Taste is subjective but trends are real, which is why several hundred design professionals from across the U.S. and Canada were polled, in an effort to understand of the design trends among younger Generation X and Y homeowners.
Gen X and Y have many design preferences in common – for example, a shared love of colour and texture as well as an affinity for clean, modern interiors. Some preferences are aesthetic, while others come as a necessity of being from a generation with less disposable income than previous generations (Thank you Global Financial Crisis).
But there are other factors when including a generational focus on technology and environmental sustainability, and a desire to maximise time and minimise fuss which inevitably affect design choices.
Clean & Modern Design
Gen X and Y dig clean design. Simply take a look at Interior Design on Pintrest, and you’ll find yourself scrolling an endless sea of white. Gen X and Y homeowners favour streamlined looks that offer a bright and modern sensibility.
According to Sabrina DaLomb of the RI-based Supply New England: “The younger generations are definitely more attracted to clean lines and a contemporary aesthetic, even in the traditional stronghold in New England!”
“Design trends are much more modern, with cleaner lines and less fuss,” concurs Art Warren, CMKBD, with Gravelle Woodworking Ltd., in Ontario, Canada.
Donald Giranda of Craft Haven agrees that younger homeowners want “sleek, clean lines,” but also notes their interest in “bright colours.”
Katheryn W. Cowles, CKD, CBD, of the FL-based K.W. Cowles Design Centre, also sees colour mattering a great deal to Gen X and Y, and says that both colour and texture are important design elements for these consumers, as they provide the more modern sensibility many of them desire.
“They [Gen X, Gen Y] want a contemporary to transitional kitchen with good storage, full-extension drawers and a workable design. Clean and concise is the word of the day,” emphasises Lynn Hegstrom, of the CO-based Bollinger Design Group.
However it’s not purely aesthetics, it’s also about value. According to Jeremy Corthals of the MI- based Capital Granite, “Most of the Gen Xers that I work with are looking for clean, functional products that offer the best value.”
Though value doesn’t necessarily mean being inexpensive. Rachel Barone of PDP Countertops in GA sees even budget-conscious consumers investing in high-end countertops, and she notes, “Everyone is looking to select finishes and tones that have lengthy decorating ‘staying power.’ We have placed $6,000 granite in $50,000 condos.”
As far as colours are concerned, she says, “Every tone of grey is popular in painted cabinetry, while the hot colours in granite and marble are Carrara, Calcutta, Alaskan White, Ivory White, Namibian Green and new exotics.”
She suggests that the younger age groups may have grown up with the older, more traditional colours of granite, which may be driving their interest toward things that are different and exotic.
Christopher Anderson of the NJ-based Segal & Morel notices black painted cabinets trending right now, while Chad Evans of Innovative Remodelling Company in WI sees industrial-style appliances and backsplashes trending with younger homeowners.
Yet clean design thrives in the bathroom, as it is the generations’ often showcase their affinity for angles and “anything square – faucets, shower plates, showerheads, etc.,” according to Tommy Jones, Classic Decorative Hardware in FL. He adds, “Gen X and Y desire simple luxury and a spa- like feel.”
While aesthetics matter, Generations X and Y focus on functionality, looking for products that are easy to use, clean and live with. Time-saving products are also essential, as many younger consumers are either juggling both young children and busy careers, or working long hours to establish themselves as young professionals.
According to Jessi Lowry of Bath Classics Showroom in NY, in the bath, there seems to be a trend toward custom showers, with styles leaning toward clean lines but not ultra-modern. And, she points out, “The focus is mostly on ease of cleaning.”
Linda Rainey of Sierra Plumbing Supply agrees that “easy to clean and maintain” is atop the short list of many Gen X and Y consumers.
Functionality is also a key consideration when it comes to the layout of space. Colorado architect Doug Walters believes that Gen X and Y want “totally open and integrated kitchen/living areas.
“Tear down the walls!” is what I hear…loft living comes to the suburbs.”
“They are looking for integrated areas of the home, multi-function spaces that are easy and comfortable to use, for instance, a secondary kitchen sink that may serve as a prep or a bar area,” adds Joanna Barker of Inspirations Interior Design Inc.
“However, because customisation is also important to these generations, she notes, “They are also more likely to choose a striking feature because it’s fun, like multi-color LED lighting.”
As far as sustainability is concerned, these generations tend to care passionately about the environment, designers say, however these desires are sometimes at odds with their budgets.
According to Ned Smith, of the CT-based Ned Smith Construction, LLC, “Given the economic climate that persists, the Gen X and Gen Y homeowners would like to invest in ‘green’ products… that is, until they see the prices of these products. As with ADA products, the minute the designation is attached to these products, the price is elevated.”
Generation X and Y consumers also approach the sales process differently, according to many of the kitchen and bath dealers interviewed.
“Generally they do more homework first before even approaching a designer, and are choosing to visit an architect first. Trend-wise, they want to deconstruct what it means to have a kitchen at all, and work to find out how much real estate to use up in their space,” explains Steve Livingston of the CA-based Livingston Interiors.
“For example,” he continues, “in New York, generally the kitchen can be quite small, but is perfect the majority of the time if you are just ordering out. A sink, small fridge and microwave can suffice.
“So even if the open plan room can accommodate a large kitchen, they are choosing a design layout that makes practical sense rather than using up living space for a show kitchen. They will spend time analyzing new materials and want to be the first to try out or even beta test new products.”
Part of the interest in technology comes from a lack of fear. While older homeowners sometimes distrust technology, in the same way they distrust hip-hop music, younger generations treat this technology as a welcome resource.
“They [Gen X and Y] have more confidence in digital options, such as digital shower valves,” said Ms DaLomb.
“Gen X and Y are looking for quality and value, and they often do extensive research before or during the purchase process,” adds Howard Frankel of the NY-based Central Plumbing Specialties Grande Central Showrooms of NY.
This is unsurprising considering Gen X and Y are the first to have access to the all-knowing Google to assist their house hunting.
“They are also more apt to consider integrated electronic elements to enhance their experience,” Mr Frankel said.
Undoubtedly a product of Gen X and Y are living within the growing ‘Internet of Things’, although it would be amazing to see the design preferences when the Digital Natives are old enough to be homeowners.