Survey Spotlights Gen X & Y Design Preferences

While design trends are impacted by everything from region of the country to personal tastes, certain design trends are more prevalent among certain generations.

Generations X and Y, for example, seem to have a number of design preference commonalities, from a love of color and texture to a desire for clean, simple and modern designs. Some of these come from necessity, as this generation tends to have less disposable income than older, more established homeowners, so budget often dictates (or at least plays a key role in) design choices.

But other factors – including a technological bent, a passion for the environment and a desire to maximize time and minimize fuss – also color these generations’ design choices.

This month, Kitchen & Bath Design News polled several hundred design professionals from all across the U.S. and Canada to get a sense of what they saw as the hottest design trends among younger (Gen X and Gen Y) homeowners.

Clean & Modern

From a design standpoint, clean and modern seem to be hot buttons for the younger generation, with Gen X and Y homeowners favoring streamlined looks that offer a bright and modern sensibility.

According to Sabrina DaLomb of the RI-based Supply New England: “The younger generations are definitely more attracted to clean lines and a contemporary aesthetic, even in the traditional stronghold in New England!”

“Design trends are much more modern, with cleaner lines and less fuss,” concurs Art Warren, CMKBD, with Gravelle Woodworking Ltd., in Ontario, Canada.

Donald Giranda of Craft Haven agrees that younger homeowners want “sleek, clean lines,” but also notes their interest in “bright colors.”

Katheryn W. Cowles, CKD, CBD, of the FL-based K.W. Cowles Design Center, also sees color mattering a great deal to Gen X and Y, and says that both color and texture are important design elements for these consumers, as they provide the more modern sensibility many of them desire.

“They [Gen X, Gen Y] want a contemporary to transitional kitchen with good storage, full-extension drawers and a workable design. Clean and concise is the word of the day,” emphasizes Lynn Hegstrom, of the CO-based Bollinger Design Group.

But it’s not just about the look; it’s also about value, according to Jeremy Corthals of the MI-based Capital Granite. He states, “Most of the Gen Xers that I work with are looking for clean, functional products that offer the best value.”

But value doesn’t necessarily mean inexpensive. Rachel Barone of PDP Countertops in GA sees even budget-conscious consumers investing in high-end countertops, and she notes, “Everyone is looking to select finishes and tones that have lengthy decorating ‘staying power.’ We have placed $6,000 granite in $50,000 condos.”

As far as colors are concerned, she says, “Every tone of gray is popular in painted cabinetry, while the hot colors in granite and marble are Carrara, Calcutta, Alaskan White, Ivory White, Namibian Green and new exotics.” She suggests that the younger age groups may have grown up with the older, more traditional colors of granite, which may be driving their interest toward things that are different and exotic.

Christopher Anderson of the NJ-based Segal & Morel sees black painted cabinets trending right now, while Chad Evans of Innovative Remodeling Company in WI sees industrial-style appliances and backsplashes gaining ground with younger homeowners.

In the bathroom, the love of all things modern is showing up in these generations’ desire for “anything square – faucets, shower plates, showerheads, etc.,” according to Tommy Jones, Classic Decorative Hardware in FL. He adds, “Gen X and Y desire simple luxury and a spa-like feel.”

Function First

While fashion matters, by and large, Generations X and Y seem to be focusing on functionality, seeking out products that are easy to use, easy to clean and easy to live with. Products that save time are also essential, as many younger consumers are either juggling both young children and busy professional careers, or working long hours as they pay their dues to try to climb the corporate ladder.

According to Jessi Lowry of Bath Classics Showroom in NY, in the bath, there seems to be a trend toward custom showers, with styles leaning toward clean lines but not ultra-modern. And, she points out, “The focus is mostly on ease of cleaning.”

Linda Rainey of Sierra Plumbing Supply agrees that “easy to clean and maintain” is atop the short list of many Gen X and Y consumers.

From a layout standpoint, functionality is also a key consideration. Colorado architect Doug Walters believes that Gen X and Y want “totally open and integrated kitchen/living areas. “Tear down the walls!” is what I hear…loft living comes to the suburbs.”

“They are looking for integrated areas of the home, multi-function spaces that are easy and comfortable to use, for instance, a secondary kitchen sink that may serve as a prep or a bar area,” adds Joanna Barker of Inspirations Interior Design Inc. However, because personalization is also important to these generations, she notes, “They are also more likely to choose a striking feature because it’s fun, like multi-color LED lighting.”

As far as green concerns, these generations tend to care passionately about the environment, designers say, however sometimes, these desires are at odds with their budgets. According to Ned Smith, of the CT-based Ned Smith Construction, LLC, “Given the economic climate that persists, the Gen X and Gen Y homeowners would like to invest in ‘green’ products…that is, until they see the prices of these products. As with ADA products, the minute the designation is attached to these products, the price is elevated.”

A Different Approach

Generation X and Y consumers also approach the sales process differently, according to many of the kitchen and bath dealers interviewed.

“Generally they do more homework first before even approaching a designer, and are choosing to visit an architect first. Trend-wise, they want to deconstruct what it means to have a kitchen at all, and work to find out how much real estate to use up in their space,” explains Steve Livingston of the CA-based Livingston Interiors.

“For example,” he continues, “in New York, generally the kitchen can be quite small, but is perfect the majority of the time if you are just ordering out. A sink, small fridge and microwave can suffice. So even if the open plan room can accommodate a large kitchen, they are choosing a design layout that makes practical sense rather than using up living space for a show kitchen. They will spend time analyzing new materials and want to be the first to try out or even beta test new products.”

Part of the interest in technology comes from a lack of fear. While older homeowners sometimes distrust technology and question how well it will function, “They [Gen X and Y] have more confidence in digital options, such as digital shower valves,” according to DaLomb.

“Gen X and Y are looking for quality and value, and they often do extensive research before or during the purchase process,” adds Howard Frankel of the NY-based Central Plumbing Specialties Grande Central Showrooms of NY. He concludes, “They are also more apt to consider integrated electronic elements to enhance their experience.”