If you didn’t donate your grandmother’s needlepoint and embroidery wall hangings threaded with sayings like “It’s Good to Be Queen,” or the Serenity Prayer, congratulations: nostalgia is back in style. Home organization and design is moving away from a sterile, staged and anonymous look with open floor plans and “nothing to hide” open shelving. The trend is leaning heavily into personal, meaningful things, private, delineated spaces, comforting earth tones and warm natural materials.

Antiques and house plants were their own religion in the 1970s, with spider plants and Boston ferns, always on the verge of dying, on every available surface. Martha Stewart was a big, blonde, shiny bridge between the 1970s and today: her post-war, stuff-heavy lifestyle recommendations came with a fresh dose of organization, cleanliness and curation.

The millennial generation, which reached adulthood around the time of Martha Stewart’s incarceration and decline in influence, wasn’t into the china, the silver, the crystal, the linens. Millennials famously value experiences over things and suddenly the sibling fight over who gets Aunt Rose’s armoire is a thing of the past and a discussion of who calls 1-800-GOT-JUNK is happening. 

TV shows like “Hoarders,” which first aired in 2009, caused viewers to scan their cluttered spaces and cat-hair covered pillows with the chilling thought, “could I be…” and minimalism began trending hard. The pendulum swing went even further toward decluttering with the rise of Marie Kondo. But over the last couple of years some organizers, like The Home Edit, a duo famous for organizing a Kardashian or two, grant permission to keep a lot of stuff and in fact buy more, for example, their products, to organize it.

The Home Edit still loves a lot of white space, but on trend with the personal touch uses stickers with hand-lettering rather than the stark black on white labels we’re used to.

With regards to the layout of a home, there are some practical reasons people are craving houses with actual rooms that have actual doors on them rather than the completely open, loft-y floor plans that have been in vogue for many years now. If the whole family has to co-exist at home 24/7 and still accomplish each member’s respective tasks as well as not be frustrated into biting and scratching each other, privacy and alone time is invaluable. Real Simple magazine reports that searches for room dividers on Etsy are way up and the word “clofice” (a closet/office) is trending.

Where 1970s décor was cluttered, with a preponderance of dust-collecting little items and lots of natural fibers, the “new cozy” has to be easy to clean. Larger tile in bathrooms and kitchens are popular because there is much less grout to clean. Brown and all its earthy shades are back in style, so if cleaning thoroughly isn’t a priority, at least the dirt won’t show.

Anything related to hygiene will be important this year. Many people are organizing disposable masks, gloves, a thermometer, a pulse oximeter and hand sanitizer by the front door, so making that area presentable and easy to keep neat is a new thing. A small cabinet or entry table with drawers is ideal. A felt diaper bag with compartments set on a small table or bench is also a good container for these items. Alternatively, it’d be very 1970s to use a vintage picnic basket.

Another pandemic-related design trend is outdoor entertaining spaces. Easier in the warm summer months, outdoor entertaining could become a fun, creative challenge during the cold months of the year. I have a lot of fond memories of bundling up and sipping steaming hot cider at an outdoor theatre in Solvang, California. I would have loved to have had a mask in those days to keep my nose warm. And speaking of creative–there is a fantastic outdoor bookstore in Ojai California that has to be seen to be believed.

I predict barbeques are going to become more like stoves with ovens and designed to do double duty as outdoor fireplaces. Wheeled carts to bring food and dishes in and out might also become a thing. I collect Pendleton blankets and they are finally being put to use as huge ponchos.

If you didn’t create a cool Zoom background in your living space for online meetings and virtual happy hours, this might be the year you do that, or at least master the technology to choose a pleasing virtual background. Also consider your Zoom look and lighting. It took me over six months to figure out that if I used some eye shadow strategically, I actually look decent on Zoom and can finally feel comfortable turning my video on during meetings (although as an incurable multi-tasker, I would still rather leave it off and do the dishes).

Lastly, I remember framed family photographs being nearly an obsession in the 1970s, and I think that’s a design element that might trend hard this year. Since we can’t see our loved ones in person as often or at all, having nicely framed photos of them around is the next best thing. Items like framed photos that I might have called clutter in 2019 I’ve got a new phrase for in 2021: comfort décor.