‘Mid-Millennium Century’ – The Universal Appearance That Has Dominated the Homes of an Entire Generation | the interior

FOr two years from 2017, I was subletting an apartment in Stockholm, and the deal was to have everything except for the owner’s clothes and some of her books. This works for me because I didn’t take anything with me except clothes and some books.

The new condo scored almost full marks on the Millennial Apartment bingo card, created in 2018 by Laura Schocker for Apartment Therapy. It featured 24 home décor mainstays, and it went viral online. In my apartment’s sitting room, a neon “love” sign was installed above my brass bar cart. There was a faux cowhide rug and a Berber rug there. It also had a pull-out Eames chair, a marble table with rose-gold legs, kooky contrasts between round and soft things and hard, angular things, and plants all around. Edison’s light bulbs in rose gold cages, and a copper pineapple notebook on either end of a shelf full of tiny cacti… It contained a lot.

None of these things were bad per se, but it all made me nauseous. And I swore that when I was able to make my own decisions, I would be different. You can recognize my apartment my king, Not a combination of things I’ve seen on Instagram.

Shell-shaped chair with bronze legs. Illustration: Eleanor Bannister/The Guardian

Back in London, I bought some of my own furniture: a wood-and-iron coffee table from Wayfair, a mustard yellow armchair at Habitat. But then I started noticing something. My furniture, carefully selected pieces from many retailers, were in other people’s homes. Or rather, if not my furniture, the furniture is suspiciously similar to mine.

I struggled to describe the style many of my friends have adopted. It wasn’t quite the bingo card shape – no rose gold and millennium pink – but it was close. It was mid-century – often with clean lines and exposed wood – but not quite so. They often had industrial finishes: tables with black metal legs, sofas curved over narrow legs that once seemed sturdy and strong.

Where did this modern, pastel-colored look come from? How did it make its way into everything from real estate agency show homes to the cover of Harry Styles’ new album? I asked interiors writer Nathan what he would call style. He said, “The millennium deviation is in the middle of the century.”

Let’s call it the middle of the millennium, then, because it sounds like a whole generation. Or maybe it should be Manufacturethe millennium, as furniture company Made.com seems to have a particular stifle on both this style and young furniture buyers. It doubled its UK warehouse space last year thanks to the furniture closure boom, and posted a 38% increase in sales at the start of this year, despite supply chain issues.

It’s a company whose furniture seems to match the taste at a reasonable price (for those who have moved from IKEA) but without the designer goods price point. When I started asking where friends bought Scandinavian dining chairs and velvet sofas with toothpick legs, “Made” was often the answer. For many, Shuker told me, “Anything mid-century really equates to quality.”

Though, appearances can be deceiving. These mutts often look great on a website and it’s nice to sit in a showroom for three minutes, but they aren’t always as comfortable as they seem. I asked a friend how he had not one but three man-made sofas.

“They felt a touch more sophisticated than Ikea, but with each one I realized they were very uncomfortable,” he said. “There was one gray sofa hard rocks.”

Robin skinny-legged day sofa.
Robin skinny-legged day sofa.

In the US, a 2017 article about Peggy’s particularly unsatisfactory West Elm sofa (named, predictably, after the Mad Men character), went viral that the company ended up offering refunds to anyone who bought it.

Millie Burroughs, who has been in furniture PR, tells me that the mid-century trend has been around for about a decade. “It’s a downward transition from high-end stuff, as you see it in fashion.” In 2013, I noticed at trade fairs that Danish brands like Gubi were introducing new forms of mid-century furniture. “They would be picked up by a hotel or restaurant, and then people would see them and want them in their homes.”

The mid-century era of aesthetics may seem arbitrary, but it’s the opposite of what many millennials grew up with in their parents’ homes. “I was surrounded by lots of Victorian layers, florals, pops of color, and color,” says furniture designer Sheena Murphy. “Maybe we are tired of it.”

And for younger folks, who often rent and move around a lot, mid-millennium pieces are suitable because they are relatively small. Since mid-century has been around since, well, mid-20th century, it would also fit in with homes from newly built condos to Victorian conversions. And the genius of companies like Made is that while each piece is different, it fits the same vibe, can easily be mixed and matched, and works with other millennial trends like wonky vases, enamel crockery, and raffia mats.

Side table with wire base.
Side table with wire base.

There’s a comfort in the immortality envisioned in the middle of the century: It sounds like a safe bet, something you’ll want to own for at least the next decade. Since they are ubiquitous, they are reassuringly familiar to buyers.

I asked Ali Edwards, Head of Design at Made, why mid-century was so attractive. “In turbulent times, people often go back to what they know best,” she says. Murphy speculates that it might have such a long life because it looked futuristic when it came out weird 80 years ago: “Maybe it gave it a little more runway.”

I remember when I got my bookshelf in the middle of the century, and my mother said, as lovingly as possible, that it looked like something a grandmother owned. Furniture trends will probably pass generations and my kids will decorate their bedroom moon with ruffled, embellished pillows.

But now that that is the case Everywhere, the mid-millennium style is undoubtedly set diminished. So what might happen next? Everyone I asked thought ’70s-style rattan would be great. Shuker also suggested a trend she calls Memphis deco: “a blend of the geometric shapes of ’80s Memphis design with the soft colors and curves of Art Deco.” We should expect to see more mid-century, Murphy said, but adding what she called a “piece”: out with hairpin legs and with more visual weight pieces. She cites designer Percival Laver, the mid-century maker of heavy, masculine furniture.

Coffee table with golden pineapple decoration.
Coffee table with golden pineapple decoration.

One thing is for sure: Generation Z won’t want anything that reminds them of older millennials. I asked my 20-year-old sister what decor her peers belong to. “Chaos, colors and warmth,” she said. “Generation Z likes to be quirky. Maybe it’s a general fear of being basic.”

Generation Z is also more concerned with sustainability. My sister built an antique chest of drawers with mismatched bright used knobs. Interior designer Emily Shaw, 23, better known as emilyrayna on TikTok, where she has 5.4 million followers, told me that younger generations have a “top fix” mentality, and not just because they can’t spend £1,200 on a sofa.

According to Shaw, the designers on TikTok make a lot of educational content, so users not only see inspiration for their homes but step-by-step instructions on how to make it happen. “I’ve seen a lot of people take away furniture and add wood screws or popsicle sticks to add texture,” she says.

Nathan Ma has also noticed a penchant for textures, which has led to some unfortunate trends: Gigi Hadid decked out her kitchen cabinets with colorful pasta, recent TikTok trends include spray-painting pool noodles to create headboards, and using expanded insulation foam to decorate frameless mirrors. “One of my artist friends has decoupage pictures of moldy sandwiches on her dining table,” says Ma.

That kind of weirdness can lead to more furniture being dumped, as trend-based interiors are also quick interiors, meant for a charity store or landfill. Homeware purchases have skyrocketed since the pandemic, and in recent years H&M, PrettyLittleThing, and even Poundland have moved into homewares. The more we buy cheap home furnishings, the more we will get rid of them. And with the growing awareness of this, people may be thinking twice about whether a quiet chic mid-2000s sofa is what they really want.

Perhaps one of the best places to look for clues about interior design trends is The Gallery in the influential London restaurant hub Sketch, which was newly remodeled by India Mahdavi. Her 2014 design (with David Shrigley) helped launch the global phenomenon of millennial pink. Today, it glows golden yellow, with metallic wallpaper and soft, mustard-colored banquettes. Filled with contrasting tactile textures, Mahdavi says, the new space has “a warmth, because that’s what we need now I think: teamwork again.” What comes next will probably not be a look so much as a feeling.

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