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5 Multifamily Interior Design Trends of 2020

The Healing Power of Nature 

There is a new-found appreciation for the therapeutic properties that plants and botanicals bring to the built environment. Spaces come alive with the introduction of floral patterns and greenery. Whether real or through imagery, a connection with nature supports our physical and emotional well-being. In Emma McGowan’s article in Bustle, Emma attests that plants, a green palette, images of foliage and views of nature enhance creative thinking, reduce anxiety, clear your head and make you more productive.

1800 Oak in Arlington, VA – Preserved Moss Wall at the fitness center in this multi-family re-positioning renovation.

Parc Meridian in Alexandria, VA – Connecting the interior to the natural grasslands on site

More than a trend, this lifestyle shift exemplifies our desire to embrace wellness where we work and live. In the design world, this movement is showing up in homes, restaurants, the common areas of multi-family apartments, and condominiums, and in the materials that we use to design interior spaces. The wall-covering, tile, and floor-covering industries are introducing natural scenes and botanical images in new and inventive ways, all supporting our desire to bring the outdoors in.

Personal Spaces

“Creating a sense of security is one of the underlying roots of all of my designs…In fact, the notion of feeling cocooned, protected, and pampered underlies my whole design ethos. And it is no crime to design with comfort in mind.” Timothy Corrigan, The New Elegance.

1800 Oak in Arlington, VA – Acoustically sound booths create intimacy within a social environment

The Signature in Reston, VA – A room within a room provides an intimate personal space for work or socializing

The desire for intimacy and personal comfort, especially in common and large-volume spaces, is well established. Rather than a trend, we see it as a lifestyle shift. Living and working in an urban environment can be lonely. By nature, we want to feel included, to be a part of a group. Finding your personal space in a coffee shop, a multi-family building, or at work fulfills the need to be with others and, at the same time, embraces our individual need to feel protected and secure. Whether co-working or relaxing, providing guests and residents with a place they can call their own creates comfort.

Mixed-Use Spaces

The demand to do more with less space is increasing. As land gets more expensive and the cost of construction continues to rise, multi-functional amenity spaces become increasingly important. Rather than compete in the amenities race, another road to success is to shrink the square footage dedicated to amenities and make every inch fully functional as well as visually stunning.

1800 Oak in Arlington, VA – Repositioning is the perfect opportunity to add functionality to every space. Featured are the ride-share lounges where a previously oversized vestibule dominated this lobby.

The Bartlett in Arlington, VA – The private residential connection between Commonwealth Joe Coffee Shop and The Bartlett lobby creates an energized vibe

Studies show that social interaction contributes to happiness. Active social spaces emanate a sense of community, create resident engagement, and positively affect resident retention. The “no one is home” lobbies of the past are a waste of space and create a negative first impression. Every nook and cranny can be programmed to provide an opportunity for residents and guests to find their personal space to work, play, and socialize. featuring a wrapping station for gifts and Amazon returns, the required mail and package rooms can be “experience centers.” If the building allows for a combined amenity/retail experience, a lobby that connects with a boutique grocery, wine bar, or coffee shop creates lots of energy and a great vibe.

Hand Crafted Materials

With our desire to connect to the natural environment, comes an exalted appreciation of authentic materials-especially those that have been handcrafted by artisans or by the “maker” within each of us.

When the textures, colors, and materials of nature are married to interior spaces, we are reminded of the gifts found in nature and the importance of sustaining these gifts for future generations. As interior designers, we have the unique opportunity and the obligation to use materials wisely, and creatively and to embrace talented artisans that contribute so much beauty to our built environment.

Cultural Elements

Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash

Today, people are more traveled than any generation in our past. The desire to see and experience other cultures is top of our bucket list. This is especially true of millennials, who are highly motivated to seek out new cultural experiences.  Their technological skills make it easy to find that special place in the world that offers a true authentic encounter centered on local art, music, and ethos.

Travel expands our design aesthetic.  Connecting with other cultures broadens our vision and view of the world. As our customers become more travel-savvy, the design profession is positioned to embrace the wanderlust trend by designing environments that recognize artists and artisans throughout the world. Furnishings, textiles, architectural materials, and lighting are just some of the ways that we can introduce multiculturalism into interiors.

