5 trends to look out for in 2020

Colours, styles and projects we predict will pop in the new year

Trend forecasting is serious business in the world of architecture and design – but we’ve been looking backwards as much as to the future to pick out our hot topics to follow into 2020.

With the Tokyo Olympic games set to kick-off in the summer, Japanese design is once again at the fore, with Kengo Kuma, Shigeru Ban, Junya Ishigami and concrete master Tadao Ando all among the most searched for architects on The Spaces. We’ll be following their projects through 2020, including Kuma’s National Stadium, set to throw open its doors with the Olympics opening ceremony in July.

Photography: via Okura Tokyo

This year’s cherry blossom season also coincides with a flurry of new hotel openings in the island nation, including a fresh Four Seasons in the capital. (See more on that.)

But it’s not all about the new. Midcentury Japanese interior design was a hot topic for us in 2019, and the revival of lost 1960s icon Hotel Okura Tokyo was among our top-performing newsletters last year. Auction and property features about master craftsman George Nakashima also got you clicking – so expect to see more on Japanese design in the new year.

Courtesy Kengo Kuma

What else is piquing your interest?

Some topics are surprisingly niche – and hint at a yearning for space among our urbanite audience – but others are familiar faces that look set to stay strong as we move into a new decade. See what other trends we’re tipping for the next 12 months.

The rise of ‘right-sized living’

Right-sized living in the Flex House
Photography: Green Builder Media

One of our top-performing news stories in 2019 was on a humble 750 sq ft prefab home designed by Green Builder Media and Shelter Dynamics as the ‘right-sized’ home. But what is the right size? Bigger than a 500 sq ft tiny home but more compact and minimalist in design than traditional bricks and mortar dwellings, the Flex House is pitched at millennials who want to separate their living and sleeping quarters, but who also want to ‘strip the fat’ of unused space.

It’s probably fair to say that ‘right-sized living’ is more of a marketing spin than a spatial revolution, but its canny packaging is striking a chord. We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for more ‘right-sized projects’ in 2020 as this vague movement seeks to add flesh to its bones.

Classic Blue and Sage hues

Huckletree coworking space by Sella Concept. Photography: Genevieve Lutkin

Pantone’s colour of the year is Classic Blue – a moody tone with serious but peaceful undertones for a new decade. If you haven’t already, expect to see it popping up in living rooms and bedrooms where it can help promote relaxation and restful sleep. (Here’s our guide to using it in your own home.)

But if this classic hue isn’t for you, we are expecting serene Sage Green to be popular too as the design world’s obsession with biophilia continues to grow. Soft, calming green shades are ideal for coworking spaces (the popularity of which continues to rise) and shared environs that bridge the gap between public and private – so embrace those calming vibes.


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We’re also secretly hoping ‘Millennial Pink’ will finally fall off the colour wheel and we admit it: we never fully embraced ‘Living Coral’.

Plants, plants, plants

Courtesy Atelier Jean Nouvel

With Greta Thunberg grabbing headlines for her environmental activism and fashion houses going carbon neutral – see SS/20 fashion month sets for more on this trend – the environment is (rightly) on everyone’s mind as we move towards an uncertain future.

Architects have of course long been innovating with biophilic design, especially Vietnamese practices like Vo Trong Nghia Architects, and several high-profile, plant-led projects will complete this year. These include hospitality hubs such as Jean Nouvel’s Rosewood Sao Paulo Hotel and Ace Hotel Kyoto, which involves the adaptive reuse of a warehouse, set around a Japanese zen garden. (Find out more about these hotel openings.)

On a more modest scale, our obsession with house plants also looks set to remain strong. Expect to see plant-filled posts of living rooms, bathrooms and urban gardens popping on Instagram, paired with cane furniture, raffia, raw plaster walls, limewash and rustic timbers.

Get a head start with our ultimate edit of IG accounts for daily ‘greenspiration’.

Postmodern populism

Photography: Tekla Evelina Severin

Perhaps we jumped the gun when we prematurely tipped our hats to the PoMo revival a few years back, but we’re big fans of the ‘marmite’ architectural movement and its wacky offspring. Like brutalism before it, the design oeuvre is garnering a new generation of admirers drawn to its bold colours, geometric shapes and playfulness.

Photography: Dennis Zazone

Ettore Sottsass’ Memphis group has already earned its place in the design records and is inspiring the likes of contemporary designers Adam Nathaniel Furman and Camille Walala. But other postmodern designers and architects are still vying for their spots. Now, more than 30 years on from its reactionary beginnings, some of its most notable examples are coming of age, eligible for listed status in the UK and US. We’re anticipating a knock-on effect.


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