In 10 Principles of Good Design, famed German industrial designer Dieter Rams famously called for “less but better” products. This year, architects and interior designers adopted a similar philosophy to create spaces that are elegant in spite of their economy.
In many ways, it’s an economic imperative: Rising housing costs have forced designers and architects across the nation–and in many nations abroad–to squeeze more utility out of smaller footprints. Take Tree Hugger founder Graham Hill’s 350-square-foot New York apartment, which shape-shifts to accommodate as many as 10 dinner guests. Global warming concerns have also compelled designers to minimize the environmental impact of their work, as we saw with the House of Rolf, a home built from the remains of a demolished office building.
Some of the year’s most inspiring interior design, though, reached for humbler goals: There was a hostel chain designed to resemble boutique hotels, a library restored to its 1911 glory, and a fast-food store inspired by 19th-century Viennese cafes. Here is the best, most thoughtful interior design of 2016.