Online originals: Design trends born on social media
Over the past few years Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok have been responsible for a surge in several brand-new lifestyle and interior design trends. Born online, these trends have seen pick-up in major design publications and enormous spikes in user-generated content.
The bottom line? You’re almost certainly going to be working with clients who’ve been immersed in these online originals. Understanding what they’re envisioning, as always, is key to a successful partnership.
3 new interior design styles
Among the myriad design trends and tags that have emerged through
social media, there are three so far that have become full-blown design
aesthetics. They are:
As of writing this, Cottagecore is the most popular by a considerable margin. On Instagram, the hashtags #cottagecore, #cottagecoreaesthetic and #cottagecoredecor have been used more than 2 million times since mid-2019.
Grandmillennial and Japandi have smaller followings, they can also
claim the unique status of being fully developed styles with a
substantial number of admirers. On Instagram, the hashtags #grandmillennial, #grandmillennialdecor and #grandmillennialstyle have been used more than 130,000 times since January 2020. The hashtags #japandi, #japandistyle and #japandidesign have been used more than 75,000 times since January 2020.
want to make it easy for you to work with clients who love these
hashtags. So we’re going to break it all down. How long these styles
have been around, any offshoots or sub-styles, and most importantly:
defining these interior design styles.
According to the Huffington Post, Cottagecore’s initial popularity was driven by queer teens on TikTok. While it may have started as a particularly niche style, it has since rocketed skyward in popularity. Cottagecore has become solidly lodged in the zeitgeist, with its content shared and discussed everywhere from Architectural Digest to BBC News.
At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking of it as simply rustic, boho or farmhouse. Words like ‘fantasy’, ‘escape’, ‘romanticized’, ‘whimsical’ and ‘wholesome’ pop up a lot in pieces dissecting this style. Décor focuses on handmade and vintage items, flowers, animals, aged wood furniture, and lots of tartan and gingham.
Its roots in online culture are what make Cottagecore unique, though. On top of more grounded and familiar elements, the style also often references fairies, witches, crystals and the like. This can mean explicit design elements like runes or fairy motifs in the décor, but more commonly is captured in subtler ‘magical’ details like tiny copper light strands strung ethereally about a space.
When did Cottagecore start?
According to Google Trends, the term ‘Cottagecore’ first showed up around April 2019. It didn’t gain much traction, though, until March of 2020. Since then, it’s been on a steady upward trend. Its cozy, serene nature seems to have struck a chord amidst the anxieties and deprivations of the pandemic.
Who is driving the demand for Cottagecore?
Cottagecore interior design fans are most commonly women. Since its start among young, queer influencers, it has spread to include a much broader range of aficionados. Here are a few Instagram influencers and design professionals that embody different takes on the style:
Paula Sutton (@hillhousevintage) is a UK-based influencer with a decidedly ‘English country manor’ take on the Cottagecore trend. Her aesthetic leans toward the brighter side of the style with an emphasis on charming antiques.
Benji Lewis (@benjilewisinteriors) is an interior designer, also from the UK, who has been known to tag Cottagecore from time to time. His takes are colorful, often with minimal rustic elements.
Naomi Stuart (@grove_cottage_) uses her home to showcase a clean and modern-looking take on Cottagecore. White paint, red brick and exposed wood are the major elements.
April Cornell (@april.cornell) is a well-established apparel and home goods designer who has lately been embracing Cottagecore’s flower obsession.
Within the umbrella of the Cottagecore lifestyle, there are also quite a few subgenres that have popped up. It’s another part of being online-native; the internet has a tendency to spin off ever more niche sub-categories once something becomes popular. Two of the most prominent subgenres associated with Cottagecore are:
Dark Cottagecore – a gothic, ghost story version of the wholesome original. Often includes a focus on antique books and libraries. You may also see the terms ‘academia’ and ‘dark academia’ tagged.
Farmcore - frequently more focused on exterior over interior shots. Farmcore emphasizes pastoral images, potted plants and massive gardens.
Cottagecore in one sentence
A romanticized, nature-loving take on a simpler past (perhaps with some supernatural flavor sprinkled in).
Shopping your grandmother’s living room. That’s the basic gist of Grandmillennial style. While granny chic isn’t itself a new concept, Grandmillennial is definitely putting a fresh spin on the idea. It’s eclectic meets maximalism meets southern traditional, with a touch of internet-meme humor stitched into the embroidery.
