In the heyday of the McMansion, quantity was prized above quality as a sea of generic exteriors descended on growing neighborhoods that were developed quickly to meet the enormous housing demand. The style drew from a variety of sources but in the end, created a mélange of brick, vinyl siding, and the occasional copper awning. Little regard was given to the origins of the exterior and the interiors were decorated from the inside-out. That meant that in any given suburban neighborhood with closely matched exteriors, the inside of the home could vary from traditional to soft modern to French Country. The façade was just that, a façade that gave little indication of the decorating style within.
A majority of the members of what we at Sphere Trending call Gen Now—also known as Millennials--grew up in these homes. Many spent their after-school hours alone as latchkey kids in the cavernous interiors decorated in one of the many styles popular at the time, surrounded by two story family rooms, vaulted ceilings, and wall-to-wall carpet. This is not what Gen Now wants today.
This group of 20- to 38-year-olds is crafting their lives and likewise their surroundings in a much more authentic way that speaks to their lifestyle. Words like “heritage” and “authenticity” are fresh and new to them. They favor character over convenience, history over homogeny, and as they begin to enter the housing market in greater numbers, they are looking to older, smaller homes, and claiming their own style of housing that is about restoring their style from the “outside-in."
For Gen Now, years of renting and delayed home buying have given them a greater appreciation of homeownership. They see themselves as modern day stewards, charged with bringing their home to its original glory whether it is a Craftsman, mid-century modern, or Victorian. The starting point for these new historic homeowners begins online as they research their homes’ architectural style and what the world was like when it was built. Sites like “What Was There” link historic photos to Google Maps providing a look back in time. Within that context, they are creating their own formula of authenticity, modern amenities, and personal style that creates a unique historical remix.
Today’s newest homeowners represent the first generation that is aggressively challenging the home building industry to listen to their needs, rather than accept a housing stock that does not reflect a modern lifestyle. This has moved the residential building industry from a “push strategy” (buy, stock and sell) to a “pull strategy” (listen, inspire and care).
What is the builder’s takeaway in all this? The bottom line is to listen to the consumer, since these young adults take their inspiration from a wide variety of resources so their style is not easy to define. Home improvement television shows like Rehab Addict, The Beekman Boys, and Fixer Upper are growing in popularity as they extol the benefits of restoring old homes rather than building new. They educate audiences on good bones and craftsmanship, while carrying the historic exteriors through to the interior decorating style from the front door to the back porch and everywhere in between. They have shown a new generation of homeowners that they can have everything they want in an older home without removing the architectural details that make it unique.
Think about this for your next project: Millennials’ style is not a standalone piece that can be dropped into any four walls; it is an appreciation for their surroundings that starts from a place of history and evolves organically, from the outside-in.