Design & Architecture Trends Of 2021

The coronavirus pandemic has had a tremendous impact on every industry around the world, including the architecture and design industries. Globally, there has also been a shift towards cultural and societal awareness that is shaping the way people design and build. The pandemic helped to accelerate some architecture trends and raised questions about other well-established ideas.

Trends for 2021 favor flexibility and sustainability when it comes to the materials used in building, as well as the finished design. With more awareness around climate change, people are trying to be mindful of where their materials come from and how long before they will need to be thrown out and replaced again.

With so many people around the world working from home and doing more remotely, we’re seeing a shift in the home office being the new focal point of the home. Many trends over the last year lean towards freshening up and maximizing those spaces.

Several trends that we’re starting to see in North America began with our neighbors across the pond in Europe and elsewhere. To get insight on these trends, we spoke with Maria DeFiore, Architectural Products Specialist with Ring’s End, Inc. and Associate of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) who has seen some of these developments first hand.


Almost everyone spent most of their time at home over the past year. Being at home for so long, people began to realize that housing, office, or public spaces no longer met all of their needs and desires anymore.

Public vs. Private

With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, many sought experiences in public spaces that would accommodate social distancing. This is being reflected in current trends, with an effort to dissolve the barriers between public and private spaces to allow more people to meet (safely) and enjoy the outdoors. Public-use projects were not just about function, standing out in form and color to become landmarks that communities rallied around in the last year. Removing barriers and allowing more accessibility creates spaces that can be enjoyed all-year long.

Shifting Scenarios

Adaptability has been a growing movement in architecture for some time now, as the profession has acknowledged the dilemma of designing buildings that span decades for a society that is now rapidly changing. We see this with many businesses now questioning the need for floors of rigid office suites. The pandemic and our collective experience of 2020 reinforced the need for flexible design, which can accommodate a wide variety of unforeseen scenarios. Flexibility and adaptability is being applied as a design principle through office furniture layouts, diverse seating plans, and new building systems that are able to shift to different scenarios or modes.

Mixed-Use Development

Mixed-use buildings or “fifteen-minute cities” were also a growing trend among developers that accelerated under the coronavirus. Many shopping malls that were nearly extinct are being revitalized into mixed-use spaces that accommodate living, working, and shopping into one self-sufficient space. The idea of having many amenities all in one area also helps make things more accessible, with everything being within just a short walk, bike ride, or public transit ride away.

Carbon-Neutral Architecture

As emissions have increased over the years, so too has awareness of human interference in the environment. You may have heard of the three “r’s,” “reduce, reuse, recycle” before, but now, there’s a growing movement to incorporate those values into architecture and design.

Zero-Energy Buildings

The construction of zero energy buildings will be one of the great trends of the year. California has been at the forefront of sustainable construction. The state has demanded that all new homes incorporate solar systems to reduce energy consumption. Whether through solar panels or other strategies of clean energy use, it is expected that architecture follows that trend and modernizes in line with the new sustainability standards.

Mixing Materials

Interest is also growing when it comes to utilizing more sustainable, raw or recycled materials in builds. While concrete is widely used in construction due to its versatility and strength, manufacturing it contributes to about 8 percent of global emissions. It also is not easily broken down, often ending up as waste in landfills after demolition. Recycling and upcycling of materials has become more and more popular in architecture as alternatives to traditional materials such as concrete.

There’s an upward trend in using a variety of materials and mixing them together in design, like cork board, exposed bricks, and wood. The touch, textures, and slight variations in materials can make both the interiors and exteriors of many projects more aesthetically pleasing – some might even say “homey”. 

Throughout 2020 and into 2021, there has been a large increase in the use of wooden surfaces both inside and outside. Wood has been used in creating everything from light-weight and mobile modular homes to interior and exterior finishes. What’s more, it’s not limited to new constructions. It applies to everything from furniture to remodels as well.