Better Homes & Gardens suggests that this antique-saturated, ultra-cushy and highly patterned aesthetic is a natural response to the popularity of mid-century modern and minimalism. Millennial homeowners are embracing comfy nostalgia in bright colors. These designs toe the line of kitsch with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. The look can range from purely pretty with plenty of antiques and porcelain, to downright snarky with pop-culture chintz prints and cross-stich that’s decidedly NSFW.
When did Grandmillennial start?
The term “Grandmillennial” first appears on Google Trends at the very start of 2020, and it arrived with a bang. Folks were buzzing about it immediately, and interest stayed steady until 2021 rolled around, when search volume started spiking even higher.
Who is driving the demand for Grandmillennial?
As the name suggests, millennials are the core market driving this trend. That means clients in their mid-20s to late-30s are most likely to bring it up in a consultation. Some Instagram influencers and design professionals embracing Grandmillennial include:
Andrea Cummins-Disbro (@lostorchidinteriors) is a Pennsylvania-based interior designer who embodies the eclectic, colorful and maximalist facets of Grandmillennial design.
Jen Leonard (@jenleonardinteriors) doesn’t use the Grandmillennial tag much, but her colorful brand of southern traditional has dipped into the trend recently, with lovely results.
Justina Marie (@missjustinamarie) might just be THE Grandmillennial guru. Her home is a perpetual eruption of flowers, wooden antique furniture, blue and white china and over-stuffed cushions.
Nan Philip (@nan.philip) creates needlepoint décor that embodies the humorous side of Grandmillennial design. Take, for example, her September 2020 post, with a toile-esque background and a folksy needlepoint pillow that reads “Text your mother, she worries…”
Unlike Cottagecore, Grandmillennial hasn’t spun off any subgenres just yet.
On Instagram, you’ll see plenty of overlap with #grannychic as well as #blueandwhitedecor, an ode to all of the antique china and chinoiserie details this trend is built around.
Grandmillennial in one sentence
Colorful and modernized granny chic, but granny’s also really into texting.
Of our three online originals, Japandi stands out from the maximalist sensibilities of the other two. The name is a mash up of Japanese and Scandi and refers to a hybrid of Scandinavian design and the wabi-sabi worldview found in traditional Japanese aesthetics.
As a concept, wabi-sabi is based in Buddhist teachings around impermanence. In practice, it means that natural ‘imperfections’ such as asymmetry, roughness, simplicity, and natural wear and tear are something to be appreciated and accepted.
By combining the coziness of Scandinavian design with the concept of wabi-sabi you get an elegant, minimalist aesthetic that still manages to feel warm, comfortable and natural.
When did Japandi start?
Japandi debuted around the same time as Grandmillennial, at the start of 2020. It took longer to get going, but saw an enormous popularity jump in December 2020 after Pinterest predicted it as a top trend for 2021.
Who is driving the demand for Japandi?
Japandi’s core audience is hard to intuit just by looking at who’s posting about it. It seems to appeal to many established fans of minimalism and Scandinavian design. Generally, millennials have been embracing minimalism at a higher rate than other generations, though they are by no means the only clients likely to embrace this trend.
Here are a few Instagram accounts that show off the best Japandi has to offer:
Elisabetta Rizzato (@italianbark) has designed several beautiful Japandi interiors, as well as some more colorful spaces that feel very Japandi-adjacent.
Yana Prydalna (@yana_design_home) is a California-based interior designer who has defined their style as a combination of wabi-sabi and Modern. While these interiors aren’t explicitly tagged as Japandi, they are an excellent embodiment of the aesthetic.
Pantechnicon (@_pantechnicon) is a new retail and dining space in London, constructed by Farrells, and fundamentally devoted to the Japandi aesthetic. From interiors to food and product shots, everything is perfectly on trend.
As a kind of subgenre in and of itself, Japandi hasn’t sprouted any of its own branches on the design family tree quite yet. Perhaps not surprisingly, Japandi has become particularly popular in Europe. Keep an eye on Germany and the Netherlands in particular for innovations on the trend.
Japandi in one sentence
Warm, natural and intentional minimalism.
What does the future hold?
There’s no question about it: More online originals are in our future. However, it’s hard to predict exactly what will constitute the next cohesive interior design trend. Some combination of squiggly neon lights, pampas grass and greige? A perfect hybrid of the set designs for "Bridgerton" and "The Queen’s Gambit?" Anything’s possible on the internet.
Check out our blog Predicting New Paradigms in Interior Design if you want to learn more about what we think the future holds. And if you’re an industry professional, sign up with Bellacor Pro! Exclusive pricing, free shipping and premium insights into industry trends — what’s not to love about that?