We are steering our carts in new directions.

October 28, 2020

Even as parts of the country starts to reopen after several months of lockdown, many of us are still focused on making our homes as comfortable as possible while we weather the pandemic.

We spoke to several furniture retailers, auction houses and design companies to find out what people have been buying since March.

The best-selling items include many of the usual best-sellers like Ikea’s classic Billy bookcase as well as other, newly popular items such as tabletop accessories and linen or garden statuary that might liven up an interior or exterior space that’s become a little too familiar or kitchen appliances to help you become a better cook. We also look at how the pandemic is shaping home design. It’s not just a trend; it’s a new way of life.

Read more, ‘These Are The 10 Design Requests People Will Make Post Pandemic.’

“In the last several weeks, our bread makers have sold more than the entire year in 2019,” according to Crate & Barrel’s vice president of merchandising. They were never best-sellers in the past, she added: “These are such specific specialty items within the cookware and prep-tools space.” Read more, ‘How Previous Pandemics Impacted Home Design.’

Other homeowners began looking for ways to remake outdoor space for spring, and that trend looks set to continue into Summer.

Many homeowners also seem to be on a quest to stay cheerful, sprucing up their spaces with beautiful interior decorative items. With limited restaurant options, even fewer travel options and little reason to spend money on nice clothes for the office, many are using their disposable income to upgrade their pandemic headquarters.  They are buying bamboo-linen sheets, big-screen TVs, high-end blenders as well as living room and dining room furniture. Le Crueset pots and pans. New dishes. Rugs, patio heaters and fire pits flew off the shelves as people geared up to socialise through the colder months The thinking is: ‘If I’m going to be here; I want it to be as comfortable as possible and as calming as possible.”Read more, ’15 Ways The Pandemic Will Impact Interior Design As We Know It.’

Demand for garden furniture and items is up 100 percent on this time last year at Lawsons Auctioneers House & Garden sale, curated by Melissa Penfold for Photo: Abbie Melle.

Ikea chief executive Jesper Brodin said in an interview that consumption trends around the world had been similar through the pandemic. Early on, shoppers bought desks, office chairs and cooking equipment. Interest then moved toward home organisation items such as shelving and baskets. Demand for kitchens was also high, with people taking advantage of time at home to install them.

“Lately, we see a lot of interest in beautification,” said Mr. Brodin. “A lot of people are taking the opportunity to update their homes.” Home has never been more important to consumers than during the pandemic.

Anna Brockway, a founder and the president of Chairish, an online American marketplace for décor and furniture, says she is “delighted” by the demand for statement-making dining pieces, linens, and tabletop accessories, “This speaks to shoppers’ newfound desire to “make everyday moments of life beautiful and special,” Brockway states. Read more, ‘We Can’t Go Back To Normal- How Coronavirus Will Change Home Design.’

One of the best-selling items at One Kings Lane, another home-décor site, is a white sofa with a blue-and-white pattern.

“We’re seeing it sell extremely well, and noticing a lot of customers showing off their spotted sofas on Instagram,” said Ann Haagenson, the company’s vice president of buying. Read more, ‘The Dream Home Has Changed.’

People are spending more money on living room and dining room furniture, since March. Image via Las Pereilli.

This year 1stDibs has seen a sharp increase—28%—in sales of high-quality vintage and antique furniture pieces that customers are buying with the intent to reupholster.

Increasingly shoppers realise the value of reusing, recycling, and reupholstering furniture, he said. “Instead of buying something generic or from a chain store, people are appreciating things that have lasted for 50 years and have another 50 in them,” Mr. Barzilay Freund said. Reads more, ‘Top 10 Design Trends For 2021: Meet Your New Home.’

Second-hand furniture is a wiser, more responsible choice – people are Increasingly shoppers realise the value of reusing, recycling pieces. Lawsons House & Garden Sale, curated by Melissa Penfold, Photo: Abbie Melle.

Antiques and auctions are the unexpected darling of pandemic furniture shopping. lifted by the embrace of sustainability, and photo-sharing on Instagram. Martin Farrah, managing director at Lawsons Auctioneers, Australia’s premier auction house since 1884, has seen a sharp increase in online sales. “We’ve seen a 30 percent jump in sales across the board since March. Vintage pieces are hugely popular. So too, antique tables, chairs, mirrors, art, as well as tabletop pieces. The right antique or vintage item can make your space unlike anyone else’s. It’s a wiser, more responsible choice.  Older furniture gives weight to a room, in part because it is literally more solid. If you pick up an 18th-century side chair, it’s pretty darn heavy,”

Farrah says a younger demographic of buyers hunting for individuality and pedigree are also entering the buyers’ pool this year, as they’re spending more time than ever at home and want to spruce up their best asset.

“In Australia, our home is our biggest asset and is becoming a greater priority that we are valuing in a different way.

Because of travel restrictions, the skiing trip to America or Europe is off, people have more disposable income to spend improving their home, making it a sanctuary and as comfortable as possible.”

Lawsons House & Garden Winter sale, 2020, curated auction by Melissa Penfold, Photo: Abbie Melle.

