Personal Taste Key to Surfacing Trends

by Autumn McGarr

What’s trending in kitchen and bathroom surfacing this season – and why? What makes one material or finish surge? What makes one fade? Looking beyond the spaces themselves, how much, if anything, do design trends owe to news events versus industry preferences and proclamations?

Let’s  look at the surfaces that will potentially dominate the year with these industry pros across the country:

  • Los Angeles area architect Dean Larkin;
  • Tampa area cabinet dealer and designer Doug Amoroso;
  • Houston area interior designer Veronica Solomon;
  • Washington, DC area Home Depot Design Center design supervisor Claire Matthews;
  • Houzz senior associate editor Erin Carlyle.

Porcelain slab is trending for tops, walls and floors.
Photo: Courtesy of Panaria Ceramica, Ceramics of Italy member company / Wellness by Design (Tiller Press, 2020)


Wood and wood looks trended strongly last year for floors and will likely do so again in 2021, the pros agree. That could be the real material or luxury vinyl tile (LVT) imitators. Larkin sees light and medium-toned warm woods for flooring being strong this year, while cooler tones, such as the grays of recent years, will fade. “Hardwood flooring continues to trend every year,” shares Matthews.   

Amoroso agrees: “Wide plank engineered wood floors by far were the strongest trend we saw in 2020 and moving forward into 2021.” Sometimes wide plank only looks like wood. LVT is coming on strong.

Carlyle sees its growing appeal in the latest Houzz surveys as a function of its practicality: “Vinyl flooring has been increasing in demand as it is durable and easy to clean. With the focus on cleanliness during this pandemic, it makes sense that homeowners would gravitate towards easy-to-clean materials like vinyl or resilient flooring.” Solomon sees luxury vinyl tile (LVT) trend in her market, she says, along with marble and porcelain, and expects to see all three trend in 2021.

White is perennially popular for its associations with cleanliness.
Photo: Rachel Loewen © Houzz


“Ceramic or porcelain tile has experienced consistent popularity over the past few years,” Carlyle points out. Large-format tiles in natural stone looks are still a hot trend for bathrooms and kitchen walls, the three designers agree.

Backsplashes will match tops and extend to the ceiling, Larkin observes. “We see designs with less cabinetry on the walls, so the backsplashes can take center stage,” Amoroso shares. He sees these as “huge slabs of stone or quartz, book-matched if possible.”

Subway tiles are also trending, but with more interesting updates. Larkin sees herringbone layouts. Matthews sees colorful grout and different, larger sized tiles making creative statements.

Quartz is still a strong favorite for kitchen
Photo: Silestone, available through Home Depot Design Center


Quartz has been a strong trend for years, but porcelain slab is coming on strong. “Ceramic slab with less movement” is popular among Larkin’s contemporary Southern California clientele, he says. Solomon saw porcelain trend strongly and expects that to potentially increase. Matthews believes natural tones will continue to trend this year.   


Designers and homeowners are getting creative with mixed finishes, interesting textures and painted looks. Reeded inserts were hot in Larkin’s Southern California region and Solomon’s South Texas area. Quarter sawn oak is hot in Florida and in the Mid-Atlantic, Amoroso and Matthews report.

Blues are showing up as the accent color of the year. That includes navy and more vibrant hues. Houzz’s survey of homeowners and home pros had blue as the top island color overall. Carlyle says, “As homeowners look for ways to make their space personalized and unique, we’re seeing a rise in color, particularly in islands where homeowners can incorporate a pop of color.”


Stainless steel is still the standard, the pros agree, but it’s not the only choice being made lately. Of course, integrated looks are still strong for luxury projects, but other finishes showed up there, too. Mixed finish suites trended in Larkin’s SoCal region, with statement ranges making strong appearances.

“White made a great comeback in 2020 and we will continue to see more of it,” Solomon predicts for her Southwestern region. Matthews sees white, stainless, black stainless and color pops all trending in her Mid-Atlantic area.

Lighting, Faucets and Hardware

Brass tones are crossing the country as the trending finish in these categories. “As we look to 2021, brass and gold are here to stay as decorators are looking to lighting as a design focal point,” declares Matthews. Matte black is also a strong trend, as are combinations of materials.

The looks are eclectic and creative for the year, “traditional to eclectic and modern,” Amoroso observes. Larkin points out that faucets and hardware don’t need to match, just complement each other and the room’s surrounding finishes.


While these trends rise, many others fall. Larkin sees cool-hued rooms fading. “We are currently staying home more, therefore we want our spaces to be warmer and cozy,” he notes. Amoroso is not missing grey-painted cabinets, he comments. Matthews says she is happy to put the rose gold trend in the past, and Solomon predicts the demise of industrial-inspired black finishes.

Last Words

What do the trends say about the times? Wellness is a definite focus, not surprising with a pandemic raging across the country. That ties into ease of use, as with “low maintenance and anti-bacterial surfaces,” as Solomon shares.

Personalization is also key, Larkin observes, as we’re spending so much more time in our homes and want to improve them. Matthews agrees: “Personalization is here to stay. As many consumers spent more time at home last year, they were able to focus on curating their space for their individual needs. I expect personalization to continue in 2021, potentially opening doors for exciting new pops of color throughout the house.”

The Houzz survey shows a mix, Carlyle says. “We’ve received feedback from some in our community who prefer calming, peaceful environments, and associate whites or neutrals with this feeling. That said, many others are passionate about color and love using it throughout their homes.”

In other words, it comes down to the preferences of your clients, but you’ll be happy to note that they’re definitely looking to update. “People are investing heavily since COVID,” Amoroso points out. That’s good news for every trend and trend-setter. ▪

Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS, MCCWC is an author, wellness design consultant and industry speaker.  Her third book, Wellness by Design (Simon & Schuster), published September 2020. You can learn more about her Wellness Market presentations, books and consulting services at

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