In talking with designers and gardeners about what’s trending in 2021, it became clear that an overall shift has occurred in the ways in which people are using their space.
We talked with HGTV’s home director and content manager Jami Supsic and owner/designer Jayne Cedeno of Osterville-based Fernbrook Interiors, who both say the biggest thing this year has not just been people transforming their home spaces, but also a desire to bring more nature into their homes.
On that note, master gardeners Cherie Bryan, Tom Farkas and Sharon Oudemool enlightened us on trends in the garden, where a newfound awareness of sustainability seems to be growing.
Home: creating space
Due to the pandemic and the resulting working from home, people are ramping up spare bedrooms, garages, any previously unused space, and creating new spaces. “Without a doubt, the biggest thing we’ve been focusing on is how people’s homes are changing,’ said HGTV home director and content manager Jami Supsic. “We’re creating home offices, rooms for homeschooling, home gyms, home bars,” Supsic said.
She said she doesn’t think it’s just a trend. “Is it a trend? I don’t think so. Sure, not everyone’s going to work at home, but I think this is here to stay,” she said. She said it’s about making our homes more practical while also making them more of a retreat. “I think a year ago this never would have happened,” Supsic said.
Designer Jayne Cedeno, owner of Osterville-based Fernbrook Interiors, has helped her clients create such spaces.
“People are leaving the cities and coming to live on the Cape full-time, and working from home,” Cedeno said. “Many families are turning their Cape Cod vacation homes into their primary residence. It is requiring adding baths and bedrooms,” she said, adding that she recently helped outfit a Mashpee home with a creative guest space where cabinets and shelves keep game boards and family mementos, but the unit actually houses two twin Murphy beds that you can pull down for overnight guests.
As far as decor, people are leaning toward the earthy, which Cedeno sees as a kind of nostalgia. “I’m seeing much more natural wood in the kitchen, lots of earth tones. I do a lot of shiplap on the ceiling, and people are still liking natural shiplap. They’re trying to make their spaces feel more natural, without being too rustic,” she said. Supsic agreed — natural shiplap, trending last year, isn’t going anywhere. “Even super trendy high-end designers are leaning into this kind of ‘70s vibe,” she said. “Light wood floors, light wood furnishings — even maple, which was out for so long is back. We’re really seeing a lot of wood in kitchens,” Supsic said.
Tans and greens are coming back, and in addition to natural wood, other organic materials are being incorporated, such as rock. “You can put a rock façade over a fireplace mantle, and it’s so homey,” said Cedeno. And indoor plants have been making a comeback. “I live in Brooklyn,” said Supsic, “and I can’t tell you how many plant shops have recently opened here,” she said. Cedeno said she’s seen dynamic hydroponic and herb gardens. “Any way people can get plants into their homes, they’re doing it. Even faux plants—they’re so life-like now,” she said.
While we’re bringing the outside into the kitchen, we’re also bringing the kitchen to the outside, with outdoor living spaces on the rise. “I’ve seen more and more outdoor kitchens, great deck spaces and fire pits,” said Supsic.
“The Cape is so conducive to outdoor spaces,” said Cedeno. “People want to enjoy the outdoor space as much as they enjoy their indoor space,” she said, and that goes for not just landscaping and planting new trees and plants, but extends to outdoor appliances. “Every kind of vendor is making every size fridge or stove or grill,” Cedeno said.
Cedeno also said the pandemic has produced pragmatic changes as well, including skyrocketing product and shipping costs, hence longer wait times. “Projects that would normally take a couple months can now take up to twice as long. We’ve gotten used to being an instant gratification society and it’s just not happening right now,” she said, “it’s changed my perspective.”
Garden: taking care
Gardens have always been retreat spaces, but as people have been stuck at home, they’ve been taking to the gardens like never before, and many people who didn’t have gardens have them now.
Some master gardeners say this is lending itself to a growing interest in sustainability. Orleans resident Cherie Bryan, president of the Master Gardeners Association of Cape Cod, said she sees two growing trends. “One is sustainable gardening involving rain catchment and distribution to our plants, replenishing and rebuilding soil, and planting to stabilize our local ecosystems,” she said. “The other, which is closely related but slightly different in its focus, is planting native plants and pollinator gardens to attract, nourish and shelter bees and butterflies,” she added.
Chatham resident Tom Farkas, master gardener, certified permaculture designer and volunteer with UMASS Cooperative Extension said he’s seen an upwelling of interest in sustainability here on the Cape. Plants to start with are native plants, such as blueberries. “You want fruit-producing plants,” he advised, adding that if you’re uncertain of which native fruit-producing plants to plant, have no fear – Farkas volunteers for the Master Gardeners/UMASS Cooperative Extension’s hotline (www.capecodextension.org), where you can call with all your gardening questions.
“A lot of what you want to plant should be totally dependent on sunlight, something you don’t have to water so much,” he said. He said that rain catchment systems are a viable alternative to using town water for the garden. “Town water is treated to make it potable for drinking. It’s a tragedy to use it for watering,” said Farkas. Catchment systems eliminate that need, which is one benefit, in addition to catching the rainwater so it doesn’t create runoff.
The systems consist of a large barrel that can be connected to a downspout. “You’re capturing rainwater that normally runs down your roof,” Farkas said. “When we get heavy rains or snow melt, it runs off and goes right into bays, estuaries and ponds, and it takes all the chemicals with it that are on the surface, from cars and trucks on the road, for example. Fertilizer is the biggest problem. It gets into the ponds and the algae starts multiplying,” he said.
But the good news is that awareness is being raised. “I do see an awakening of attitudes changing here on the Cape,” Farkas said. Master gardener Sharon Oudemool of Harwich agrees with Farkas. “Certainly, the lockdown drove gardeners into their yards, and garden clubs met on Zoom. The pandemic had positive results in that sense,” said Oudemool. “People are asking, ‘what can I do as an individual to help the planet and locally to help Cape Cod? How can we be better stewards of the environment?’” she said.
Oudemool is involved with The Pollinator Pathways project, initiated in the fall of 2020 by the Nauset Garden Club (www.nausetgardenclub.com). The garden club aligned itself with the broader Pollinator Pathways Northeast, a multi-state effort to introduce pollinator-friendly plants into peoples’ yards, to help pollinators such as native bees and butterflies to thrive. “We’re trying to raise awareness that there’s a lack of plants for pollinators,” said Oudemool.
A pollinator garden needs to take into account a long-term blooming strategy, she said. “For example, heather blooms in February, and there are bees out there, even in February,” she added. Oak trees, dandelions, and native Echinacea are excellent for butterflies, she said, adding that the master gardener hotline can answer any questions, or you can take a trip to an already established pollinator garden. “We have a variety of pollinator gardens you can visit for inspiration, one being Thompson’s Field in Harwich,” Oudemool said.
And though noble efforts, it’s not just about saving the butterflies and the bees. “Our entire food web is based on pollination,” said Oudemool. Not to mention you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor of love — your beautiful garden.
“It’s so sustaining, especially in this time of the pandemic,” said Cherie Bryan. “I drive around and I see everything’s coming alive again, it’s so nourishing on so many levels. And it’s available to everyone,” she said.
Marina Davalos is a freelance writer who lives in Cotuit.