Thermory As A Sustainable Material

Thermory is 100% real wood, which means it’s a natural choice. There are a number of cladding options that have utility in both indoor and outdoor applications. Thermory’s products are also modified using only heat and steam, which enhances the durability and stability without compromising its natural characteristics by adding harsh chemicals. 

Maria DeFiore said, “At the end of the day, whenever the plastics expire, they go in the trash, and then a landfill. People are a lot more conscious about where things end up when you’re done with them. Most times, wood can be recycled once its at the end of its life.” 

Thermory’s stability as a material also helps it last for decades; even longer when it’s treated and maintained. Its sustainability reduces the amount of time and energy it takes to replace it. Furthermore, Thermory’s so clean that it can be burned upon disposal. DeFiore continued, “Thermory might cost more upfront, but with this, you’re buying an insurance policy ahead of time. It lasts much longer than many other products out there.” 

Biophilic Design

We talked about the benefits of biophilic design on the Thermory USA blog before, but in case you missed it: biophilic design, put very simply, is the idea that it is a human experience to want to be around nature and it actually can make you feel better! When we look out upon a beautiful view, whether it is a coastal waterfront, a mountain, or lush green forest, we feel the calm and comfort of being one with the earth. (Bio [nature] philia [love]= Love of nature). Designers, architects, homeowners, and businesses are picking up on its health and wellness popularity, especially after the stress of the last year. 

Adding Greenery

With the increased time indoors during the pandemic, many people were drawn to the greenery of internal gardens. For multi-family housing projects, the interests were similar with ideas about bringing nature closer to residents through the design of gardens and internal squares, green walls, or large flower boxes being the highlight. 

In addition to making better use of natural resources and reducing energy consumption, many new developers are proposing better ways to integrate green spaces into their projects. Landscaping is becoming more influential in residential buildings as a design principle and more departments are incorporating gardens, green walls, and green space.

Bringing The Outdoors In

Biophilic design is about increasing flow, designing with curves instead of rigid angles, and blurring the lines between an indoor and outdoor space. DeFiore said, “I see a lot more people bringing outdoor, indoor. Whether it’s using walls of glass as doors and they kind of disappear, or a lot of grand, large openings to get airflow and breezes. I’m seeing less people care about screening themselves in and calling it one space.”

With everyone cooped up inside during the pandemic, many people are also trying to maximize the amount of usable space in their home. Outdoor living spaces are being highlighted as an extension of the main home to add even more space to “escape”.

As we’ve mentioned mixed materials being popular, many designers and architects are thinking outside the box by using materials traditionally used on the exterior of homes, like wood cladding. While Thermory looks great outdoors, it can add interest and bring a natural element in an indoor application.

A Societal Shift

Many of the trends we’ve seen have been in slow growth over the last several years, but got rapidly accelerated by the pandemic. People started redefining what really matters to them, and the state of the world following COVID-19 caused more people to think about their values and how best to express them.

Making places more accessible to everyone, blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor, public and private, and making things more open is a trend that will not be going away anytime soon. Maximizing our spaces, as well as getting the most out of our carefully-chosen products and services we consume is coming to the forefront of people’s minds as we grapple with a changing world.

Thermory is passionate about our commitment to sustainability. We believe where your wood comes from matters, but also where it ends up after you’ve enjoyed it matters to us, too. We got into the wood modification business because we love trees. We love the natural beauty and strength of wood, and we want to preserve that. Whether it’s simply for its natural beauty, or because you’re exercising your conscience to create a better world, Thermory is here to help you leave a lasting impact.


Burch, M., Dankwerth, A., & Flaherty, J. (2021). Future of offices: in a post pandemic world. ARUP. 

Cutieru, A. (2020, December 29). The Architecture Trends Accelerated or Reconsidered in 2020. ArchDaily. 

Dejtiar, F. (2020, December 31). From Climate Crisis to How Will We Live Together: 2020’s Most Relevant Topics in Architecture. ArchDaily. 

Materials that Shaped the Most Iconic Homes, Interiors and Public Buildings of 2020. (2020, December 26). ArchDaily. 

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