The world seems to have gone crazy. So today more than ever, our homes have become our havens. And, certain items – personal travel souvenirs, beautiful art, even cozy chenille throws – have become a bit like talismans, protecting us from forces beyond our control just outside our door. Surrounding ourselves with the furnishings and objects that “speak to us” evokes happy memories and offers a much-needed does of nostalgia. This trend has also created a surge in the popularity of granny chic or grandmillennial style interiors.
Grandmillennial style is a term coined by journalist Emma Bazilian in House Beautiful’s article, The Rise of Grandmillenial Style. What is this “new” style for home interiors? Surprisingly, it’s not new at all! Instead, grandmillennial style is a modern interpretation of the familiar. With the world falling apart on a daily basis, Grandma’s and Great Aunt Gertrude’s hand-me-down furnishings feel oh-so-comforting.
This style takes what could easily feel formal and stuffy and, with a twist on the traditional, reinvents it for a whole new audience. While grandmillennial style does incorporate some formal elements, the style itself is anything but. The key? Mixing in a smattering of contemporary elements, as well as timeless styles and materials that have been given a modern spin.
The result is an effortless formality that is classic, but fresh. Ready to try grandmillenial style? Here are the elements that you need to create a homey space:
Embellishments add Dimension. According to a recent issue of Better Homes and Gardens, “Embellishments like ruffles, pleats, and fringe are also seeing a resurgence.” And, these types of embellishments are one of the fastest and easiest ways to add grandmillennial style. They are also a simple way to “dip your toe” into the look without a major financial commitment or the addition of large, permanent pieces. Some suggestions include:
- Add a vintage, embroidered linen tablecloth to a dining table
- Use bullion fringe tiebacks on existing drapes
- Toss a sumptuous velvet or brocade drape over a side table
- Add one or two pillows with ruffled flanges to your sofa
- Swap a tailored dust ruffle for a more voluminous, scallop-edged bed skirt
Use of Dark Woods. Dark wood furniture (also called “brown furniture”) never really goes “out of style.” Classic dark stained pieces in walnut and cherry, from a Sheraton sideboard to Chippendale dining chairs, bring a feeling of history to a room. But, instead of using an entire matched set, grandmillennial style combines these classics with new, modern pieces for an eclectic look. Wood furnishings can also be painted in contemporary colors. This is especially helpful when salvaging a heavily distressed piece (albeit with beautiful lines) at a tag sale or thrift shop. Here’s how to successfully add dark wood furniture:
- Limit the number of dark wood pieces per room, to keep the look fresh
- Top a traditional sideboard or cabinet with abstract or modern art, rather than a more traditional mirror or piece of art
- Add metallic accents, including mixed metals to modernize and add brightness
- Paint pieces in light, beautiful hues, or go for broke with a statement color such as fuchsia, navy or emerald
- Add a Lucite coffee table or ghost chairs in a traditional shape for an unexpected twist
Editing is Essential. Avoiding an overly cluttered, 1980’s “English country” look, is essential. And, that means less really is more. If you adore china, dishes, figurines, and assorted bric-a-brac, rotate them seasonally based on theme and color. Here’s how to think layered, not crowded:
- Use odd numbers for best effect – three framed photos are more visually pleasing than four or two
- Group like items such as candlesticks in a variety of finishes for an “instant collection”
- Repeating a color throughout the room will anchor even very furniture with very different styles
- Gallery walls can be visually impactful, but to avoid a chaotic look, use similar frames, colors or subject matter to unify
Tell a Personal Story. Have you ever seen a house that looks more like a stage set than a home? All matching furniture “suites,” impeccably coordinated colors, empty horizontal surfaces, and art that is chosen more to match a color palette rather than for the subject matter? Beautiful, to be sure. But wholly impersonal. Instead, grandmillennial style embraces whatever it is that you love. Inherited pieces, tag store treasures, travel souvenirs and personal art all create a home that is uniquely yours. Not sure where to start? Here are some suggestions for infusing a more personal look:
- Showcase your passions, from vintage cameras, to carved jade animals, to milk glass pieces
- Choose artwork that speaks to you
- Add framed photos of your favorite moments (bonus – they are sure to make you smile each time you see them!)
A More Relaxed Approach. Grandmillenial style has a slightly irreverent side and combining disparate materials adds the element of surprise. It also keeps the overall look from becoming too stuffy and formal. A few suggestions include:
- Put accessories to unexpected uses – for example, use a silver champagne bucket to hold kitchen utensils
- Paint a traditional wood piece in a bold color (this includes artwork frames and mirrors)
- Use unusual fabrics with classic pieces – pair gingham plaid with a Louis XIV chair, for example
More than just a POP of Color. A quick scroll through Instagram and Pinterest yields dozens of bleached out, all-white interiors. Grandmillennial style rejects such a neutral, narrow color palate and instead, embraces vibrant shades that enliven a home. But, not any hue will do! Rich, saturated colors and dashes of whimsy (sunshine yellow, cerulean blue, candy apple red) add a youthful feeling. Scared of color? Don’t be! Here are a few budget-friendly ways to quickly add color:
- Paint can update almost anything – add a small dash by painting an end table, the backs of bookcases, a door, or a side chair
- Swap out a neutral lamp shade for one in an accent color
- Swap a classic white tablecloth for a more lively pattern
- A massed group of decorative plates creates a wall of color (Majolica or chinoiserie are particularly vibrant)
Natural Materials Ground a Space. Wicker, cane, rattan and bamboo could scream “Nana’s house.” But, with the addition of color (pale green or duck’s egg blue) or colorful cushions, these inexpensive pieces can add personality and provide an interesting, light counterpoint to heavier wood pieces.
- Cane chairs are inexpensive and lighten up a dining space
- A small wicker table is a lovely way to display houseplants
- Rush seated ladderback chairs go from blah to brilliant when painted in contemporary colors
Pure Pattern. What’s old is new… again. Patterns such as Laura Ashley prints, chintz, florals and toile add depth and dimension to a room. But, unlike the 1980’s, a judicious use of prints is essential. Going overboard will result in a dated look. Where to use pattern for great grandmillenial décor?
- Wallpaper just one accent wall
- Slipcover dining chairs or reupholster seat covers
- Try a tablecloth or runner
- Add a patterned quilt at the foot of the bed
- Monogram it (towels, linens, sheets)
Where to get the look? If you haven’t inherited any pieces from your Grandma, you can still get granny style by shopping at estate sales, auctions and thrift shops. If shopping secondhand be sure to shop carefully for cracks, tears or discoloration, as items are generally not returnable.
Click here for my best Thrift Shopping Tips and Where to Shop.
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Named one of the Top 50 Beauty Blogs in the World by RebateZone.com, Susan Said… WHAT?! is your guide to a life filled with style. From home and garden style, to must-have fashion, handbags, jewelry and accessories, plus the latest products for chic parties, you’ll find it here. Editor, author and entrepreneur Susan Conforte McNeill is also the co-founder of the Delaware based literacy organization Success Won’t Wait!
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