Forget Baby Boomers or Gen Xers. It’s Millennials who developers, architects and builders need to keep top of mind as they build new residences or renovate older properties. Now the largest generation in the U.S, they’re finally leaving the nest to live on their own thanks to the economic recovery. New National Association of Realtors statistics show that they account for more than 1/3 of all current homebuyers, while research from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies shows that 20-something households make up the nation’s single largest share of renters.
No one wants to lose business over bad design decisions. That’s why Millennial lifestyle trends are a significant driver in our work doing model home interiors throughout the U.S., as noted in my recent Huffington Post piece. Their wants and needs are making an imprint on home design that is revolutionizing housing and will be felt for decades to come.
We’ve found that this generation values five design features in their homes:
Turnkey Perfection: Most Millennials want a turnkey home that needs little or no work. They spend long hours on the job and have many interests, and prefer materials and that require minimal care. That means wood or tile floors, easy-care countertops and gas fireplaces. New products that reflect this are ever-more-functional engineered stones and tiles that mimic more luxurious surfaces, from marble to exotic wood. The model home interiors we create embrace furnishings that reflect these preferences.
Technological Efficiency: As the first generation of digital natives, Millennials must be able to use their toys at home—all of them! That means phones, tablets, AV systems, programmable lighting, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems and more, since this generation will lead the way in adopting new technology. Just as car keys are remote controls to start engines, features such as preheating ovens or unlocking front doors from smartphones are right around the corner. Interiors with lots of outlets in all the right locations are a requisite to enable Millennials to use their tech and keep it charged.
Flexible Open Spaces: Formal living and dining rooms? Forget it. Millennials want smart spaces that allow them to connect with family and friends and offer easy transitions to allow parents to watch babies or interact with guests as they cook and entertain. Open floor plans trump layouts that compartmentalize homes, and as we have found in our work creating model home interiors, often require furniture that can stand-alone or carve space into zones. This is particularly true when it comes to work spaces, since many in this generation work remotely. This increases the need for mutable spaces that can be used for work or play, depending on the time of day or needs at hand.
Stylish Yet Neutral Design: Here’s a big myth-buster: not all Millennials are hipsters or high on sleek, modern design. Just like their older counterparts, their taste varies and changes over time. And from retailers such as CB2, West Elm and Restoration Hardware, it’s clear that this generation is all about the mix. In our model home interiors, we’ve created spaces that are rustic-tech, country modern and industrial chic. This makes sense given the fact that Millennials are the most ethnically and racially diverse generation in U.S. history, according to Census Bureau statistics. While they gravitate to many different styles, Millennials are united in their quest to find furnishings that blend style, value and comfort. But most significantly, they use these furnishings to forge original spaces that reflect who they are.
Sustainability: Millennials consider sustainability in every sense of the word. Environmental impact drives their choices, so renewable, reclaimable materials with low-VOC properties, and energy efficient appliances and lighting, are a must. But so is functionality and durability, which is why engineered stone countertops will be more appealing to them than marble that stains and chips.