Millennials are influencing the marketplace, prioritizing integrated technology and storage solutions in modern home design.
The next generation of homeowners wants smart, stylish homes that enable them to connect with friends and family. Millennials will lead the way in adopting new technology — making features like the ability to preheat an oven or unlock the front door from your smartphone the new norm in home convenience.
All About Millennials
This segment was born between 1980 and 2000, meaning the youngest are in their mid-teens and the oldest are just hitting mid-thirties. Many are still in school and quite a few are in the rental market. They are delaying children and marriage, traditional triggers for home buying, until their mid-twenties or later.
Contrary to reports that the recession has left Millennials disillusioned about owning a home, 75% believe homeownership is an important long-term goal and 73% see real estate as a good investment. About a quarter already own a home and 60% plan to purchase in the future. According to estimates, millennials aged 25 and over account for 15% of new home shoppers. Lending constraints, student debt and down payments are still hurdles, but as the economy and jobs improve, substantially larger numbers of these buyers will shop for homes. Over the next five years, millennials are expected to account for about two-thirds of new households, increasing to 21.6 million households by 2018.
What A Generation Wants
Millennials have long been touted as the generation that prefers city over suburbs, but multiple recent studies show that city living only appeals to a small portion, about 5%-16%, while 55%-66% say they prefer the suburbs. On the other hand, younger millennials who are renting definitely favor urban settings. Because the generation is so large, even the small percentage opting for city dwellings translates into big numbers. And if they can’t quite afford that first home, respondents to a National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) survey say they would sacrifice extra finished space or drive farther to work, schools or shops.
One compromise they won’t make is on quality of materials.
Home design emerged as the No. 1 trend for millennials. Also topping the list was a focus on function over size. Some of the design trends seen locally and around the country that particularly resonate with millennials may seem contradictory: These buyers want modern, sleek lines in their homes, yet they also love rustic looks. Millennials are drawn to natural materials such as wood and stone but are also enticed by colored lights that can turn a shower into purple rain. Smart-home technology is revered, but so are artisanal items that can add a curated look to their homes.
The most desired feature? A laundry room, with 55% of Millennials saying they just wouldn’t buy a new home without one. Surprisingly, exterior lighting came in second, with 88% saying it was essential or desirable. Storage is also important, with linen closets, a walk-in pantry and garage storage making the top 10 most desired features.
Outdoor living also comes out on the top in a Better Homes and Gardens’ survey, with three out of four of those under 35 saying outdoor space is important for entertaining, and 51% dream of having an outdoor kitchen sink, cooktop, refrigerator and grill. In comparison, only 25% of those over age 55 and 37% of those 35-55 desired those features. About half of those under 35 report that their current use for outdoor space is limited to grilling, yet a majority want their space to feel like a relaxing retreat for entertaining, and they are more likely than older generations to use their outdoor space for meals and to decorate as they would their living and dining rooms.
Barn doors seem to crop up more and more often in new or remodeled homes, sometimes as sliding doors to define spaces but allowing them to be entirely open and other times in smaller iterations such as a closet or pantry door.
Farmhouse sinks and mix-and-match faucet handles were everywhere at the Kitchen & Bath show in Las Vegas.
A kind of rustic look is turning up unexpectedly in places where you want to mix textures such as natural wood next to something shiny and sleek. One company at the intersection of rustic style and innovation is Stikwood, which takes recycled wood and turns it into peel-and-stick natural wood siding. Try combining reclaimed wood with a contemporary steel frame to add an interesting play between old and new. People like contemporary lines, but they want the warmth of bringing in an older element into their home, especially the kitchen.
Pop of Color
On the opposite end of the spectrum from natural wood are colored LED lights, which are turning up in gas fireplaces, kitchens and even bathrooms. Essentially, you can make a space really cool that isn’t otherwise all that interesting.
Even household appliances and pots and pans are being featured in a wide array of colors. The most popular color schemes in the kitchen right now are dark cabinets with a light counter top. Another way to use color is to add a rich accent color on one wall of cabinets or on the kitchen island or backsplash to make it stand out. Designers are seeing more use of warm colors in the kitchen such as olive green and different shades of beige in combination with wood.
Handmade items or artistic features bring in an element of personalization that appeals to many millennials. There are lots of interesting ways to use tile now, including making a rustic wall in your kitchen from artisan hand-baked clay tiles that have a kind of ancient character to them but can look very modern. You can also find mosaic tiles that can be installed by the sheet. Manufacturers are making more multidimensional tiles with a pyramid-type shape or with a wave pattern for visual interest.
Colorful and artistic touches can be used to relieve the sea of gray and white in new homes, but millennials still want most of their homes to have clean lines and modern style.
Large tiles for your floors and walls allow you to have a cleaner look with less grout. In some cases, the tiles are so large they can be seamlessly installed to look like one monolithic floor.
Younger buyers still like crown moldings, but they prefer simple streamlined styles near the ceiling and opt not to include chair rail moldings or wainscoting.
In homes with an open floor plan, a lot of buyers want an extremely clean-looking kitchen with less visible sinks, faucets and appliances. Most appliances in these homes are fully integrated and look built-in. Part of having an open kitchen is treating that area like furniture so that you have an overall connection with the living area.
Technology can be used to simplify the way your home functions and looks. Even new door locks that can be operated remotely from your phone and are starting to look aesthetically more beautiful instead of like a big clunky keypad. Things like Sonos wireless speakers can be used to keep your rooms clear of clutter, and they’re portable for entertaining outside.
Technology can simplify your life, too, with items such as new bathroom exhaust fans from Panasonic that are controlled by a sensor that turns them off and on according to the steam in the room.
The Nest thermostat, which “learns” your pattern of using heat and air conditioning, is at the intersection of technology and sustainability that appeals to millennials. Millennials are looking for highly efficient appliances to reduce their energy use and want to use sustainable and natural materials everywhere they can.
Millennials consider sustainability in every sense of the word. Environmental impact is driving the selection of materials, but they are also concerned about durability and functionality of the things they buy. For example, a lot of people love the way Cararra marble counters look, but they realize that it stains easily, so they are willing to turn to manmade materials that are similarly beautiful but are a better fit for their lifestyle. Counters made of engineered stone or recycled materials such as quartz and Caesarstone are environmentally friendly and yet also easy to maintain, both aspects of which appeal to millennials.
One home priority that transcends generations is the desire for an organized home with efficient and abundant storage space. With the advent of Pinterest and Instagram, millennials have high expectations for their organized spaces to be visually beautiful.
Millennials are likely to be intrigued by the new kitchen designs that come with a complete built-in organization system so there’s a place for knives, spices and every specialty kitchen gadget. Another cool innovation is cupboards that lower down to the counter with the push of a button so you don’t need a step stool to reach everything.
Newly built homes, particularly small but costly condos, feature built-in closet organizers and extra storage in unexpected spaces such as a handful of built-in drawers next to a laundry closet. A lot of city homes have smaller bathrooms, so solutions like integrated or hidden cabinets that have storage space but don’t interrupt the clean lines of the room are attractive to city dwellers.
The open floor plan popular with many buyers today leads some to want a more organized kitchen, since that space is frequently on display to guests and to the family when they are eating or relaxing in the adjacent living and dining area.
A lot of families want a family command center or tech space near the kitchen but a little separate since those spaces can be messy. If there’s space, they want a highly organized mudroom or laundry room on the first floor. If you live in a smaller place, the key is to have extremely well-organized closets with shelves and cubbies in your bedrooms, your bathrooms, your home office and your kitchen.