The Best and Worst Interior Design Trends of the Decade

Take a look at the 2010s fads that have transformed into staples, and others that are best left in the past.

By Robin Kencel, Contributor |Dec. 13, 2019, at 11:47 a.m.

The Best and Worst Interior Design Trends of the Decade


Which trends made design better, and which are best forgotten?

Digitally generated cozy industrial-style domestic room

(Getty Images)

Most decorating trends begin as an idea – either as something completely unknown to the decorating world or a fresh, new interpretation of the expected. Trends are often introduced by a top designer and quickly grabbed onto by the mainstream, gaining traction in concept and availability to the consumer. Since there is no watchdog as to what makes for good or bad decorating ideas, the range of what alights and grows into a trend is broad. While jumping on the bandwagon of a trend is tempting, taking your time to commit to a design makes sense in the long term. Read on for some of the best and worst trends of the 2010s.

Best: Globalization

Best: Globalization

Digitally generated African themed living room interior design.

The scene was rendered with photorealistic shaders and lighting in Autodesk® 3ds Max 2016 with V-Ray 3.6 with some post-production added.

(Getty Images)

One of the most exciting developments in interior design is the accessibility of furnishings and products from foreign countries. While Italy, France, Sweden, England and other Western European countries have always found their way into American homes, it's exciting to see other cultures and countries becoming a greater part of our interiors, be it an Asian influence or the embrace of colorful fabrics from South America or Africa. People find inspiration in their own ancestry and cultural backgrounds, embrace styles from places they've visited or simply look to international patterns, products and design styles that add a bit of variety to their home.

Best: Use of Art

Best: Use of Art

Home interior with sofa and paintings on the wall

(Getty Images)

Gone are the days when only the well-heeled could have art that complemented a room. The use of art consultants who are versed in emerging art and the expansion of more affordable mediums of art, like photography, has allowed a wider audience to successfully bring art into homes. There’s no need to be a collector or have a degree in art history to incorporate art. Simply select pieces that speak to your personality or design aesthetic. Two excellent places to look for photography are Heritage Auctions and Pace Gallery, both of which sell a wide variety of art and decor for the home online.

Best: Risk-Taking

Best: Risk-Taking

Industrial room

(Getty Images)

With a lead from the fashion world, the exploration and willingness of homeowners to venture further from the familiar are exciting. One example is the trend toward using industrial materials in residential settings, such as polished cement floors and counter surfaces. As another example, rethinking the definition of a home library makes a lot of sense, since reading on tablets versus a physical book continues to grow in popularity. Foregoing the traditional bookshelf-lined walls may seem counterintuitive to a traditionalist, but the room can still serve the same purpose. Some designers are adding texture to library walls, such as shiplap, reclaimed wood or a natural-fiber wallpaper, which can give the room a warm look.

Best: Interior Lighting

Best: Interior Lighting

Tungsten light bulb in a modern home interior

(Getty Images)

Not too long ago, lighting in interior design was confined to accent, task and overhead lighting as types to consider when illuminating a room, with perhaps special consideration given to highlight art. Seeing the growing trend of bringing in lighting designers to enhance a room and create ambiance and highlight architectural details, design elements, art or furnishings opens up a whole new world to interiors. Lighting systems also make it possible to better serve the changing purposes of a room, whether you’re relaxing solo, entertaining a dozen guests or looking to make it easier to focus on evening homework.

Worst: Formulaic Approach

Worst: Formulaic Approach

Warm, feminine living room interior with gray armchair, beige sofa and small, woolen coffee table

(Getty Images)

Time comes at a premium for many, and having a home done versus done well is of greatest importance. That said, every piece of furniture or accessory sets a tone and contributes to the overall feeling. Putting together a room quickly, often from one store, without regard for design fundamentals such as scale, the relationship between pieces, balance and proportion, is dangerous. Rooms end up being created in a formulaic way, with no texture, interest or layering of materials and end up lacking personality and soul.

Worst: Animal Hides and Furs

Worst: Animal Hides and Furs

(Getty Images)

First is the respect for life aspect. Second is the problem with variation in quality, and sometimes randomness within a room design. The improvements in faux fur quality have solved the wear and respect issues, and offer an alternative that often looks and feels better than the real thing. This design trend has thoroughly run its course, as nearly every staged house for sale used to have at least one animal rug and a throw blanket on the back of the sofa or end of a bed. Having said all this, not all animal prints are necessarily a "don't," in moderation. Stark Carpet Corporation sells a popular wool leopard-print rug, and textile company House of Scalamandré sells velvet animal prints that tie in current trends for a pillow, ottoman or chair seat.

Worst: Limited Color Palettes

Worst: Limited Color Palettes

Living Room

(Getty Images)

Almost every staged house is white, gray or “grayish," a combination of white and gray. When the trend began, the fresh, clean, bright interiors were refreshing and welcomed. Now, the simple color palette is about the only palette used and as a result, it has lost its impact. Time to bring back color. Two options to find inspiration in as we enter a new decade are sulfur yellow, a blend of green and yellow, and Coleus, a kind of rose color blending orange and violet that was branded by paint company Donald Kaufman Color. Both colors are muted but distinct and warm in tone. If you're worried about embracing too much color in a room at once, you can mix either of these colors with neutrals.

Worst: Shabby-Chic Bedding

Worst: Shabby-Chic Bedding

Pillows on an antique luxury bed close up

(Getty Images)

In the fast pace of today, the idea of a relaxed lifestyle is highly sought after, and is often interpreted as a slightly old and worn look, and might work well when speaking about a cabinet or piece of silver. But when it comes to fabric, old and slightly worn just looks old and worn. You can make your bedroom feel cozy and relaxed without being stuck in the shabby-chic style. Focus on the quality and warmth of the fabric to allow you to feel comfortable, rather than simply basing your bedding on the textile pattern. Cotton, chenille and cashmere are all inviting. Avoid fabrics that are stiff or have a great deal of sheen on them, as they just aren’t welcoming.

Some of the best and worst trends of the 2010s include:

Some of the best and worst trends of the 2010s include:

Colorful eclectic modern living room with orange sofa and green armchair, with ornate elements around. Striped carpet over a concrete floor, a lamp, flowers in a glass vase, with classic wall with ornate elements. Horizontal photo composition

(Getty Images)

  • Best: globalization.
  • Best: use of art.
  • Best: risk-taking.
  • Best: interior lighting.
  • Worst: formulaic approach.
  • Worst: animal hides and furs.
  • Worst: limited color palettes.
  • Worst: shabby-chic bedding.

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Robin Kencel is a founding agent of Compass’s Greenwich, Connecticut, office and one of the top 10 agents in the Greenwich market. She has been ranked in the top 1% of all agent teams across the United States by the Wall Street Journal/Real Trends and cofounded several top producer agent teams. She is listed in Who’s Who In Luxury Real Estate and is a member of the Compass Sports & Entertainment Division. Her team, the Robin Kencel Group, concentrates in Greenwich, Connecticut, and has a vibrant network of premier agents in other Connecticut and U.S. luxury towns.

Kencel's deep roots in the worlds of interior design and historic preservation give her a unique perspective on every home, whether preparing their homes for sale or evaluating the strength of a home under consideration.

As a six-time national ballroom champion, Kencel is chair of the Greenwich Historical Society’s Landmark Recognition Program, a member of the First Selectman’s Economic Advisory Council, and board member of the Town’s public relations campaign, Think Greenwich.

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