Pics: Old and new side by side

By Michele Lerner Time of article published May 20, 2016

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Washington - International millennial decor trends – as seen at decor shows around the world – show this generation has a yin and yang approach to home decorating, opting for rustic-tech chic, where old sits comfortably next to modern.


* LED lights in the shower which bathe a user in colour.

* A reclaimed wooden accent wall near the fireplace.

* Artisanal hand-baked clay tiles as a kitchen backsplash.

* A bathroom exhaust fan that turns on and off through a sensor.

* A barn door on the master bedroom, en suite.

* Upper kitchen cabinets that lower to the counter at the touch of a button, eliminating the need for a step stool.

Smart-home technology is revered but artisanal items can add a curated look to homes.

Richard Gray, Harcourts Africa chief executive, says technology and modern design elements have greatly influenced what millennials in the under-35 category deem attractive. Access to tech hubs, wi-fi coverage and fibre-optic connectivity, as well as taking green innovations into consideration, are all characteristics millennials are looking for, he says.

Designers say some of the millennium design trends might seem contradictory – these younger buyers want modern, sleek lines in their homes, yet they also love a rustic accent.

Local designer Will Engelbrecht of says this generation has high expectations partly because Pinterest and Instagram have left them expecting their homes to be as beautiful as those seen on screen.

This is also a generation of contradictions. “I’m seeing rustic elements sit beside hi-tech, sleek elements. There are a lot of natural textures, such as wood and stone, being incorporated into very modern, sleek homes,” says Engelbrecht.

Julia Walter, showroom manager at Boffi Georgetown, an Italian luxury kitchen and bath designer in America, agrees.

“They like contemporary lines but they want the warmth of bringing in an older element into their home, especially the kitchen, where people have an emotional connection with their childhood kitchen,” Walter says.

At the opposite end of the spectrum from natural wood are coloured LED lights, which are appearing in gas fireplaces, kitchens and even bathrooms, turning a shower into purple rain.


In the kitchen, farmhouse sinks and mix-and-match tap handles seem de rigueur, while pops of colour are turning up too, with small household appliances and pots and pans manufactured in a wide range of colours.

“Some homes I have altered keep the kitchen a low-key colour but use their appliances to add the colour. Today, appliances come in so many colours, not just the old-style red of days gone by,” says Engelbrecht.

Handmade items or artistic features bring in a personal element that appeals to many millennials, and colourful and artistic touches are used to relieve the sea of grey and white in new homes.

“This generation travelled afar and they bring home handmade treasures gathered on these travels, adding depth to their surroundings,” says Engelbrecht.

Despite this nostalgia, millennials still want their homes to enjoy clean lines and modern style.

“Millennials definitely like a clean look that’s more transitional or modern than traditional,” says Michael Merschat, design studio manager and architect with Wentworth Inc, home remodelling company in Maryland in the US.

“If you show them a cabinet with mouldings on it, they’ll ask how to clean it and then choose something with a cleaner, sleeker look.”

This generation is also looking for efficient appliances to reduce their energy use and want to use sustainable and natural materials where they can. They consider sustainability “in every sense of the word”, says Merschat.

Gray agrees. He says the emphasis on building a sustainable future is a sentiment close to the hearts of millennials. This makes them “green” conscious, and their homes are reflecting this.

“We’re seeing more and more inquiries about renewable energy and solar-powered facilities come in to play,” says Gray.

One priority that transcends generations is a desire for an organised home with efficient and abundant storage space.

“Millennials are likely to be intrigued by the new kitchen designs that come with a complete built-in organisation system so there’s a place for knives, spices and every specialty kitchen gadget,” says Stacy DeBroff, a brand strategist and chief executive of Influence Central in Boston.

In larger homes, millennials opt for personalised storage solutions when remodelling.

“Most millennials don’t want an old-school mudroom with a washer and dryer,” Merschat said.

“They want a more organised space for the entire family, including lower hooks for their kids to hang up their own jackets and backpacks.”


What appeals most to the ‘new breed’

Millennial buyers are a force to be reckoned with in the local property market, says Richard Gray, Harcourts Africa chief executive.

“Many are first-time buyers and are often managing strict budgets, so added costs like high levies are going to undoubtedly influence the property’s marketability,” says Gray.

This is what appeals to millennials, says Gray:

* Wi-fi coverage and fibre-optic connectivity in the area. A young family which is buying into a long-term commitment want to know if access to digital spheres is going to be a hassle or not.

* Having a home office. More millenials either have a work station at home or are working from home. Evaluate plugs and nearby shelves in bed-rooms that could double as a home office.

Take a look at your garage and work out if it could be made into an office.

* Open spaces, like open-plan lounges and kitchens. Ensure these spaces are presented in a manner that can be seen as a great place to have friends over.

* Family-friendly spaces. The late twenties to mid-Thirties category buyers are often starting a family or planning to. There-fore, all areas must be suitable for children and pose no safety risks.

* Good communal spaces in your area. Take stock of the surroundings in the suburbs and observe the neighbourhood, looking for parks for children to play in, as well as other amenities, such as restaurants, that would appeal to young families.

* Home must be eco-friendly. If you have a solar geyser or external lighting powered by the sun, this is something you need to include in your marketing material.


What millennials want:

* Efficient appliances to reduce energy use.

* Sustainable and natural materials.

* Sleek modern lines with rustic accents.

* Barn doors in modern homes.

* Farmhouse sinks next to shiny, sleek taps.

* Coloured LED lighting, especially in the shower and bathroom.

* Handmade items and artistic features.

Washington Post with additional writing by Independent HOME reporter

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