Gen X and Y Favor Practicality, Technology

While people like to say “You’re only as old as you feel,” when it comes to design, the generation you’re born into can have a tremendous impact on your design choices.

Indeed, age tends to impact everything from style and color preferences to storage needs to interest in green products and types of desired technology. But as a kitchen and bath designer, it’s important to throw out your preconceived notions, because sometimes the stereotypes are just that – particularly when it comes to Generations X and Y.

For instance, many people assume that younger consumers are primarily concerned with high technology and whatever’s trendy at the moment. However, in a recent survey of more than 300 dealers and designers, KBDN found that Gen X and Y consumers actually value practicality, durability and time savings as much as they do technology. And while high-tech amenities are definitely in the mix, younger consumers prefer technology that’s easy to use and learn – quite similar to their older counterparts.

As far as design is concerned, the survey showed that timeless simplicity was generally preferred over trendy in-the-moment design, with clean lines and soft contemporary styling in high demand.

GETTING PRACTICAL

Despite the stereotype that younger consumers are more whim driven in their design choices, kitchen and bath designers surveyed by KBDN said practicality is actually a key consideration among Gen X and Y consumers.

According to Paul Buckel Jr. of the Republic, PA-based Buckel Remodeling, “These consumers want easy maintenance with simpler moulding details [that are] easy to clean. They don’t want to remodel their kitchen or bath in 10 years, so they look for quality, quality, quality.”

Amy Ahearn, CKD, CAPS, Allied ASID, of Ahearn Cabinetry Designs, LLC in Bernardsville, NY agrees: “I have found that, unlike even the younger Boomers, this generation doesn’t want to remodel as much. They want to move in to a ready home without breaking stride in their personal and professional lives.”

Like their parents, their design concerns are often centered around the functional aspects of the space, according to those surveyed. Says Evelyn Boldt of the Sarasota, FL-based Interior Expressions, Inc., “Their design concerns are, as always, is this enough storage space?”

Indeed, using space effectively isn’t just about the cabinetry; rather, many younger consumers look to design open Great Room spaces that serve multiple purposes.

According to Joanna Barker of the Laguna Niguel, CA-based Inspirations Interior Design, Inc., “Younger consumers are looking for integrated areas of the home, multi-function spaces that are easy and comfortable to use.”

Jodi Swartz of the Newton, MA-based KitchenVisions LLC agrees: “They are giving up their dining rooms and incorporating all of that space into the kitchen.” She adds that mudrooms are also popular with this demographic.

For a generation that likes to work at hyper speed, it should come as no surprise that coffee stations seem to be a high priority for these consumers; likewise, Lori Brock of the Portland, OR-based Brock Designs notes that time-pressed Gen X and Y consumers tend to favor “larger showers without tubs.”

The vast majority of designers polled also agreed that Gen X and Y tend to be budget conscious in their choices. “Price is incredibly important,” says Swartz.

In the bathroom, Brock sees younger consumers “mixing up expensive mosaics with less costly porcelain field tile” to save money while still getting the designer look they want.

However, not everyone agrees that Gen X and Y are price sensitive. According to Ahearn, “These consumers are willing to do their due diligence and pay a bit more to have the fixtures and finishes that fit their lifestyle, [and] they like high-performing appliances.”

DESIGN SENSIBILITIES

When it comes to style choices, the younger generation shows a clear preference for clean-lined contemporary or transitional designs, as well as affordable green products.

“Gen X and Y want clean lines, sleek styling, glass tile in unique shapes and/or colors, glass doors with specialty glass inserts, lighting within cabinets as well as undercabinet lighting, and greater use of LED lighting throughout the kitchen,” says Trish Burgess, CKD, CAPS of the GA-based Kitchen & Bath Concepts of St. Simons, Inc.

Peter Ollestad of the Woodinville, WA-based Strasser Woodenworks, states: “Gen X and Y consumers are looking for a more modern/transitional look with cleaner lines. Colors tend toward darker wood, but white is also quite popular. In addition, this generation will be most likely to expect eco-friendly products, and products made in the U.S.”

“The hottest trends are more contemporary and or transitional looking products,” agrees Boldt, who adds that “using more textures” is a key project element for these clients.

Nicholaus Medley of Studio M concurs that green products are hot with this demographic, noting that, “[These consumers want] products that are made utilizing materials that don’t off gas and that can be recycled when they tire of them.”

TECH SAVVY

While younger consumers do value practical, durable products, they also espouse a love of technology, and often seek out easy solutions for incorporating their techno devices into their spaces.

For instance, according to Ollestad, one of the things that sets Gen X and Y apart from the baby boomers is that they not only want more technology incorporated into their designs right now, but they will likely want designs that provide room for techno additions down the road. He explains, “The younger population will increasingly expect to see more technology built into the vanities. Designated space for hair dryers, flat irons etc., including electrical outlets, will be expected. Eventually, we see this market segment requesting more technology options into vanities and medicine cabinets, [such as] speakers in the vanities/medicine cabinets, connected with Bluetooth technology where the iPhone/iPad can be utilized.”

Swartz agrees that technology matters to this demographic more than any other, explaining, “[We’re seeing more demand for] wiring for sound (iPods) in the kitchen and surrounding rooms.”

When designing a kitchen for Gen X or Y, Burgess likes to include “a perch or snack bar where they can pause to use their electronic devices and still be ‘in on the action’ that is taking place in the kitchen.”

Finally, for those designing for Gen X and Y, it’s important to remember that these consumers often have a sense of whimsy. As Barker notes, “They are more likely to choose a striking feature because it’s fun, like multi-color LED lighting.”

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