Intro from Emily:
I had an interview request recently to identify what zoomers are into (Gen Z, mostly under 26). Uh. I had no idea and despite having one on my team (hey, Mal), none of us immediately knew what the style was called so I tasked her to infiltrate her age group (on social media) and find out what those, who are into home design, are loving right now. Mal came back from her mission with some shocking recon information – the movement that is happening is called “Aesthetic”. It took us a second. Well, more than a second. It’s literally a synonym for “style”, not really saying anything. But what they are trying to encompass or go after is what this Gen Xer will call “a good vibe” and THAT I can get behind. Like most teens and early 20 somethings of yore, their style (or aesthetic) culturally is nothing something that the generation above is supposed to “get”. It tends to be subversive by nature – my generation answered “rock and roll with emo” – it can be a rebellion even if it’s not going further into an extreme. I felt like I was an anthropologist, watching this generation try to find itself, just like we/I did twenty years ago. You see my generation was thrifted, cobbled together (backlash to overly decorated perfection), and a product of the evolution of the thrift store being all of a sudden cool (hey, grunge). The older we get the more “sophisticated” our homes get, and frankly, that’s not the adjective most 19-year-olds want. They want “Aesthetic”.
What is “Aesthetic”?
I feel highly unequipped to answer this with true expertise and yet I will. What I’ve witnessed from this movement (if you can call it that) is a desire to create a vibe that looks wild and weird, a no-rules boldness mixed with a sense of apathy, it’s sexual and non-binary, and then just when you think you’ve figured it out – don’t forget some plastic vines or flowers – not just almost childlike, like literal fairies. It’s definitely a “don’t put me in a box” or even “try to define me” feeling – thus the broad non-specific labeling. It’s unlabel-able, and yet of course I wanted to break down the elements and be told how wrong my analysis is (it’s part of the fun). It’s a cultural fascination and as a generational reminder to stay open (ironically the older I get the more open I am – it’s “YOU DO YOU” mixed with being almost completely un-offendable… which is a fun experiment to try if you find yourself offended by or judging others constantly – a symptom of being a millennial and gen X, for sure). So before you see the below and judge or say how it’s offensive, what if you reframed it more as a glimpse into a world that you aren’t rejected from, and an opportunity to bring you some smiles. In short – just because you don’t like something does not mean that it is offensive. It’s just not for you.
And as you can imagine this vibe has rarely been professionally photographed, so you’re about to see some Instagram photos – and yes, its unprofessionalism is indeed part of the “aesthetic”. Okay Mal, take it away…
ROGER THAT. Hey guys, Mallory here. If you’ve ever been on TikTok (even if it’s only been for 5 seconds), you might have encountered one of the major trends happening in the Gen Z world and have not even known it. As Emily explained above, there’s a trend called “Aesthetic” (which really is just its name by default, but we’ll get to that in a minute). Em was pretty much spot on in her explanation of what “Aesthetic” is, and social media has been at the forefront of propelling this trend into action. It’s totally about the “vibe” and it’s also about expressing yourself. I would say you can typically find it in the bedrooms of 13-18-year-olds. THIS HOWEVER is not the only trend Gen-Z is into (and I think it’s offensive to put all of them into the “Aesthetic” box). The other main trend dominating right now is called “Avant Basic”. The easiest way to separate them is to break it down like this: younger tween/teens generally are more into the “Aesthetic” vibe (I said 13-18-year-olds which I would still say is true) and the slightly older, 18-25-year-olds seem to be falling more into the “Avant Basic” vibe. Obviously, this is a generalization and there’s a lot of crossover for both, but that’s pretty much what I’m seeing on TikTok these days.
So, yes, the two main styles dominating the platform are called “Aesthetic” and “Avant Basic”. Let’s start with the former because I gotta explain the name in more detail. Let’s get something straight: Aesthetic is pretty much just the name of this trend because Gen Z TikTokers took to the platform to post their #bedroomchecks and by default also ended up using other hashtags like #aesthetic or #aestheticroom. So no one’s goal was to call it “Aesthetic” but some are referring to the trend as that because, well, that’s how you can find the trend: by hashtagging Aesthetic. Now, what is this Aesthetic trend??
