Open thread: Top interior design trends of the 2010’s

The revival of midcentury design — both ‘modern’ and ‘modest’ — was one of the trends that took hold during the 2010s. Above: Wren and Willow’s little bit of perfection kitchen remodel.

This website is about design through the decades, and with that in mind, we’ve done stories and open threads about top residential interior design trends in the 1940s, the 1950s, the 1980s, and the 1990s. We’ll fill in those missing 20th Century decades soon, but meanwhile, I was thinking: Now that we are about 2/3 of the way through the 2010’s, let’s try and begin to capture the top interior design trends while they are all around us.

A KEY RULE RE COMMENTS: Regular readers are aware that I am not a fan of certain contemporary trends. But for this story, I will not opine. Let us — with objectivity and no judgment on aesthetic or other values — just make a list. Note, I may not approve judge-y comments; I am trying to keep myself focused on equanimity — it’s is not something I’m naturally programmed for, I’m working on it.

Top interior design trends of the 2010s:

I’ll start with a few that I think make the list.

  1. Gray is the Color of the Decade: Did the popularity of this color reflect the economic malaise of the Great Recession? Gray was used in abundance, on: Walls, kitchen cabinets, flooring, upholstery, and more. By 2017, the gray trend is fading (white walls, for example, seems to be ascendant.) 
  2. Bye bye Granite, hello Quartz: The long-lasting supremacy of granite on kitchen counter tops came to an end. Trendy folk who can afford them want quartz countertops. Even trendier folk, with even more dough re me, want giant slabs of Carrara marble.
  3. Retro Renovation Revival: The time finally came for midcentury design to experience a revival. Circa 1995, when I first started looking, there were like ZERO midcentury modern-style sofas for sale. Today, there seem to be HUNDREDS. Classic midcentury modern design penetrated the design and decorating culture, and midcentury “modest” got its due, too: The success of the Save the Pink Bathrooms campaign — which made these vintage bathrooms desirable again, at least among some cohorts — is just one example of how granny’s choices finally started getting some respect.
  4. Upcycle This: Propelled by online sites like etsy and pinterest, the 2010s saw the biggest revival of crafting since perhaps the 1970s. Chalk painting old furniture… turning ball jars into pendant lights… ‘put a bird on it’ everythings… and much more

What do you think of my list so far?
What else should go on the list?

More stories on design trends:

  1. Genevieve says:

    Stainless steel still seems to be holding strong in this decade, but there were a few trials of interesting colors of stainless steel: Whirlpool Sunset Bronze (https://www.appliancesconnection.com/blog/whirlpool-sunset-bronze-the-new-stainless-steel/), which didn’t make it, and a charcoal/black stainless steel color, which could be seen at the 2018 KBIS (Kitchen and Bath Industry Showcase ?).
    Also, apparent overuse of the white subway tile, quartz, and white cabinet as copied from flipping shows.

    1. Peter says:

      Yep. That’s what happens when people watch too many shows on HGTV where they keep saying subway tiles are “timeless.” They may have been used (and look good in) turn of the century Victorian houses, maybe even up to 1940s traditional houses, but I don’t think they look quite right in 1950s and 1960s (maybe even 1970s) mid century modern homes. I know they’re quite popular now in the current traditional style houses, and have been for quite a while.

      I guess it could be worse… white subway tiles are (only slightly) better than large beige or taupe porcelain or ceramic tiles in bathrooms or for kitchen backsplashes. Due to an emergency plumbing repair, where the wall was opened, I removed the h****** [edited] 1990s beige and hunter green country farmhouse style tiles in my bathtub area of my 1965 MCM house. In a pinch, all I could get quickly that was era-appropriate were white 4″x4″ tiles. For the floor, I had time to shop around and got pink mosaic tile.

      Next is my kitchen… the previous owner installed 4″x16″ beige subway tile for the backsplash. It would look great in a 2005 urban condo or McMansion. Those are coming out and being replaced with 4″x4″ lime green tiles! Fortunately, no farm sink, some modern plastic composite sink. I hope to replace that too, not sure with what, but it will be more MCM appropriate.

  2. Annie says:

    Can I just say that I H*** [edited} it in most instances when HGTV shows want to tear out built ins? They have a use and function. Then you want to put a TV cabinet in their place or open shelving.

    1. KStacey says:

      I am struggling with this in my house. In theory, I am trying to renovate in the retro fashion, but I won’t do anything I personally do not like or that is impratical for my daily life. (luckily not much has been changed over the past 58 years!) In the den there is a small built-in desk area wedged between the fireplace and the doors to the back yard. In 1960 I’m sure it was a useful area for the telephone and to organize household bills, etc. Today it serves absolutely no purpose. Phone? It’s in my pocket. Paper bills? How quaint. because of the height of the shelves above, it doesn’t even work as a place to keep a laptop. 🙁 I have tried to utilize the all the cubbyholes and shelving, or find any purpose for it other than being a dead corner, and just can’t. Luckily, it is in a corner that does not have much potential anyway, but once I come up with a better idea for it, it may have to go. I have been looking at it for over a year now, trying to like or appreciate it… and I just can’t.

  3. Beth says:

    I’ve read most of the comments. Yes on everything.

    But the decade’s design elements that have always annoyed me are (in no particular order):

    Designing/decorating for entertaining. *I* live here, not my guests. Geesh.

    Chip.Joanna.Gaines-ing EVERY SINGLE THING in one’s house.

    Hanging rusty trash on the walls.

    Shiplapping overkill. I saw a recently “renovated” 1899 Victorian completly covered in milk-painted shiplap, every.single.wall, and so not even age appropriate… shoot, it wasn’t even appropriate for the city the house was in. Texas or rural Georgia maybe.

