- Text Carolyn Cutrone
- Design Aodan Reddy
Renting for the first time at the height of the pandemic, Gen Z had to make home design choices not just based on style and affordability but also functionality—that vanity in the corner suddenly had to triple as a desk and kitchen table. And while the pandemic era led to Americans buying fast furniture more than ever before with sales jumping to $4 billion from 2019-2021, Gen Z found inspiration in more creative and niche pockets of the internet.
They also gawk at being identified by any single trend like maximalism, and lean away from mass production. When given the choice, they’d almost always choose vintage or secondhand furniture over fast furniture—proof of this seen in secondhand furniture retailer Cherish which saw a 60% increase in sales in 2020. Vintage items, which can be sturdier and have less chance of being copied by their peers, hit on two important factors for Gen Z: sustainability and individuality. We gathered four Gen Z D1A employees to discuss what inspires their design choices, why they love secondhand furniture and how they define their generation’s style:
How would you describe your decorating style in your home or apartment using three words or less?
Vivian: Curated, warm, cozy.
Aodan: Eclectic, warm, functional.
Nicole: Biophilic, modern, cozy!
Yohance: Found Furniture, my art, functional.
What inspires your style and where do you get new ideas from? Which platforms or creators?
Nicole: Right now I’m particularly feeling the ’70s! For new ideas, especially when thinking about how to give them a modern twist, I’m typically on Pinterest, TikTok or cool interior design and architecture pages on Instagram.
Vivian: I like mixing my styles from my home in Hawaii and the city—here in NY—like mixing foliage and natural materials that function in NY. I usually get inspo from Instagram accounts, TikTok and I love a good celeb Architectural Digest video too.
I like mixing my styles from my home in Hawaii and the city—here in NY—like mixing foliage and natural materials that function in NY. I usually get inspo from Instagram accounts, TikTok and I love a good celeb Architectural Digest video too.- Vivian Tam, Sr. Creative Strategist
Aodan: I use TikTok a lot for interior design finds and styling ideas, Instagram to find local vendors that sell pieces I might be looking for and Pinterest to organize my inspiration! My apartment is fairly small so a lot of what I get inspired by is aspirational. But I find ways to work in bits and pieces with what I love.
Vivian: It’s the same for me regarding the small space. I lived in a small studio in the Lower East Side for three years—just a bed, chair, desk and TV—and learned to live minimally or find pieces that served dual purposes.
Nicole: I love Architectural Digest videos. I’m also a fan of Enes Yilmazer on YouTube.
Yohance I like Gore-Tex in fashion (outdoor/functional), and I spend a lot of time on TikTok and Instagram, but mostly I get inspiration from YouTube.
Aodan: My only saving grace is that I have very tall ceilings so I’ve ended up building up! The boaxel shelving units from Ikea have a really nice USM/vintage shelving feel for a much more affordable price.
If Millennials are known for their minimalist design taste, Gen Z is known for maximalist. How do you feel about the trends that define Gen Z’s design taste (Mush Studios rugs, Sottsass mirror, etc.)?
I feel like this kind of design style is already very over. I think what defines Gen Z interior design is the constant need to be a little different. So at one point it was definitely a maximalist feel, but now I think folks have been able to rabbit-hole into new design styles that are oftentimes inspired by older trends.- Aodan Reddy, Designer
Vivian: I agree. There's a lack of individualism even though everyone wants to be different. I’m proud to say I did not take part in the foam mirror trend.
Part of the departure from the above design style is in response to articles like that. I think people lean in really hard, and then things get played out, so more and more folks have been taking the time to find inspiration that is a little more timeless. With TikTok, it’s also really easy to tap into hyper niche subgroups that provide cool inspiration that is a little less trend driven—not to say it's more authentic though.- Aodan Reddy, Designer
Nicole: There's definitely a Gen Z goal to be different from the rest but everyone ends up doing the same thing eventually. And I think that's mainly due to influence and how easy it is to cling to what you see online or from your peers.
I think we're fans of overstimulation in every aspect of our lives, so seeing busy spaces with unique art and furniture with a maximalist feel is how Gen Z knows how to express themselves best.- Yohance Barton, Creative
Where do you shop for furniture?
Vivian: Facebook Marketplace, Kaiyo, Betsu studio, Ikea.
Aodan: Facebook Marketplace, Instagram vintage retailers, flea markets, Ikea.
Nicole: For the basics: Wayfair and Amazon. [I’m a] big fan of quick deliveries as a perfectionist. But for the cooler design aspects: thrifts and Facebook Marketplace.
Yohance: Ikea for sure.
Yohance: The street.
