In 2019, an editor at House Beautiful coined the term “grandmillennial” to describe the style millennials (the generation that’s now roughly 25 – 40) were creating with elements of traditional style that their grandmothers (or mothers) might have selected. Not a slavish reproduction of the homes they grew up in, but with appreciation for the very best of it, often refreshed in an eclectic, personalized mix. Their interiors were pretty, happy, charming, individual. Traditional never goes out of style, it just gets refreshed now and again. And that is what we see now – embracing the very best elements of traditional but with a fresh twist. Call it “New Traditional”.
Recent events on top of a commitment to sustainability ignited millennials’ interest in a new look at traditional. During Covid, home became a focus; we did a lot of “nesting” for long periods of time, repurposing, and hunting for pieces to make our homes comfortable, functional, and nurturing for the long haul. Confounded by supply chain issues, the relative availability of second-hand, antiques and vintage (perhaps from mom or granny’s traditional collection) created the ultimate 'green' sustainable resource available in the furniture market. Millennials, who eschew fast design, sought out one-of-a-kind, totally unique, character-filled, and creative solutions that are likely better quality and longer-lasting than “new”. From that viewpoint, it’s an easy step to then highlight a special traditional “brown” piece in a room as a beautiful antique, or thoughtful heirloom “with a story”, creating a well-loved and special space.
What does Grandmillennial look like?
The new Grandmillennial style mixes the very best of some traditional design elements, in moderation. Not a room full of “brown”. No repeated chintz on every wall, curtain, and sofa. Just a special piece or two, well-edited so as not to be overly cluttered. And to keep it fresh and updated, include modern elements like a glass or Lucite coffee table, a contemporary mirror, a striking piece of abstract art, textiles in fresh not dusty palettes, etc. It’s the mixing of old and new that make this design choice feel fresh, timeless. You can channel a grandmillenial vibe with these elements:
- Decorative odds-and-ends of blue & white ceramics, such as older transferware from Staffordshire, found in flea markets or from collectors, repurposed into planters, vases, fruit bowls, even lamps
- Good brown furniture, antique (more than 100 years old) or vintage (pre-1990) in walnut, cherry, or mahogany. A few signs of age are welcome patina. Limit to a piece or two per room, as a focal point. Charming occasional pieces like chairs and end tables in rattan, bamboo, and wicker are having a moment now for indoor use. Painting furniture can be a great way to upcycle a piece not in great shape, either in black, rich jewel tones (a la Ralph Lauren) or chalky pastels (a la Scandinavia) that will mix in well.
- Printed textiles are a favorite of the grandmillenialist, particularly in the form of English and American floral and botanical chintz, typically mixed with monotone toile, stripes and checks. The judicious use of prints and colors is extremely important. One step too far and you can end up with a room that’s more granny than grandmillenial. Avoid ditsy tiny overly-sweet prints for gorgeously illustrated bouquets, iconic examples from the great highly collectible masters – Schumacher, Lee Jofa, Colefax and Fowler, Rose Cummings – the list goes on. The best way to incorporate chintz today without going overboard is on toss pillows. They’re comfy, happy, easily changed and if made from rescued textiles, sustainable choices. Check out our English Garden collection. A favorite print textile can skirt a table or under-sink, or grace wallpaper in a powder room or bedroom. Good cotton or linen can slipcover a good-quality comfy sofa that’s seen better days. Animal prints like tiger, leopard and antelope limited to rugs or a single pillow will always be chic, especially mixed with florals (more than a bit of animal will be tacky!)
- Textile details like bullion and brush trim, poms, fringe, and tassels are on the grandmillenial list, but please, in moderation. Definitely be careful with ruffles. Embroidered or monogrammed linens are fabulous, especially if you are lucky enough to inherit them from a treasured family collection. Otherwise, collect them one at a time, creating an eclectic mix for powder room, dining table or bedroom from the best, like Matouk and Porthault, or keep an eye out at vintage markets.
- Beautiful and cozy throws for the sofa or foot of a bed in natural fibers of wool, cotton, silk, and linen. Handmade or woven adds texture and is its own work of art. Classic Irish or Scottish plaids in soft heather tones are charming and functional.
- Silver and china especially mom’s, put to good use. Don’t leave it stored away. Set a fun table of mixed new and old pieces, invite your friends, and cook with good company.
- Bring the outdoors in with plants, flowers, greenery, and boxwood topiary – in brass, silver, tole, blue & white or basket containers
- Area rugs, perhaps old, patterned Persian, meant to last a hundred years or more - and if you’re lucky, passed down
- Piles of coffee table books for inspiration featuring the work of the great traditionalists - Albert Hadley, Billy Baldwin, Mark Hampton, Rose Cumming, Dorothy Draper, Nancy Lancaster, Elsie de Wolfe, Sister Parrish, Mario Buatta, Sybil Colefax & John Fowler
Finally, What’s not grandmillennial?
If any of these words describe your room, you got it wrong: stuffy, formal, cluttered, uncomfortable, and worst of all, granny!