Help! I Accidentally Moved into a Millennial Barn: How Millennials are Changing Home Design

By Krystyn Lambert
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Source: Cladwell. Photo credit: Dylan Engels.

Despite being grateful for finding a rental home so quickly after losing her previous one to the Woolsey Fire, my mother was not altogether pleased.

“Krystyn,” she seethed, “It’s a Millennial Barn!”

I had never heard that phrase before, but I immediately knew what she meant. The home has fake reclaimed wood flooring, tiled walls in various gray hues, and an open floor plan in what was originally appropriately sectioned rooms.

Her rant went on, “The kitchen slash dining room… Is that a dining room? It’s more of a breakfast nook, but then where would the dining room be? Anyway, it’s looks like a subway station. A subway station!”

Indeed, it does. That gray tile I had envisioned was there in a horizontal chevron pattern, and while I respected her exasperation, I couldn’t help but laugh. Her assessment was just so spot on. With all of the stainless-steel appliances in this subway station, it actually looks more like a David Lynchian operating room.

“It’s just not appealing or appetizing to dress a turkey in a hospital environment, Krystyn. I’m cooking, not performing surgery,” she was frazzled.

It’s this sort of design that I could understand a bit more in a bank-turned-loft-space Downtown, but in the yuppie area of Westlake Village, it seemed out of place.

Seeing as this millennial influence on taste and design is what people are starting to view as modern, the design is traipsing its way into regions with an older demographic, as well. I did a bit of research on what I assumed to be a phenomenon permeating into design culture, and was not hard pressed to find resources.

In an article, “How Millennials are Changing Home Design,” notes that open floor plans are, in fact, even more widespread now, because “millennials just don’t have time for hallways!” I’m sorry, come again? The paragraph goes on to talk about “easy entertaining,” which ok, fine, but I’m still hung up on their thesis that ended with an exclamation point.

The article continues, explaining reclaimed wood being a thing, and there’s a whole sectioned titled, “Tiles are Back”. A few days after my mother complained about the subway that is her kitchen, I saw on Facebook that my cousin had redone her kitchen… In gray tile. I asked her all of the whys, and she said she just wanted a refresh. Ok, I suppose. And what did the designer call this tile pattern? “Subway.” Yes, subway.

While some of us on the older side of the Millennial generation may have grandparents who lived through the depression, to many this influence does not exist. In that generation, you wanted a pop of color… Or more than a pop… A frenzy, even. Life was gray. You didn’t want to live with that vibe any more than you had to.

Bringing this up to my mother, she snarled, “These kids! They’ve never had a bleak life! Apparently the recession didn’t have the same impact. They still want gray!”

Ori by Yves Behar and MIT Media Lab

Millennial design influence goes beyond gray tile and reclaimed wood panels. Pottery Barn recently declared that items smaller than a grapefruit are considered clutter. After all, you don’t want it to seem like grandmother’s attic. Seeing as we live so much of our lives through technology, we’re not connected to items or brick-a-brack the way previous generations were. We take photos; we don’t crave the same physical mementos.

Google, “minimalist millennial”, and there are pages of articles about how this generation doesn’t want stuff. We don’t want our parents’ stuff, we don’t want bits and pieces here and there, we just want to be “stress free,” for crying out loud! Because, somehow, clutter equates to stress. And yeah, a bed full of childhood stuffed animals may be an eyesore, but in general, I lean toward odds and ends. Organize it, sure. Curate it, yes. But get rid of everything? No.

I have a lot of things Pottery Barn, most millennials, and my roommate would consider clutter. I have collections. I have altars. I have stuff. And I love it. I want my antique buttons and sticks and figurines out where I can connect to and enjoy them.

Life exists in the physical, not on Instagram. Besides, how else am I going to stress out my children if they don’t get left with my comprehensive hoard Richard Nixon memorabilia?

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