child bedrooms or candy shops. Subdued pink is perfect for living room accents, bath towels, and office furniture.
4. Monochromatic Restraint
Instead of playing wistfully with colors, some people would prefer the seriousness of a monochromatic color scheme or a black-and-white palette. This style is suited for those who want a room that looks important and distinguished. The monochromatic look is perfect for a study or library where you want to focus, think, and complete tasks.
You don't necessarily have to use black, white, and/or gray to pull this look off. You could select any color and use different shades, tones, and tints of it. Monochromatic color schemes are supposed to be subdued. It makes a room feel contained rather than expansive. It limits the amount of chaos that can enter a space.
Some people might find a monochromatic color scheme too boring. It might start to make a room feel heavy.
5. Bamboo Paneling
Bamboo installations give a room a new lease on life. I’ve seen several bathroom pictures lately with bamboo furnishings. The material is associated with the Far East. It can make a room feel more down to earth. People like having natural elements in their homes as opposed to lots of artificial materials like plastic.
You could consider a bamboo board canopy over your bathtub or bamboo counters in the kitchen. It isn’t as expensive as other materials. It will look chic and elegant.
6. Lively Wallpaper
Think beyond the typical wallpaper patterns you grew up with. What people want today is something that pops and is bold. If you need a good example of lively wallpaper, watch the TV show Only Murders in the Building, it's a comedy murder mystery show on Hulu starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez.
I think the production designer for the show has had the time of their life picking out eye-catching wallpaper and furniture. Several of the characters' apartments have distinctive wallpaper that matches their personality.
Lively wallpaper will have bold colors, fun patterns, unreal designs, or an edginess to it. Swap out simple brown birds for peacocks. Instead of beige, think teal. It's okay to do an accent wall in wallpaper.
Just remember, wallpaper is expensive, so you want to pick a design that you'll want to live with for years. It's a good idea to get a few samples and tape them up in the space you want to apply wallpaper. Over time, you'll figure out which one resonates the best in that room.
Also, when it comes to wallpaper, buy all of the wallpaper you want at once and get a little bit extra. This ensures the consistency of the dye and/or other chemicals used for the colors.
7. Ceiling Wallpaper
Homeowners are getting rid of popcorn ceilings and replacing them with textures. One trend that’s big is to wallpaper the ceiling. You can put something up top that’s whimsical or sleek and contemporary.
The ceiling is a place in your home where you can play with patterns. Just be careful not to get too pattern-happy with your ceiling, walls, floor, and furniture. You want to keep to a cohesive theme. A smart wallpaper is one that you’ll want to keep for years to come. A nursery with specialized ceiling wallpaper might bore your child once they get a little older.
8. Look to Boutique Hotels for Ideas
At this point in time, people want their homes to look posh. They want their living room to be Instagram-worthy. There is joy in trying to make your home a special place just for you and your loved ones.
Taking trips to boutique hotels in your area might lead to unexpected inspiration. Notice what kind of lamp fixtures they have installed. Is there a stunning paint color that grabs your attention? Consider the unique features you see and how they come together to make a unified whole. There might be things you come across that you've never considered:
- Adding a second fireplace
- Victorian furniture
- Stained glass windows
- Lavish rugs
- New railing for the stairs
- A nook turned into a tearoom
9. Art Nouveau
There is a slight comeback to Art Nouveau. It makes sense because people are looking for ways to add more plants to their homes, and this style relates to nature. Art Nouveau was popular between 1890 and 1910.
Objects from this style are supposed to suggest movement. It plays off the natural curves of flora. The style can often be found in furniture, glass art, textiles, metalwork, and jewelry. Art Nouveau was eventually replaced with Art Deco in the 1920s. Art Deco is also making a comeback as a way for people to counter the distilled modern look.
Art Nouveau is known for its spiral staircases with rails that have the forms of plants, bell-shaped lamps, paintings on screens and glass, blown glass, metalwork of fairies and birds, and furniture with elaborate carvings.
10. Curvy Furniture
In order to give your room a touch of dimension, add curvy furniture. You’re less likely to run into sharp edges when items in your home are curved.
In feng shui, curves are associated with yin. Yin is about relaxation, whereas yang is about increasing energy. To put it simply, curved furniture works well in spaces where you want to communicate a sense of community, such as in the living room and kitchen.
Curvy furniture can also break up the monotony of straight lines and sharp corners that tend to dominate rooms. Curves can also help you to conserve more space in rooms.
11. Remove a Wall
Removing a wall to make more space in your home is a popular trend. It's possible for homeowners to take down their own wall if they have the right tools and know-how. In many cases, you'll want to contact a contractor.
People are looking for ways to optimize their space. Small compartment-style rooms aren't desirable right now. More space feels luxurious. It's easier to navigate homes when you're not lost in a labyrinth maze of halls and funky nooks. Adding a room to your house is also on trend, if you can get it approved with your HOA, etc.
For your house's resale value, removing a wall or adding a room are two of the best ways to increase value. Essentially, more square footage = a higher price tag.
12. Outdoor Shower
People want a way to wash up outside, so one of the hot DIY projects right now is to install an outdoor shower. Need some inspiration? Google Images is full of ideas with fancy wooden enclosures with adjustable showerheads. An outdoor shower is great if you live in an area with a scenic view. It's also nice to have a quick rinse after a dip in the pool.
The ideas are endless: Fit in a shower chair, use a rain showerhead, add a fountain, install LED lights, add tile flooring, or add some plants. Just make sure, there's no way for people to peek in on you. There are YouTube videos for how to build a shower and install plumbing. Again, it's wise to call a contractor unless you have the right skills.
