Interior Design in 2020

Image Credit: Laoise Tarrant

Sinéad Keating looks at the defining interior style of 2020

From commercial to residential interior design trends, the Seventies are back. Instagram and design magazines are flooded with pink and green velvet, round frosted glass lights and everything arched. Animal prints, fringing, house plants, warm oranges and yellows all define interiors in the Seventies and they are coming to replace the Scandinavian minimalism that has dominated the world of interiors for the past several years. Maximalism has taken hold once again. 

The grey-on-grey of recent popularity is beginning to subside to warmer tones and bold colours. The fear of creating a dark room, especially in dull Irish weather, has been replaced with a desire to use dark tones to create dramatic, cosy, rich spaces. The formal separation of spaces is staying in the past as the large open plan kitchen-living-dining room continues to be a top priority. This big bright main room lends itself to having an opposite in the house, a dark moody living room or adult entertaining space. With this, patterned wallpaper is having a moment again, with Seventies chintz and strong tropical patterns dominating the scene. The current popularity of house plants and warm tones leads naturally to wicker and rattan furniture gaining favour among designers. The increasingly popular tubular form of sofas and furniture edges are coming from the Eighties. All of these compound into what is taking over design magazines and Instagram. Elements of this style were born with the rise of social media allowing for the sharing of personal interiors. This has caused increased popularity of certain objects because they photograph well, or because they reach an enormous audience online; an abundance of house plants, for example. Interiors become the backdrop for any kind of post, which makes good interior design more accessible to the average person, as examples of good colour choices and room composition are shown to people daily in their personal feeds. Good photography is noticeable and Ruth Maria Murphy is Ireland’s rising expert in Interior Photography, having worked in Ireland and abroad. 

As Ireland emerged from poverty in the late 20th century, interior design became more accessible to more than just the rich, popularising the idea of employing an Interior Designer to deliver a fully finished room or building. Irish interior design companies are being recognised for their contribution to the profession. Taking on high-end projects in Ireland are Kingston Lafferty Design (KLD), based in Ballsbridge. They design both commercial and residential projects, with the Cinnamon restaurant in Ballsbridge being one of the strongest exemplars of the 2020 style. This playful, mint tiled restaurant earned KLD a place on the Emerging Interior Designer of the Year longlist for the 2020 Dezeen Awards. The curved edges of the mint leather booths and the dark stained dining tables with mid-century low backed chairs compliment the circular wall art of frameless mirrors and round velvet panels. It has the popular round frosted glass light fittings and a snug with rich tropical wallpaper. While it may be overkill to experience this space every day in a domestic setting, Cinnamon is a stylish delight to dine in. Commercial projects often allow for a stronger embodiment of the style, as people choose a more timeless or more calm aesthetic for their homes. 

The arch is a defining component of the current style and features heavily in recent KLD designs in mirrors, paintings, panels and more. The white subway tile, which is verging on becoming overused, is being replaced by colourful tiles in daring shapes of hexagons, scallop, fan, circular. This is another favourite of a KLD project, and of the Irish-owned Bryan O’Sullivan Studio which operates in London and won Interior Designer of the Year at the Elle Decoration British Design Awards 2020. Another one to watch is Design Seeker in Monkstown, who specialises in period homes and blending old and new. 

As sustainability is constantly rising in importance, the desire for vintage and second-hand furniture increases, offering the perfect opportunity to reach back into the Seventies and Eighties to update a space. Older pieces are paired with clean straight lines help to maintain the contemporary feel, which has been commonly done recently with crittal windows and doors. Originally Victorian, they are simple black metal framed doors or windows, with horizontal lines breaking them into several large horizontal panels of glass, framed in black. Close vertical lines in tiles, ribbed glass, curtains and wood screening or panelling add a contemporary touch.

On a student budget, Instagram is your friend to see how the right accessories with a little paint can achieve a dramatic transformation. Paint is very much having a moment, delivering bright fresh blush pinks or dark, cosy emeralds. No surface is off-limits for paint: contemporise a second-hand piece of furniture or paint the door and frame to blend into the wall. Another option is painting an arch of colour behind a chest of drawers or a bed to create a statement. Adding DIY rattan elements to pieces like headboards, side tables and tray tops is significantly cheaper than buying them premade, especially considering that all it takes is a sheet of rattan and some strong glue. Terrazzo patterned storage boxes and plant pots are more affordable. The Renaissance creation of terrazzo in Venice is a simple yet effective way of adding colour and texture to a space. Small mosaic-like pieces embedded in smooth cement give flexibility in design and application. Again, an ode to the Seventies, it was seen as overdone in the nineties, but sufficient time has passed for it to rise to the top once more. No longer confined to floors, its contemporary use spans countertops, sinks, bathtubs and smaller decorative pieces.

No style is ever truly timeless, but the trends this year have proven that if you wait fifty years, it all comes back round.