Home Decor

The Year’s Most Unexpected Decor Trend (& What Grandmas Have to Do With It)

Blue and white china! Tasseled lampshades! Wicker chairs!

December 12, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten

It was inevitable. Maximalists who tried to suppress their true instincts when the Marie Kondo love affair was playing out are on a rebound. And what a rebound it's turning out to be.

A decor style named Grandmillennial—a portmanteau of grandma and millennial—took over our instagram feeds a couple months ago, and it’s a good one: modern-day design co-existing with retro elements that look like grandma’s inheritance finally came through. The essence of the Grandmillennial style involves a young (ish) person taking ownership of granny’s needlepoint pillows and tasseled lampshades and making them share space with their existing mid-century modern/Scandinavian/farmhouse decor.

The term was first established by writer Emma Bazilian in a trend piece for House Beautiful and while it caught fire immediately, I have to admit, I thought the odds of it becoming a mainstream trend were quite low. One would assume that the inviolable laws of nature dictate that humans are hardwired to think everything the preceding generations did is now hopelessly outmoded. Does it make any sense then to fill a home with products that resoundingly defined your grandparents' generation—and then hashtag it for everyone to see? The answer, it seems, is yes.

Let’s assess some of the trend’s essential elements. There’s chintzy upholstery on chairs and couches, punchy flora and fauna patterns on window treatments and wallpaper, and block-printed table linen. There are needlepoint cushion covers (many now sport slogans instead of the standard floral motifs), blue and white china, lampshades in wicker, and skirts and tassels on pretty much everything. An obsession with flower frogs and roses of all colors and varieties rounds up this trend.

Some devotees have started needlepointing furiously:

Design professionals are riding the wave:

And so are home stores...

And as we get ready to round off this year with the holiday season, Grandmillennials are a gifting category unto themselves:

If it sounds like I’m turning my nose up at this trend, nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is I’ve been a Grandmillennial most of my adult life.

It started with a childhood obsession with some Wedgwood pieces at my grandparents’ home, and morphed into a full-blown china and chintz obsession. I covet scallop-edged French linen, and my home is perma-stocked with solid bricks of French-milled lavender soap. I’ve been blending old and new, classic and quirky for over a decade, but just didn’t have the name for it—and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a smidge of validation at it blooming into a trend, even if for just a season.

But all this does seem antithetical to the times we live in where trends are dictated by what brands are selling rather than what you can, if you're lucky, forage for free from grandma’s garage. It seems so unlikely that my cohort would painstakingly needlepoint a canvas instead of buying it off of Etsy. Maybe, in these uncertain times, the Grandmillennial style is literally our way of recreating the space where we felt safest—our grandparents’ home. So if this is a decor version of permanently ensconcing ourselves in grandma’s arms, there are far worse places to be.

What are your favorite pieces that you inherited from grandma? Tell us in the comments below!

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Dee
    Dee
  • Amy
    Amy
  • Kam Hitchcock
    Kam Hitchcock
  • Kristina Garman
    Kristina Garman
  • viviancooks
    viviancooks
Comment

14 Comments

Dee January 6, 2020
Pink depression glass! It started with my grandma’s sugar-and-creamer set and I’ve added to it, bought china, linens and pink-stemmed wine glasses that picked up the pink, and I use it all the time, although I do hand wash it.
 
Amy January 6, 2020
As someone in her late 50s, I have always used what my grandparents and great-grandparents had. Initially, because there was no "fast furniture" from Ikea or Target, the hand-me-downs were practical when I was starting out (scratchy arm chairs, brown antique end tables, etc. picked from their storage buildings), but as my grandparents died, I inherited silver, china, and their good furniture. My walnut dining room table was my great grandmother's from the late 1800s and has enough leaves to accommodate 14 ppl. I have my own mid-century-inspired chairs around it. I inherited half of one grandmother's sterling, and odds and ends of serving pieces, and so on from my other grandmother, some of which go back 4 generations. I also inherited a set of good Rogers Bros silver plate that I use for more casual entertaining. I used my grandmother's fussy Havilland china for a New Year's buffet because the plates are smaller than contemporary plates, making them excellent for holding in buffet lines, and the serving bowls are just the right size for so many nibbles. I have sterling candlesticks that were wedding gifts to my parents. All of these pieces mean that I am not buying lesser-quality items that I may tire of. I mix all these pieces with my contemporary decor and they are warm and inviting and bring up so many good memories of people I love. I don't really care if it is on trend, as this is how I've lived my entire adult life, and expect to continue as long as I am entertaining.
 
Kam H. January 5, 2020
My parents and grandparents shared our house so I got to live with them for a long time. When she passed away, the only thing I wanted was a silver plated tablespoon with one side almost flat from stirring cream sauces and such in a metal double boiler. I had it resilvered and every time I use it, I can see her standing at the stove patiently stirring something.
 