13. Think Like Your Grandparents
People are buying older houses, partly out of necessity and partly because things were built better in the past. New builds are often made cheaply—they come with an assortment of problems. A house that was built in the '60s, '70s, or '80s has proven it can weather the years. You want a house that has good bones, not just cutesy amenities.
When it comes to interior design, think back on the things your grandparents did around the house. Add glass candy dishes to rooms and stash treats, add lace doilies to side tables, buy plaid recliners, put up vintage movie posters, install shaggy carpet that's in magical '70s hues (like ochre), use antique TV trays, find vintage bedframes, apply floral wallpaper, place rocking chairs on the porch, and install art deco kitchen appliances.
Antiques can add mystique to a room. Sometimes a room can be bogged down by items that are all from the same year (roughly). Furniture sets can be convenient, but they can come off as lifeless. To spice things up, consider going to flea markets, estate sales, and eBay for unique accents and accessories.
When the economy is bad, more people look to secondhand items. The hipster movement saw a resurgence following the 2008 recession. When you're working with a tight budget, it's far easier to bulk up on thrifted goods rather than newer items.
My mom was a big fan of collecting antique blue glass; she’d spend Saturdays looking for glass bottles, birds, and candy dishes. I think the blue antiques made our home feel more relaxed as if there was a seaside vibe. My point? Little knick-knacks can do wonders to make your home feel like it’s your own.
15. Hardwood Floors
Skip imitation wood and linoleum. People take pride in their hardwood floors. A lot of people get upset when they find out a property has good hardwood floors that have been covered up by another material.
Hardwood floors are easier to clean than carpets, so it's a pro if you have kids and/or pets (which are notoriously messy).
16. Patterned Furniture
Instead of solid-colored furniture, try going for something a little more eccentric. Think floral patterns from the ’90s, zigzags, and animal prints. You can make your patterned furniture match together with solid-colored accent pillows and solid-colored curtains.
Patterns bring attention; they’ll make your furniture look more like art pieces. Just make sure that you don’t get too many furniture pieces in different patterns and end up with a clashy room. When things clash too much, it can actually make a room feel smaller.
I recommend deciding what you want to do with your walls before buying furniture. If you want ravishing wallpaper then patterned furniture might be a bit much. If you like beige paint then you can do just about anything with furniture.
17. Crown Molding
Get fancy with your ceilings and add crown molding. This can add texture and dimension to your room. When done correctly, it can look elegant. This is a way that you can add some flair to your room without going overboard.
The decorative trim highlights the split from ceiling to wall and gives rooms a more polished look. Crown molding has been around for centuries. It can make a room feel taller, giving the illusion that there is more space.
Some of the most common materials for crown molding are:
- Wood: It's more durable than synthetic options. Home improvement stores carry a variety of hardwoods, which is great if you want to stain it. There is also primed wood for painted crown molding.
- Medium-density fiberboard (MDF): It's less expensive than wood; however, it has a tendency to sag over time, especially if not installed properly. It's also susceptible to water damage.
- Polyurethane or PVC: This is a great option for bathrooms and other areas with high to medium moisture. It's waterproof and lightweight. It's also easy to cut, making it easy for those who want to install it themselves.
18. Look to Japan
When it comes to decorating, there are two main camps right now: those who want to add whimsical patterns and interesting designs... and those who want to go the minimalist route. It's on trend to look at Japan's interior design tips and tricks. People are looking less to Scandinavian furniture and more to Japanese minimalism.
When it comes to creating the right look, consider adding plants, bamboo, water features, Asian art, pottery, and miniature pagodas. Study up on zen gardens and meditative spaces. Bamboo counters and panels can make your rooms look more natural. Fewer items will give you more space. Consider relying more on cushions than an abundance of furniture. Tatami is a type of flooring for traditional Japanese-style rooms.
Japan also has the latest tech. It might be wise to study up on trends over there to find new technology that's sleek and convenient.
19. Kitchen Islands
Do you have a home with a u-shaped kitchen counter? These days people prefer space and variety. The kitchen island trend isn't going away anytime soon. It’s easier to work with a kitchen island where you can chop up fruits and veggies from any side, rather than be restricted to the confines of the u-shape counter. Kitchen islands can be built into the floor or have mobility.
You could get rid of your old counters and cabinets and remove a wall. Then add a kitchen island. Your kitchen will look more spacious and modern. You could add these perks to your island: cabinets with shelves, compartments for utensils, and an expandable wing.
Extra storage is a major bonus. People like it when there is more surface space and when their objects are stored neatly and out of sight.
20. Open Up Space With Minimalism
I know I've mentioned it already in different ways throughout this article, but I really want to make it clear that having more space is a top priority for many. As much as people are turning to cool trends and Instagram-worthy remodels, there are a lot of people who want things as simple as possible.
When you have less furniture and things, you have more space. Fewer distractions can make it easier to think, and it makes you feel tidier. There is a reason that Marie Kondo's philosophies are still getting praised years after her Netflix Tidying Up special.
It's not just about having less. It's also about optimizing your storage space and closets. When things have a designated space, it makes it easier for you to find what you need and want. Minimalism is often found in interior design trends in Scandinavia and Japan. Instead of trying to add more to your home to liven it up, consider removing the clutter.
- Goss, Jared (2014). French Art Deco. Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art Nouveau
- Heller, Steven, and Seymour Chwast, Graphic Style from Victorian to Digital, new ed. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2001.
- Kondo, Marie. Marie Kondo's Kurashi at Home: How to Organize Your Space and Achieve Your Ideal Life (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up). Ten Speed Press, 2022.
- Ormiston, Rosalind; Robinson, Michael (2013). Art Nouveau – Posters, Illustration and Fine Art. Flame Tree Publishing.
© 2022 Andrea Lawrence