Squiggly mirrors and mushrooms: how are gen Z decorating their first homes? | Interiors

In the mid-2010s, the dawn of Pinterest interior design boards and advent of cheap online homewares contributed to the beginnings of a millennial aesthetic. Familiar to anyone who has ever scrolled through Airbnb listings, the look included lots of string lights, boob-printed flower pots, exposed wood, slogan art and a soft, millennial pink.

But that was 10 years ago. Now, gen Z is made up of the country’s youngest renters and homeowners, left to design their first apartments. They have their own interior inspiration: pastel wall art, squiggle mirrors, LED lights and mushroom decor are all hallmarks of the aesthetic.

Véronique Hyland, the fashion features director at Elle magazine who coined the term “millennial pink”, says social media has sped up the pace of interior design revolution.

“The life cycle of a trend is definitely much shorter now due to TikTok – practically mayfly-length,” Hyland said. “We used to have a season or two to sit with a trend, and now the various ‘-cores’ come and go and things feel visually played out faster when we’ve seen them everywhere.”

Here are the current pieces essential to the gen Z aesthetic:

Squiggle mirror

The Ultrafragola Mirror was designed in 1970 by Italian architect Ettore Sottsass. 

With a squiggly frame that turns from a cool white into an illuminated pink once switched on, the mirror is an icon of postmodern design. pic.twitter.com/2CjsFRG3h6

— the Design Museum (@DesignMuseum) February 4, 2023

The Italian architect Ettore Sottsass created the bulbous, undulating Ultrafragola mirror in 1970, but this piece really grew legs in the 2020s. You can find it in the homes (and selfies) of people like Bella Hadid, Lena Dunham and Frank Ocean. Vintage versions of the real thing can cost up to $25,000 on sites like 1st Dibbs, so dupes were inevitable, and recreations abound on Etsy, Amazon and Anthropologie.

For Reeves Connelly, a content creator and graduate architecture student who recently posted a popular TikTok video comparing millennial decor trends to gen Z’s preferred ornamentations, there is no piece of furniture more “gen Z-coded” than the squiggle mirror. Enjoy it while it’s still hot on TikTok.

Stacking planters

A cousin of the squiggle mirror, Areaware’s stacking planters have a similar rippling shape. On TikTok, Connelly compared the piece to mason jars, the often-parodied staple of millennial beverage consumption.

Mushrooms

A $29 mushroom pillow from Urban Outfitters. Photograph: Urban Outfitters

Remember when young people were obsessed with pineapples, plastering images of the tropical fruit on everything from their tote bags to throw pillows? Now, mushroom-shaped everything is having its day, with the fungi on lampshades, candles and rugs. You could fill a whole street with the over 9,000 results for “mushroom decor” available at Target, which includes figurines, Christmas ornaments and prayer flags.

Blame it on legalized psychedelics or an interest in cottagecore, which fetishizes country living. “Weirdcore” or the internet aesthetic of things that look confusing, disorienting or purposefully ugly, is also a gen Z phenomenon – and what’s more weirdcore than a mushroom trip?

Western-inspired

A $22 cowboy boot match holder from Paddywax.
A $22 cowboy boot match holder from Paddywax. Photograph: Paddywax

You may remember (or want to forget) an early 2010s habit of moustache prints hanging in every coffee shop or office room; now Connelly believes you’re more likely to see a cowboy boot or cactus design. Ditto for cow print, a fashion trend that’s trickled into our homes, too.

Checkerboard pattern

A $59 checkerboard rug from Bed Bath & Beyond.
A $59 checkerboard rug from Bed Bath & Beyond. Photograph: Bed Bath & Beyond

A 2021 Architectural Digest headline raved that “the checkerboard pattern is here to stay,” citing it showing up in bedding, bath towels and floor tiles. It’s soothing, hypnotic and a bit childish, which earns it nostalgia points. Harper’s Bazaar called checkerboard “the new millennial pink”, another trend that supposedly coddled its namesake needy generation.

But its days may be numbered with TikTok already finding the trend ubiquitious. “In the beginning, I loved a small checker accent to add movement or interest, but now it seems overdone and tacky,” said Kate Fuller, a content creator known on TikTok as @interiordesignbestie. “It began as something new and fun that you would see as accent art, and now everyone is making everything checkerboard.”

TikTok creators note that the checkerboard print may be the new chevron pattern, which was all over sundresses and manicures in the girlboss era but quickly became passé. “Like chevron, we will all hate checkerboard by the end of 2023,” Fuller predicted.

Pastels

The Pantone Color Institute has selected ‘Ultimate Gray’ and ‘Illuminating Yellow’ as the Colors of the Year for 2021. The company says the shades speak to the ‘resilience, optimism, hope, and a positivity that we need now.’ 💛 pic.twitter.com/XbmDvBoFqV

— NowThis (@nowthisnews) December 14, 2020

Some have predicted that canary yellow – also called “illuminating”, and listed as one of Pantone’s colors of the year for 2021 – unites the younger generation.

From the Giorgio Armani catwalk to the bedroom – pastel shades are in.
From the Giorgio Armani catwalk to the bedroom – pastel shades are in. Photograph: Claudia Greco/Reuters

Hyland’s not so sure. She previously told the Guardian that so-called gen Z yellow “feels like a manufactured marketing thing to me … I think there’s a push to make various gen Z colors happen, but it has not reached the same kind of ubiquity”.

Fuller notes that pastels are very popular for gen Z home spaces. “They are very drawn to this whimsical overhaul of pastel colors,” she said. “From wall paint to furniture, they really love a good pastel moment.” Pastels have taken over fashion, too. This year’s couture runways resembled Easter brunches, with the likes of Valentino and Giorgio Armani decking their collections in the light hues.

LED light strips

When it comes to lighting, millennial “fairy lights” made way for the LED strips lining the borders of bedroom ceilings across the US. These strips trace the edges of a piece of furniture – let’s say a headboard or bookshelf – making it look like a soft, otherworldly light is sneaking out from underneath. Videos featuring the hashtag #ledlights have been viewed over 11bn times on TikTok, with tutorials on how to put the strips up getting 30.5m views.

Consider that look becoming cheugy soon. “It’s very popular on TikTok, but it feels like your bedroom is a club,” Connelly said.

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