Kristina G. January 5, 2020
Being the fourth child I was able to inherit a few inexpensive items but nothing as wonderful as blue and white China! I don’t think it’s new but instead a smart marketing move to write an article about something most of us have been doing for years and just applying a cute memorable hashtag. Well done. It’s a move toward the younger generation reinventing the traditional with a new perspective! Thanks for sharing
 
viviancooks January 5, 2020
This grandmillenial look is nothing more than shabby chic coming around again.....a look my children (millenials) grew up with until we moved onto a mid century modern home and switched to asian antiques and mid century modern furniture.
 
Rosalind P. January 5, 2020
I'm the generation that is supposedly being emulated here; never, ever had the flowery or chintz stuff -- always marveled at the brilliance of modern design. So what MY kids don't want any of is just that. And they don't want it because (a) they've got enough already and (b) have no space. They do love it though.
 
Jeanne K. December 18, 2019
I think this is less a "new" trend (grandmillenial), but simply a classic, tasteful and traditional style, and somewhat conservative (therefore considered "old" like a granny). Another example of people (millennials?) reinventing the wheel, imo.
 
sf-dre December 18, 2019
Younger boomer checking in.... I have mismatched bone china teacups from my grandmother, hand me down furniture from my parents, mostly traditional. Always been a fan of blue and white, blue willow or blue calico dishes for everyday. In the last couple of years a sofa with cleaner lines and wood and metal industrial coffee table share space with one of mom's old wing chairs.
 
Madelaine December 15, 2019
This article is SO TONEDEAF. I usually love food52 articles but if you’re going to write about this #grandmillenial trend don’t act mystified as to where it came from. MILLENIALS ARE BROKE. We were handed down a bum economy and simply cannot afford decor for our homes! Most of our stuff is thrifted or handed down from our parents or grandparents because we CANT AFFORD to furnish or decorate our place of living on our own— I say place of living because millenials can’t even afford homes! Fewer than 5% of millenials are homeowners. I realize that you are not a political publication- but this article IS INHERENTLY POLITICAL
 
arcane54 December 17, 2019
Some context: not all boomers are wealthy and can afford everything they want (either). Most of my furniture is gifted or thrifted or traded for labor. Other than a mattress, the first brand new piece of furniture I bought was 5 years ago when I was 60. My “style” contains mid- century modern, classic, antique. I have my grandmother’s china, sliver plated flatware, and hand embroidered linens because no one else in my family -including my millennial nieces and nephews - wanted “old” stuff. To me it’s memories, not “style” that surround me. All of it will go to charity shops when I die and those memories will go with me.
 
susielala January 1, 2020
Sad that you would find this article about about the "grandmilennial" trend inherently political and tone-deaf. As a Boomer growing up in the 50's and 60's, I coveted my grandmother's blue and white Spode china that my own mother finally allowed for 'everyday' use, rather than leaving it in the china cabinet. As a young wife, I welcomed many hand-me-downs from parents, in-laws, and grandparents out of necessity. We too couldn't afford to completely furnish or decorate our 'place of living' on our own. The "grandmilennial" trend seems to originate more from a sometimes-sentimental appreciation of beautiful pieces from the past. Few young people - from any generation - start out with the ability to acquire all that they desire. I love seeing what "take" millennials have when blending the old and the new - something I've been experimenting with for 50 years. One of the reasons I follow food52 and other such sites is the lack of political content.
 
Kristina G. January 5, 2020
I agree your age group has some difficulties but blaming older adults sounds childish. The opportunity to receive family pieces has been done for hundreds of years and is a way to gain family wealth. It saves you the money to have to buy new. Alternatively purchasing a thrifted item is not losing or shameful as it is another way to add history and beauty to your home. 99% of us couldn’t buy new and saved for homes. I think the commercialism and materialism has infected your age group along with the need to be perfect, look perfect, and live in a perfect home. Your home evolves as you age, travel, and etc and will reflect the life you build.
 
Laura D. January 5, 2020
Frankly, I think that homes decorated with hand-me-downs and thrift store finds are much more interesting and attractive than new furniture store set installations. The cookie cutter look from the store decorators leaves me bored and feeling a lack of warmth and comfort. Also, one of the great pleasures of life is finding the perfect piece that you know you'll love forever at a great price. My home is a mixture of flea market, used furniture, street pickups, and new furniture; and, everyone who comes in tells me how lovely it is. It took years to put together and I did without until I found the right pieces and/or saved the money to buy. Look to the positive and stop the negative.
 
Heidi S. January 6, 2020
As a millennial who has never bought a piece of new furniture in her life - in fact, I can count on one hands the times I’ve paid anything at all - I found this sweet, not tone deaf.

All reporting about decor trends is going to focus of feelings and aspirations - not economics. This, at least, is a trend that I can (and do) endorse and participate in. This encourages anyone to make a pleasure out of necessity. Although the article mentions new things, I feel like it’s really saying that if most or all your stuff is inherited from three totally different grandmas (like me), you can still carve out a harmonious and beautiful space.