A rattan coffee table stacked with books about Sister Parish and Mario Buatta. Monogrammed linens and scalloped lampshades. Skirted tables, Mosser jadeite, and artful hand soaps. That’s my style, and until recently, I didn’t have a term for it. Some of my friends poke fun at me and called it ‘granny chic.’ But it turns out I’m not the only young person who gravitates toward a more traditional aesthetic. Enter Emma Bazilian, the journalist behind House Beautiful’s wildly popular story “The Rise of Grandmillennial Style.”
The Birth of the Grandmillennial
“I feel like a lot of the editors here at House Beautiful are more into more modern design. I am the outlier old lady of the group,” Emma says. She loves chintz and ruffles. She spends her evenings needlepointing cheeky sayings onto frilly pillows. The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Jo Saltz, “thought it was very funny, and then she realized that this was kind of a movement. There were so many people who are into this whole thing,” says Emma.
And so, the grandmillennial was born. “Ranging in age from mid-20s to late-30s, grandmillennials have an affinity for design trends considered by mainstream culture to be ‘stuffy’ or ‘outdated’—Laura Ashley prints, ruffles, embroidered linens,” Emma writes. They like D. Porthault and entertaining. They are building a party closet and collecting their grandmothers’ china. They take inspiration from Sibyl Colefax and Albert Hadley. They’ve never met a chintz they didn’t like. “Taking fringe, trim, chinoiserie, drapery, skirts on furniture, slipcovers, wallpaper—all of that–and updating them to be convenient for today’s 30-year-old” is what grandmillennial style is all about, according to interior designer Becky Boyle.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the style became popular. For many grandmillennials, it’s a fresh take on a look they’ve known all their lives. “My house when I was growing up was covered in Rose Tarlow chintz and needlepoint pillows,” says designer Clary Bosbyshell. “It’s becoming a trend, but I don’t know that it’s not always been trending.”
“It’s classically informed,” agrees designer Lilse McKenna. “The look is so vastly different from the social media accounts of most millennials that are clearly just so trend-based. Those of us who are drawn to this style are trend-averse at our cores.”
Yet social media has played a large part in the birth and popularity of grandmillennial style, thanks to shared images of beautiful dinner parties and enviable tablescapes. Entertaining, in fact, is a major aspect of grandmillennial life. “I think there is now this new wave of saying, ‘Get me off my phone. Get me off work. I just want to sit with my friends and host and enjoy life,’” says Becky. And if sitting with friends entails bringing out the Bordallo Pinheiro majolica and bamboo Juliska flatware, so much the better.
One look at the Instagram account of design publicist and grandmillennial Austin Mill makes it apparent that entertaining is one of his greatest passions. It seems that every other night he is having a candlelit dinner at his Virginia cottage. “Grandmillennials strive toward effortless formality,” he says.
Always Fresh, Never Stuffy
Detractors of the grandmillennial style say it’s too much, too cluttered. “You need to have an editorial eye,” Clary admits. A grandmillennial who collects Herend bunnies, for example, might want to have them all out on show, but displaying only a few actually looks more inviting.
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 grandmillennial. Becky takes a very specific approach by avoiding tea-stained linen and other hues that remind her of the 1980s. “I want crisp colors. The fabric houses these days are doing it for us,” she says. “It’s a white background, it’s slightly brighter colors, even though the print is the same.”
Lilse avoids the trellis patterns of the late ’80s and early ’90s: “They remind me too much of my childhood, and I think there are better alternatives.” Avoiding overly precious patterns and styles keep the room feeling fresh. The key is to add something unexpected, like a waterfall console or abstract art.
Perhaps the best thing about grandmillennial style is that it’s approachable. It’s rooted in the warmth you felt in your grandmother’s home. It’s extra ruffles because the grandmillennials lived through the age of #YOLO and took it to heart. Why deny yourself the pleasure of a comfy sofa when you only live once?