Millennials are a design-smart generation accustomed to seeking out homespun and handcrafted sources online, and critiquing one another’s amateur decorating in comment fields. “The millennials want their furnishings to be curated, and they’re willing to pay for it,” says HFN’s Shoulberg. “They want to know the back story before they make a purchase, just as they do with their clothing.”
And their food. “My parents are so stuck on big-box stores and chain restaurants,” says Christine Minerva, who lives in a Toronto loft, shown here. “I prefer farmers markets and small, one-of-a-kind finds. I might spend $5 on a baguette,” she says. “Our generation is going back to basics.”
Susan Doban, a New York architect with a sideline in product design and custom-built furniture, says her clients are generally more knowledgeable about what they want than they were just a few years ago. “By the time they come to me, they’ve spent a lot of time looking at Houzz, and they’ve drawn up idea boards,” she says. “It elevates their taste.” Among other things, she says, they gravitate to hardwoods and other traditional materials in reaction against the pervasive plastics and synthetics of phones and computers.
This move is driven by taste, but also economics. Wages in China have risen by an average of 12 percent a year since 2001, so the bargain factor is diminishing. “Wages are increasing,” Shoulberg says.
It isn’t that we no longer want inexpensive furnishings. We still want them to be modestly priced, but not so flimsy as to be disposable. “People are trying to find that line between affordable but keepable,” says Stephen Treffinger, a freelance writer with an emphasis on home products and tech. “Many younger people would rather buy a few things they really like, even if they have to save for them.”
Tell us: What is the biggest influence on your shopping choices?