Prisoners of Misfortune

You see it whenever you might watch a prison documentary or drama. Personal trinkets, seemingly random belongings, and images of loved ones adorning prisoners’ cells in the hopes to break the monotony life in porridge. An important part of staying sane during time inside, a prison in the UK even allowed its prisoners to fully decorate their cells earlier this year in recognition of how it helped prisoners in their rehabilitation.

Why do I mention this? Because to borrow another prisonism, all over the world in 2020, people across all walks of life experienced some form of lockdown — a restriction of movement which meant they were spending more time inside than ever before.

Suddenly, that bedroom wall you only saw at the end of a day was now omnipresent in your life, your uncomfortable chair was suddenly your daily throne, your kitchen was your lunch room, your spare cupboard space your new office. In total, some reports stated that individuals were spending a staggering 8 extra hours a day inside.

What this has meant is that we have all begun to reimagine the interiors of our homes more so than ever before, newfound importance placed on the homestead that has changed how we view space entirely, leading to two very distinct design trends

Courtesy of Design Sponge
Warm minimalism

When the world went into lockdown, it “understandably spurred a feeling of unrest, grief, and anxiety among consumers,” PPG Paints’ senior colour marketing manager, Dee Schlotter told Architectural Digest. “It is these individuals,” Schlotter states, “who are now craving colours that instil a sense of reassurance and comfort.” This makes sense as, in times of strife, design often reflects a solution to the current problems more than anything else.

What we saw at the beginning of lockdown then was a shift from the prevailing cold minimalist designs of the noughties that gives way to something more functional on a human level. Dubbed ‘warm minimalism’, many have opted for function over form during the pandemic, maximising their comfort levels and responding to their needs more so than ever before.

As Sebastian Brauer, Crate & Barrel’s VP of product design and development, told Fast Company last year, “We’re searching for the feeling of amplitude,” Brauer says. “We’re returning to a ‘less is more’ mindset, but with a touch of comfort.”

A decade defined by “purity, simplicity, and open space” is what Brauer has in mind, an idea backed by the fact that when the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic hit, it put to bed the decorative features of 19th-century homes, which were less easily cleaned and often far too expensive in the post-war era.


This is not to say that this is the only trend powered by Covid. As Henry Connell, Co-Founder of The Uncommon, told us recently when discussing the changing world of booze, new developments such as Direct-to-Consumer “allowed consumers to express themselves even when in lockdown.”

This is not only reflected in the fact that many D2C interiors brands have risen over the past years but, more broadly, a specific, louder type of interior has emerged. where instead of muted colours, beiges, and whites being predominant, consumers are instead opting for louder, more garish design choices.

“This has taken around 20 years to happen”, Nigel Hunt, Global Marketing & Digital Director of luxury interiors brand Harlequin, “as with a lot of things, the fashion houses tend to drive such change. When Gucci appointed Alessandro Michele as creative director, for example, a person who really taps into more classical and heritage design but gives it a really contemporary and flamboyant twist, was such a driver of this trend.”

At the same time, extreme floral designs and an obsession with houseplants have taken over many homes. Driven by climate anxiety and rising urbanism, Covid-19 compounded these worries which ultimately, translated into consumers locked inside bringing the outside in.

"This is the year for the interiors equivalent of speaking your own truth"

Michelle Ogundehin

Whilst these two trends are almost polar ends of one another, they both are rooted in bringing balance to the consumers’ needs: both functionally and emotionally. As Michelle Ogundehin, author of Happy Inside: How to Harness the Power of Home for Health and Happiness, writes in Dezeen “That real evolution [of 2021] is all about balance: new and old; real and virtual; left and right; East and West.”

The discomfort of the pandemic has in many ways entrenched new levels of comfort in how we design our homes. It has forced us to shake up old tropes and relinquished us from the pressure of our peers, while an element of flexibility has run through all of this, ultimately, we have found newfound freedom in our lockdown world.

Own the Room

Our work for interior design brand Harlequin brings all of these ideas to the forefront. “Own the Room” is about being comfortable in your design choices, being bold, banishing boring, and empowering people to make their homes their own. Be that red, yellow, grey, or black, interior design today has been democratised in ways not seen before. As Ogundehin himself says, “This is the year for the interiors equivalent of speaking your own truth” — owning the room is the start of that.