In an age when new home goods can have the lifespan of a meme, millennials are newly appreciating “brown furniture.” The term refers to modest antique and vintage wood.

Sales in the garden category were also growing before the pandemic, but they blew up when it arrived.”Outdoor furniture sales have been riding high since March”, says Farrah, “and are up 100 per cent from a year ago.” One item that is a real outlier: garden statuary. Busts, fountains, statues, urns, plinths. They are popular from a decorative point of view: enhancing your garden, adding focal points, and  impressing visitors, which matters when you are staying home more. Read more on our last curated sale with Lawsons here, “You Won’t Want To Miss This Spring House & Garden Sale.’

People are appreciating things that have lasted for 50 years and have another 50 in them Lawsons  Spring House & Garden sale, 2020, curated by Melissa Penfold, Photo: Abbie Melle.

“Covid is making us face mortality and realise it’s time to pursue our passion in life.”

It’s a case of – Do it now while you’re still healthy. Buy that painting, you’ve always loved. Splash out on the Georgian bookcase or secretaire you’ve always dreamed about. Get the grand garden statue. Be brave. Live like today is your last day. None of us is guaranteed a tomorrow. Twenty years from now you’ll be more disappointed by the beautiful home you didn’t create for your family – and the things you didn’t do in life.

LAWSONS House & Garden sale, curated by Melissa Penfold, Photo: Abbie Melle.

South Australian-based retailer Living By Design reports month-on-month growth, with containers of furniture pre-selling before they arrive. One category that has seen significant growth is the outdoor sector according to owner Tim Bowring who says the pandemic appears to be boosting demand for outdoor living, noting massive sales for two best sellers, the new Paloma Outdoor Dining Table and the Inizia Woven Rattan Dining Chairs.

Overnight, outdoor space has become a commodity hotter than ever before, says Bowring, whose company quick ships nationwide, and has become a firm favourite with media and designers over the past few years. “Thanks to everyone staying at home, our gardens, terraces, and patios are replacing the now-cancelled travel and getaway plans. In the past six weeks we have noticed a huge increase in demand for outdoor furniture. One container of the Inizia outdoor furniture collection pre-sold before it arrived.  Half of the new Lecco garden furniture shipment sold out in one week. There’s been astonishing demand for the new Palmona outdoor aluminium round table i- with all sizes and colours selling fast, since launching last month,

“People have reallocated eating-out and travel budgets to outfitting their houses and gardens.  They are focusing on their outdoor space’s beauty and usefulness for Spring, and summer, as they look forward to welcoming small gatherings,” says Bowring.

The Pilotti chaise in another newly popular piece, he says that people can’t get enough of. An instant style booster, that feels perfect for this year, and times ahead. Forty-two of the new Maxim buffet sideboards have sold out.

Alexa Battista, a public relations specialist at Wayfair, said she has seen an increase in sales related to bathroom renovations, including vanity sets, light fixtures and faucets. Her theory? “Given the pandemic, it’s also likely that many have found a new appreciation for their home and are even more interested than ever in making enhancements to their space.”

How Is the Pandemic Shaping Home Design?

A recent survey of American architects reveals that clients are looking for ways to improve the time they spend at home.

The coronavirus pandemic is already shaping home design trends, with special-function rooms and products that serve needs particular to the pandemic rising in popularity.

Every year, the American Institute of Architects surveys about 425 individual architects or firms in the business of custom home building or renovation. Participants are asked to indicate whether requests for certain types of rooms and products are increasing, decreasing, or stable. Trends are identified by noting the increases and offsetting them by the decreases. This year’s results were gathered in July. “I won’t say it was unexpected,” said Kermit Baker, the organization’s chief economist and a senior research fellow at the Harvard Joint Centre for Housing Studies. “I’d say surprising in the sense that the pandemic response was happening faster than we might have expected.” Read more, ‘Tips For Remaking Your Space While You’re Home Bound.’ 


In this year’s survey, 68 percent of respondents cited increasing client requests for home offices, and none reported a decrease. Compare that with the 2019 results, which showed a 33 percent increase and a 4 percent decrease. A related feature, enhanced or “task” lighting, also gained popularity. Read more, ‘How To Work From Home If You’ve Never Done It Before.’


Specifically, there were more requests for sunrooms or three-season porches (rooms that bring nature indoors) and mudrooms or “drop zones” (areas to isolate contaminated items from the house at large). Tellingly, in the midst of a pandemic caused by an airborne virus, products for improving indoor air quality were newly popular: 41 percent of respondents cited an increase for such requests, while 2 percent indicated they were on the decline, compared with 27 percent increasing and 2 percent decreasing last year.


Other new trends included exercise or yoga rooms and flexible spaces for home-schooling or other needs. Other special-function rooms (outdoor living spaces among them) maintained their popularity or edged up, as did products that were low maintenance and energy-efficient. NB* Lead image taken from 1ST Dibs Introspective Magazine. 

related stories


Don’t miss the style set’s fave newsletter

Get Melissa's weekly rundown of where top interior designers source their things and find inspiration - that will instantly transform your pad.

Close and please don't show again