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  • Writer's pictureShelagh Duncan

What is Trending for new home Designs in 2021?

We are certainly living in interesting times. Wherever that particular phrase originated, it could not be more accurate as it relates to our world right now. For most of us we have spent more time in our homes over these last months than we ever imagined possible.

Life around us has changed as has our lifestyle, which has needed to adapt to the new reality. Home isn’t just home any more. With the crisis and lockdowns, it has become an office, a school, a gym, a play area, a restaurant, a dormitory and a place to retreat and relax. Our needs are tied to our emotions, which are themselves influenced by our surroundings. The pandemic we’re living through has intensified certain emotions and shaken up our priorities.

Let’s explore some of the key needs and wants that the industry says new home buyers are asking for going forward.

Multi-functional spaces and Furniture

The trend for Great Rooms will continue, creating one unique space for entertaining, cooking, dining, and living. However the demand is for areas that can also function as a separate studio, office or workout area when more privacy or less distraction is desired. According to U.S. Census data, more than 13 million Americans already worked from home. That was pre-Covid, and we know where that number is going. With the use of movable walls and clever design, these separate areas can be closed off for a specific activity, or opened up to offer extra space for family activities and entertaining as needed.

Modular and adaptable elements are the key, and that includes multifunctional furniture. Space-saving and multipurpose pieces like sofa sleepers and storage ottomans have been around for a long time, but now innovative ideas like combining a wall bed, with a dining table or sofa are in demand, and this is a trend with traction. Smaller living calls for these types of space solutions and we are seeing a growing movement for smaller homes and simple living.

Concept Living

These homes focus on a concept – be it dining and entertaining, health and wellness, work or study, or a restful retreat. These are the homes that are designed around the passion and lifestyle of the occupants. People are asking for homes that echo their personality, their passion. When we move out of a city, out of a country and venture to pastures new, it is the perfect time to re-evaluate and have a home that reflects who you are. Many people tried to do that here in CR back in the day. Most of the time it was because they were told they could build the “home of their dreams” - but many of these rather strange and quirky homes became a realtor’s nightmare when it came time to sell!

Concept homes are different. You are not designing ‘different’ for the sake of it. You will have a home that is specifically designed to function well, to perfectly fit your lifestyle. Also, we do not move here to build homes that look like the ones we left: we embrace the tropical, the laidback, casual lifestyle. If you love to cook and entertain – build and enjoy that home. If your passion is yoga or painting – build for that. This home features a floating yoga platform


Home buyers are also looking for homes that reflect their values, and sustainability is another big one. Using renewable resources, recycled materials and minimizing the footprint of new home builds are factors that people of all ages are concerned about. In 2014 a staggering 883 to 1,060 cu.ft or about 7 thousand lbs of waste was generated on average from every residential construction project in the US. This equaled about three, 318 cu.ft sized skips of garbage from every new home!

Surfaces that are also non-porous and easy to clean are in demand and there are many options for countertops and tiles using recycled, pre and post consumer and industrial waste in their products. Low maintenance is all part of keeping things simple.

Bringing the Outdoors In

Bringing the outdoors inside is another trend that is a direct result of the current stay-at-home world that we live in. We feel a need to blur the lines between inside and out. Large windows will expand the space visually and indoor plants make for healthier indoor air quality. People want to see more natural materials inside, and taking inspiration from Scandinavian design, light wood will feature more prominently on floors, feature walls and ceilings.


The National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) recently released their research on the impact people’s behavior, stage of life and habits have on kitchen and bath design. This very comprehensive study examined the outside influences transforming how kitchens and bathrooms will be designed over the next few year so, if you are thinking about a new home, some of these trending features may be shaping the look and performance of your new spaces.

The main themes that came out of this study are:

CONNECTED LIVING: It’s easy to assume that the phrase “Connected Living,” means connected devices, and to some extent it does. On another level there is much importance placed on the connection among people—something most people crave now more than ever. According to the research, homeowners want their kitchens to promote human interaction—and the connected devices, appliances, and systems will be in place to serve that end.

Kitchens will need to work for different styles and skill-levels of cooks—from those who love the experience and experimenting with food, to time-stressed individuals, to multiple cooks, and sometime several generations, working in the same kitchen.

Among all age groups, 82 percent said inclusion is so important, especially with visibility from the kitchen to other parts of the living space. Other top priorities include spaces that are conducive to entertaining, and the needs for great Wi-Fi and Internet connection to call up recipes, cooking inspiration and instruction.

Open-plan kitchens will be inviting, cozy and warm - perhaps to take the edge off of all the technology, and there is a need to connect with nature, by using big windows, expansive views, indoor herb gardens and selection of natural materials

Bathrooms become areas of relaxation and escape, so large, opening windows lots of natural light and greenery are in demand, and the use of natural materials help strengthen that connected feeling

SIMPLIFIED LIVING: Scale down the ‘stuff’ seems to be the war cry, especially by the Millennials who greatly value experiences over ‘things’. Minimalism is trending, so storage now becomes a critical component of kitchen and bath design.

HEALTHY LIVING: In kitchens and baths, experiencing a deeper connection to nature is a big part of healthy living. So again, large, opening windows lots of natural light and greenery are key, together with the use of natural materials. In the kitchen, design solutions include more fridge space and flexible cool drawers to store fresh produce, meats and dairy and large sinks to clean and prep meals.

In bathrooms a spa-like experience is desired, with body jets, aromatherapy, and other elements to promote relaxation and healing.

LIVING IN PLACE: This is design for today and the future: designing spaces that are safe, comfortable, and useable for all individuals and abilities. More than half the people surveyed focused on the home being accessible for all ages and designing homes with curbless showers and wider, zero-step doorways makes that possible. Pull out kitchen shelving, ergonomic drawer and door handles, and front loading laundry appliances are features that are handy now, but become more necessary with age.

Many kitchen and bathroom designers also found several distinct design trends emerging from this significant North American study. Not all are practical or relevant to life here in Costa Rica, but we can see the direction design is heading.

In the Kitchen

  • Larger kitchen islands - multifunctional for meal prep, dining, work-from-home

  • Open floor plan with fewer walls, allowing increased visibility and broader sight lines to other rooms, entertainment, media, nature/outdoors

  • Increased number of charging outlets

  • Landing counters for groceries and food delivery

  • Larger sinks and refrigerators to wash and store fresh produce

  • Commercial finishes and fabrics for easy cleaning and durability

  • Recycling and composting stations

In the Bathroom

  • Large-format tile, thinner grout lines for easier cleaning

  • Compartmentalized storage with integrated outlets (hairdryer, razor, toothbrush, phone)

  • Self-cleaning toilets

  • Larger, zero-clearance showers with integrated seating and decorative grab bars

  • Wi-Fi connectivity

  • Touchless activation for shower, lighting, entertainment

  • Larger windows for increased natural lighting

  • Use of natural materials including wood, bamboo, stone, live plants

If you are renovating, building or just planning, these are the things that will be influencing future home buyers, but more than that, these features can enhance your experience of living in your own home now.

These are not fads because you can see that many of them overlap. They are carefully researched by different groups and interests, and based on what we are living with at this time I think we can see how relevant these trends are. Our world is changing, and so are our homes and the way we want to live in them.

Until next time,

Shelagh Duncan


Uvita de Osa

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