There are 3 main components to getting an “Aesthetic” Room (which are most bedrooms because this age group is on the younger side and still living at home): LED lights surrounding the entire perimeter of the room, fake vines, and an abundance of records/magazine cutouts/photos on your wall. Let me show you:
These are pretty much in every single #aesthetic room. They add a sculptural and green element that makes it feel more cozy, but it’s super low maintenance, AND it creates a big impact for not a lot of $$$ (which is what a lot of teens are tryna do of course). Also, a lot of times you’ll see some fairy lights mixed in with the vines (for the vibes of course)…
Records are KEY to aesthetic. They add a different shape than the art prints/magazine photos on the wall). Plus vinyl is just all around so cool, especially right now. Everyone’s got a record player these days so why not display them on your wall??? Hopefully, the cheap ones from the $1 section and not the nice ones because I’m pretty sure command strips are not the technical way to store a record. Okay now for the Aesthetic finale, the main event, THE MOMENT YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR:
Just like Emily said in the opening paragraph: it’s all about a FEELING, a VIBE. If you want a mood, turn on some purple lights, and boom you’re there. It’s undoubtedly a vibe. Tweens and teens are heavily into this style because you got only one spot in the entire house that’s YOUR space: your bedroom, so you gotta make the most of it. Also as a side note, I chatted with some of my friends about this trend and they said that this is “an e-girl room.” If you’re unfamiliar, an e-girl or e-boy is defined by wikipedia as “a youth subculture that emerged in the late 2010s and is almost exclusively seen on social media, notably popularized by the video-sharing app TikTok.” My friends said lots of e-girls have the “Aesthetic” type room, whereas the more girly-girl type teens and or hip young adults lean more toward the “Avant Basic” trend. Curious what the heck that is? Let’s go:
We always say around here that fashion trends inform design trends, and for the Avant Basic home style that is CERTAINLY true. The Y2K fashion trend has been hitting big now for about 2 years and it’s finally made its way into the home. I think we can all thank fashion influencers for making this happen…they’re most definitely the people that have made this style happen pretty much overnight. One influencer that has been one of the front runners of Avant Basic (or I’ve also heard it referred to as Danish Pastels) is Matilda Djerf…her room was one of the first I saw to go toward the Avant Basic vibe. Also, Wiggle Room NYC definitely contributed to the trend with their awesomely shaped tables and since we’re now talking about furniture makers, we’ll also have to give the wiggly mirror trend over to Gustaf Westman. There have been a lot of major players bringing this style from the fashion world to the home space, and Instagram and TikTok have collectively propelled this trend forward even more.
Now the term Avant Basic is definitely a contradictory term: “Avant” means original or innovative, and “Basic” in current societal means mainstream and common. But, while it’s contradictory, I genuinely believe that there is no better way to describe this trend. The whole style is about interesting, pastel colors, psychedelic patterns, and wavy unique shapes. BUT it’s become so popular that now it kinda is basic (and before you get your panties in a wad, basic has a negative connotation, but it’s not always “bad” in my opinion). The pastels are used in “pops” rather than on walls or tonally throughout a room. Start with a white base (the “basic” part), then build in pops of weird shapes, patterns, and uniquely molded candles you’ll never light but you love. I can keep trying to explain it but it’s better if I just show you:
Pops of Pastels
It’s all about the pastels popping off the white background (specifically pinks, purples, greens, blues, and yellows) and in some fun, funky ways. You can’t have too many pastels, and as long as you go for it off of a white background and spread them around in small amounts, your color palette can pretty much be whatever. It’s also acceptable to lean into mixing some small neon pops in (greens, pinks mostly) layered in with the pastels.
You can see the pastels in both prints and in decor pieces, and the most iconic decor pieces of the Avant Basic style are the uniquely shaped candles you’ll find everywhere (specifically busts, squiggly candles, and bubbly candles):
Psychedelic, Checkered, And Floral Patterns
You’ll notice from these photos above, the patterns are mostly checkered, or that floral pattern (made famous from clothing companies like Lisa Says Gah and House of Sunny). You can also mix in some more psychedelic patterns in rugs, pillows, and prints (see the “out of mind” graphic art above), but if you’re going for Avant Basic, again, don’t do wallpapers or anything too wild on the entire wall. It’s all about the pops. (PS that’s the bubble candle above on the right)
Postmodern & Wavy Shapes
Another important element of Avant Basic we briefly touched on earlier is the squiggly shaped mirror and just all around oddly shaped furniture (lots of postmodern lines for sure) Here are some examples:
So that’s it. Those are the 2 major styles happening in the Gen-Z TikTok land today. Whaddaya think?? Have you seen these around? Do you like the looks? If you have teenagers or Gen Zers can you relate? Let’s chat in the comments…this is fun 🙂