    Drowning every home in farmhouse “chic” and shabby-chic.

    Hombre painted furniture.

    Lack of/fear of color.

    Yawn-worthy monotones.

    My friends’ homes all look exactly alike on the inside, despite the home’s year of build.

    Disrespect for a vintage home’s original architecture (don’t you DARE touch my black mortar brick fireplace, the spindled pony walls, and my richly stained pecan 1977 wood trim).

    Man caves.

    She sheds.


    1. Peter says:

      I saw one episode where Chip and Joanna refinished something, i think it was a mid century dresser or table, but it could have been something in a mid century house. Of course, they gave it the “distressed” look. I was distressed when they did that! They think that almost every house, no matter what era it’s from, needs distressed or whitewashed weathered and aged looking finishes. I know it’s their style, but some of their clients just don’t know any better and go along with it. This is one of the reasons I got rid of cable TV. I couldn’t stand to see any more nice mid century houses get ruined on all of those house flipping or redecorating shows on HGTV.

  4. ALLISON says:

    The paralyzing power of “resale”.

    Making a home you love in colors and patterns that reflect your family became a victim of the ” OMG, what if it doesn’t sell at some point in the future?” mindset.

    This, more than the gray or white palette seems to define the decade.

    1. Peter says:

      I finally got past this myself. Every house I’ve had before (1990s or 2000s) I was always “careful” to decorate in a nice, neutral way and follow current decorating trends for future resale, even though it’s not what I like.

      Now that I have my 1965 mid century modern house, I though to heck with it, I’m decorating the way I like this time. I’m saving/restoring the pink bathroom (which had been almost completely converted to beige, including painting the original mahogany vanity). Pink mosaic tile will soon be on the floor. The shower already has white 4×4 tiles (all I could get in a pinch after a plumbing emergency necessitated opening a wall, and it was a good excuse to get rid of the 1990s country style tile).

      I painted the bedroom Holiday Turquoise. I converted the other bathroom to blue with a blue sink and toilet. Soon to remove the 12×24 beige ceramic floor tiles to be replaced with black VCT tiles. Plus the authentic vintage and reproduction light fixtures. The living room is getting an orange accent wall. I’m in the process of stripping paint off the original doors to show the nice natural wood. They had been painted. At least they weren’t replaced by 6 panel white MDF doors from the big box stores! The list goes on.

      Yes, I know this won’t help future resale. But I don’t care! I want to enjoy my house this time, not decorate for the next owner! (who would probably redecorate anyways). I’m not sure if or when I will ever sell. I may never move. But if I do, then I will premium price it and position at as a painstakingly restored to original, for mid century enthusiasts only. Either that, or the house will be so old by then that everything will be back in style anyways!

      1. Kristine says:

        I have been working on most of the same projects as you in my 1965 home. For 18 years now, and counting.. Although, I must say, as I sit here with it being 17 degrees outside, replacing ALL the aluminum slider windows with double pane(sorry* wrapped vinyl) was the BEST decision I ever made…the original black mold from decades of condensation. just didn’t match a thing I owned. 🙂

        1. Kristine says:

          Actually, the wrap could possibly be a lightweight metal, I don’t know,…but i made sure to replace them with side sliders, NOT panes….a color I painted.., rich Caribbean Blue dining room..you know the shade that was always paired with advacado green? I painted the bathroom mid cent. gray. And Because I couldn’t find vintage wallpaper at a price I would pay, I hung on the wall, a great mid cent vibe jacquard fabric with a woven, coral design, at 1.00 yd…for this accent wall project, I used liquid starch and glue…my ceramic fish are happy,happy,happy. 🙂 Now who wants to help strip giant sunflower wall paper from the kitchen? Ha!

  5. Sarah Baker says:

    Also–and I just thought of this, so sorry I didn’t add it to my earlier comment–painting over original brick exteriors. Three MCM houses on our block have been treated this way.

    1. Peter says:

      I hate when people do that! It’s virtually impossible to fully strip paint off brick, so you’re stuck with painted brick forever. And if it’s outdoor brick, you have created a maintenance issue. It will peel and need repainting every few years, unless you want the rustic/shabby chic look, which just isn’t right for mid century homes.

      My house exterior is mostly wood siding, but with a nice brick accent wall in the middle, and also for the chimney (classic red bricks). And inside, I have a nice 4-sided free-standing brick fireplace in my living room (and another one in the basement rec room, right below). It’s done in nice yellow brick.

      I’ve had so many well meaning but misguided people tell me I “need to” paint my brick (they usually suggest white, or taupe). Of course, they’re probably watching too much HGTV and think that every old house past 1945 needs to be “updated” or modernized. Just last week I had a guy come in to quote on installing a tongue and groove ceiling, and he said I should paint the fireplace gray because it’s “very popular right now.” One more reason NOT to do it! And he suggested whitewashed tongue and groove boards for the ceiling, for that rustic/shabby chic look. I don’t think so!

      These people always seem perplexed when I tell them I’m trying to bring the house back to its mid century roots and decorate the way it would have looked when it was new. Give it another 20 or 30 years and people will start to appreciate original mid century homes like they do with 80 or 100 year old Victorian homes today.

      1. Karen says:

        I hope you’re right about MCM houses being appreciated. I also HATE painted brick. I just shudder when I see some well-meaning HGTV host paint brick OR paint, or worse, remove knotty pine paneling.

        So add painted brick to current design trends.

    1. Kristine says:

      Amy I lOVE my vintage macrame hanging table, with plant holder in mid-air….I get a feeling of *squeee* with every perplexed look I get!! Haha 😀

  6. Sarah Baker says:

    Chevrons everywhere.
    Signs with one word on them, e.g. “Blessed.”
    Chalk paint on wood furniture.

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