Yohance: Stooping sounds better.
Nicole: There's a cool furniture thrift shop in Brooklyn called Dream Fishing Tackle.
Yohance: I love THIS place.
You all kind of answered this a bit in your previous responses but how do you feel about vintage looks and getting secondhand furniture?
Nicole: Honestly if I could afford it, everything in my apartment would be vintage and thrifted.
Vivian: 85% of my stuff is secondhand/vintage/thrifted. But my couch and bed are new because it'd be grodie to thrift that.
Yohance: Secondhand if it's truly old. I find old furniture is built better.
Nicole: Secondhand is always hotter design-wise.
Vivian: I’ve definitely found amazing deals on Facebook Marketplace and eBay. (I go into bidding wars.) For example, I got 2 Thonet dining chairs for $300 but they go for $700 online.
Vivian: So slay.
Specifically, how important is it to you to purchase secondhand versus new from brands like Wayfair, West Elm, CB2 etc.?
Aodan: I think it’s more so about the price for me. I think most of my stuff is vintage/thrifted because it tends to be more within my price range. Or, if I’m going to spend a couple hundred on something I’d rather get something pre-loved and sturdy than brand new and from a mass manufacturing company that doesn't make stuff that lasts.
These days there’s so much “disposable” furniture (sales on some furniture jumped to 4 billion between 2019-2021.) Are you thinking about sustainability when you’re purchasing furniture or is it more about getting the look no matter how you’re sourcing it?
Aodan: I’m definitely more inclined to purchase sustainably, but partially because you're always going to get something way more unique than the mass produced stuff.
Vivian: That's the reason why I thoughtfully invest in nicer pieces that I know will last and that I’ll keep. If I do buy from Ikea, I do a lil DIY to make it fit with my space (eg. I DIY'd a "checkered burlwood" tv console using contact paper and upgraded the legs from Peggy Pegs.)
How has your decorating style evolved since the pandemic started? (How if at all has working from home changed or been incorporated into your decorating style and what you purchase?)
Yohance: Since the pandemic I've adopted a lot of low to the ground seating and tables.
Vivian I definitely cared more about my space since I was spending all my time there. I spent the majority of the pandemic in my old studio, so I had to adapt to being in my tiny square by upgrading my furniture/decor (having a fire escape helped too).
I definitely started wanting more out of my space during the pandemic. In terms of decorating, I've leaned into less stimulating/neutral colors like greens, browns, white/black, etc. but overall in this new apartment I'm attempting to create different experiences in each space (whether that's a cafe vibe in my tiny baby kitchen, or a jungle-y bathroom).- Nicole Rodriguez, Strategist
Aodan: I moved to Brooklyn from Portland during the pandemic so I downsized a lot. I also think in general I’ve invested more money into my space because I spend a lot of time in my room working, so having a quality environment has been important, especially during the winter months.
Nicole: I’ve never been one for desks so my work station is typically wherever I feel most comfortable.
Vivian: Same. I had to upgrade my vanity into a workstation!
Nicole: [I go] between my couch, bed, floor and kitchen island.
Is anyone into the “happy colors” trend? The trend is all about multiple big bold, bright colors all featured together, ignoring a “color scheme” so to speak.
Nicole: As an organization/neat freak I can't say I’m a fan (of this) for my own space. I’ve used colors to lay out my color palette more than once.
Aodan: Respectfully, not really my style. For pops of color I tend to lean on artwork rather than furniture since artwork is a little easier to cycle through and I could see myself getting tired of this really quickly.
Yohance: When all the color comes from the furniture it feels overwhelming. But when a good amount of color is coming from plants and flowers, I find that appealing.
Vivian: I’m not a fan, but people can experiment however they want. I like to stick to a color palette, but don't mind a pop of color that might contrast.
Are there any other Gen Z style trends you’re seeing this year that you think we’ll remember for years to come?
Ditto. I think people will turn to small, independent designers (if they're buying new and of course it depends on affordability), and the marketplace for thrifted, secondhand goods will grow. Or [they’ll decide to] make things themselves.- Vivian Tam, Sr. Creative Strategist
Aodan: I don't know if this is really a trend, but I think a lot of folks are putting more importance on ambient lighting fixtures rather than relying solely on overhead lighting. I think it's a little change that makes a big difference in your space.
Nicole: I feel like it's very niche but I've noticed a focus on glassware and I'm a huge fan, especially if It's uniquely shaped (Solange just dropped a line too.)
Aodan: Solange's line is amazing. To that point, I think in general people are just more interested in craftsmanship! Whether it’s bold or minimal, folks seem to gravitate toward things that are made with more intention.