Five Design Trends for 2018

Many industries mark the beginning of each year with trends and predictions for the months ahead. The design industry is no exception, as many manufacturers and press outlets report on new looks coming to the fore. And while we can’t be slavish to fads, these updates are always a useful reference as we contemplate our own design selections moving into 2018. Upon reviewing many of these reports, it’s notable to see how many of our choices, based on client requests, are in line with industry patterns. Here are five trends that stand out:


An obvious place to start, now that the major paint companies have declared their “official” colors for 2018. This year’s paint colors, for the most part, are dramatic and deeply saturated: Pantone named Ultra Violet, while Benjamin Moore identified Caliente—a rich, lipstick red—and Sherwin Williams announced Oceanside, a vivid teal. Glidden and Olympic, meanwhile, declared their own shades of black—Dee

Onyx and Black Magic—as the year’s official hues. Our designers have been turning to black as a neutral for several years, but what’s new is that the deep, jewel-tone shades that have emerged this year have a black base to them. That’s what gives them their moody feel—a palette that House Beautiful magazine identified for 2018. Those tones make wonderful complements to the cognac hues we’ve been gravitating toward in our work. “It’s in the bronze family with a touch of orange and a little bit of red,” Hartman Design Group founder Phyllis Hartman says. Its rich, earthy tone looks gorgeous in textiles, leather, porcelain and ceramics. Even better, the deep, black-based teals, blues and greens are a powerful complement to this cognac/terra cotta color; they come alive against each other where one draws out the richness in the other. contributor Jennifer Ott confirmed this point in the home-design website’s 2018 trend report: “Warm grays with rich, earthy shades will edge out cooler neutrals for a more sumptuous look,” she says. “I’m seeing a move toward warm grays and rich, earthy shades of camel, rust, tobacco and brown-blacks.”

Maximalist Design

Along with these deep colors, we’re seeing a return to pattern mixing. Layering pattern on pattern has to be done judiciously, of course, but we see the trend becoming popular among Millennials who want to create their own identity with energy and a sense of individual style. We are finding that this age group responds to design styles that are warm, inviting and homey. This gesture is exactly in line with recent trend reports out from and Dering Hall, both of which note increased appetites for eclectic design and the mixing of metals, texture and sheen. House Beautiful noted the comeback of bold, floral patterns in particular. “I love the resurgence on the feminine side of the big, beautiful florals,” Nancy Fire, creative director of HGTV Home, told the magazine. “It’s coming from a boho trend that’s more casual.” Along those lines, our clients are requesting fabrics and furnishings that exude comfort. Velvet, for example, used to be considered very formal, but when mixed in with wood accents like reclaimed lumber, the mood becomes much more inviting—not to mention that velvet is the perfect vehicle for these dark, striking colors that are so popular now. House Beautiful singled out velvet as its own trend, in fact, in its recent report. We’re also choosing plush furniture designs—nothing too precious—that invite condo and apartment residents to see their buildings’ public spaces as extensions of their own living area. We look for materials that embrace the person sitting on them; their tactile feel needs to create a sense of sanctuary. In its decorating report for 2018, Country Living magazine noted that shapely furniture—full of curves, no hard edges—is the thing to look for this year. Even CB2, known for its minimalist furnishings, is coming out this spring with furnishings that have more rounded silhouettes, the report said. Dering Hall also emphasized soft edges in furniture, which are so much more inviting than hard angles.

Minimalist Design

No, we’re not contradicting ourselves from above. Streamlined profiles and neutral color palettes are classic companions—they don’t come and go like pattern and color tend to do, particularly with Scandinavian elements such as modern frames with warm wood finishes. These settings are perennially relaxing, offering up space to escape the craziness of the world, both politically and technologically. Our requirement for this look, however, is that the interiors must be comprised of authentic materials. Because there is so little color, the design must assert itself through the texture of wood, iron, porcelain and natural textiles. Harper’s Bazaar produced a 2018 report focused entirely on emerging Scandinavian design elements, such as folding-style leather-backed wooden chairs and wood-slatted walls, which demonstrate how natural elements define an interior, rather than color or pattern. In this type of setting, anything synthetic would, quite literally, cheapen the look.

Mixed-Use Development

It’s one thing to have a well-appointed lobby with areas branching off for impromptu gatherings or quiet pursuits. But many of the new developments we’re working on include coffee shops, wine bars—even an entrance to Whole Foods—in that lobby mix.

It’s living in such a way that you’re surrounded by activity and people, yet there are still places where one can be “alone” in the middle of the fray. In our business, that’s called an “activated space,” which sparks engagement and sociability. As designers, it’s our job to make all these functions aesthetically pleasing, with a seamless flow between communal workspace, areas that are slightly more private, and open social space that lies just outside the retailers’ doors. Those priorities steer the design in a much more casual direction, focusing on life experience rather than pure aesthetics—a quality that’s echoed in nearly every residential interiors report this year.

Green Design

Clients are becoming ever more sensitive to environmentally friendly materials in their buildings’ architecture and interior design. Country Living, Dering Hall, and House Beautiful all pointed to natural accents such as wood, stone, and brick as a big design driver this year. Our Design Director, Anny Falgas states, “The use of natural finishes engages people with their environment and reiterates the desire to respect and connect with nature. It’s our own way of honoring nature through the means of design.” That trend continues to grow, so our default in selecting textiles, furnishings and other design elements is always to make choices that are sustainable, from FSC-certified and reclaimed woods to organic fabrics and recycled materials.

Written by Phyllis Hartman, ASID, LEED AP