Looking Ahead: Five Design Trends to Watch Out For In 2021

Fine + Rare Home, Hong Kong. Designed by In Situ & Partners, in collaboration with Studio Mackereth, Ceremony and Sensis World Signature. Photography © Harold de Puymorin. Image courtesy of In Situ & Partners.
Grosvenor Residence, Hong Kong. Image courtesy of Lim + Lu.
Peacock Alley bar and restaurant, Waldorf Astoria Xiamen. Image courtesy of AB Concept.
Alchemy, restaurant and bar, Hong Kong. Image courtesy of In Situ & Partners.
CoBo Social Market News Reports

As 2020 comes to a close and we look back at the year, designers and architects shared with us what we can expect from the world of design in the coming year.


TEXT: Jacqueline Kot
IMAGES: Courtesy of various

The global pandemic has changed how we live, and design professionals anticipate that it will continue to have an influence on design trends in 2021, in everything from the choice of colour to an increase in collaborative work across design disciplines. Here are five design trends to look out for.


Grosvenor Residence, Hong Kong. Image courtesy of Lim + Lu.


Home Is All About Colour Palettes

With all of us likely to continue spending a fair amount of time at home before a vaccine is readily available, Elaine Lu, Co-Founder of interior design firm Lim + Lu, thinks there will be a preference for a more subtle and soft colour palette in homes.

“A calming colour palette creates a tranquil environment that you can spend a decent amount of time living and working in. Whereas a palette that is too overwhelming would overstimulate and tire the inhabitant,” says Lu.

Lu suggests balancing the muted hues with more variety in the textures used in the space. “A variety of texture and materials on both hard and soft surfaces, such as sculptural wallpaper on walls and patterned fabric on furniture, would pair well with a palette of muted and subtle colours and create more visual interest.”

Dara Huang, Founder of Design Haus Liberty, an architecture and design firm with offices in Hong Kong and London, also predicts that neutral, beige, taupe, cream and off-white shades will be more popular in 2021, with the lighter tones offering more opportunities for designers to add accent colours through carefully curated objects.

“It’s chic and classy and you see it in fashion, so the culture really spreads,” says Huang. “And we can add colour accents with artwork, accessories, books or an armchair… all of which can really make a statement.”


Peacock Alley bar and restaurant, Waldorf Astoria Xiamen. Image courtesy of AB Concept.


It’s All Glam for F&B and Hospitality Spaces

While we all want our homes to be a more tranquil and calming space for us to lounge around in, it does also in turn makes us crave for some sparkle and glam every now and then. Ed Ng, Co-Founder of design and architecture firm AB Concept, thinks there will be a growing trend for the interiors of F&B and hospitality spaces to include more glamorous elements to draw people in.

“People enjoy being down to earth and casual, however when they are on that side of that spectrum for too long then people will tend to crave for something else. It’s like peoples’ appetites, we can’t have fine dining every day but when we have had comfort food for a while then we would naturally develop some cravings for something a little fancier,” explains Ng. “We all enjoy casual environments but from time to time we want to have a dress-up moment.”

And Ng says glamour doesn’t necessarily translate to an overload of gold and crystal elements but rather refers more to materials and details that were well chosen and designed with thought, for a space that makes a striking first impression.

“To add some glamour to a space is not necessarily about bling-bling elements or over-the-top intricacy. It’s about the taste, the richness of the detailing not related to the monetary cost, the materials, layering, colours and texture,” says Ng. “There isn’t a fixed equation, but it all contributes to a glamorous moment.”

AB Concept designed various public spaces within the newly opened Waldorf Astoria Xiamen with this thought in mind. In addition to designs for the main lobby, lobby lounge, an outdoor area encompassing a swimming pool and wedding pavilion, and various F&B venues, their design for the Peacock Alley bar and restaurant includes various circular and cylindrical design elements that surround the large-scale lighting fixtures or are used as borders around the seating or the walls—an Art Deco design that adds a theatrical element and a sense of occasion to the space.


Photogenic Design—It’s All About the Gram

AB Concept’s Ng also predicts the rise in design elements that look good in photos, particularly on social media.

“People can find a very minimalistic white wall with just beautiful shadows of trees photogenic, or it can be opulent details like an intricate carving or mosaic in a wall backdrop, a collection of mirrors placed in a wall, or even the placement of artisanal handcrafts, all these can be photogenic as well,” says Ng. “Ultimately it comes down to how the designer perceives people’s perception and how designers can encourage guests from shooting at a certain angle.”

With social media increasingly becoming most people’s go-to resource and reference for anything from restaurants to resorts, more than ever designers have to take into account how their work will be captured and shared on phones by the public. 

“Now, most of the visuals that the public receives are from social media. Since some might not be professional photographers, our goal is to make sure that our designs are powerful enough for anyone to snap a photograph regardless of their photographic skills or phone resolution, and still look great and inviting for other consumers to visit the space,” says Ng.

Furthermore, Ng says social media users are now more likely to post videos of a space or share various snapshots of it on Instagram stories instead of posting just one static image. “A photogenic design is 360 degrees,” he adds.


Alchemy, restaurant and bar, Hong Kong. Image courtesy of In Situ & Partners.


The Nostalgic Element

Yacine Bensalem, Managing Director for In Situ & Partners, an interior design firm based in Hong Kong, anticipates that nostalgic design—such as in iconic objects and features from the ‘80s and ‘90s and vintage furniture—will continue to be in demand as we rely more and more on technology in our daily lives.

“People would like to hold on to tradition and embrace the sense of familiarity as our world continues to develop and modernise at a fast pace,” says Bensalem. “In a time of isolation and going back to a simpler form of life, people start to reminisce the old days when technology hasn’t taken over people’s lives yet.”

Nostalgic designs provide a nice contrast to the clean, minimal look of contemporary design. “Nostalgia is often seen in product design, whether in furniture or accessories, and it is always a nice way to complete the decoration of a place for a mix-and-match style, or just for the emotions and positive memories that the object can bring,” says Bensalem.


Cross-Disciplinary Design Practice Takes the Fore

With COVID-19 setting off changes to how we live and use public spaces, this has also influenced how professionals in the creative industry approach their work, says Betty Ng, Founder and Director of Collective, a Hong Kong-based architectural firm with projects around the world.

While there have always been collaborations across the different design disciplines, Ng feels that the new normal brought on by COVID-19 has gotten professionals to rethink their approach.

“[COVID-19] has radically changed how we live and created new considerations in our design approach. For us architects, we need to consider how some public spaces or office designs will need to be reformatted; and artists might change how they express themselves or the current social conditions through artistic endeavours,” explains Ng. “This irrevocable change to the world has encouraged a refreshed approach to how we collaborate, finding new and sometimes unusual inspirations and solutions.”

Working with other design professionals from different disciplines brings about new solutions to issues. “Collaborating with someone from another creative discipline often offers us insights and perspectives into their rationale and approach to a problem that we would not have thought of before,” says Ng. “I do think marrying different solutions will almost always yield a better result.”



Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply