Why having an Instagrammable home is what matters most to Millennials
PUBLISHED: 12:09 28 November 2018 | UPDATED: 16:40 29 November 2018
Many of us may be here for the countryside, the commuting and the schools but there is, apparently, a generation with entirely different priorities.
Millennials – those born in the eighties and nineties – are more about style than substance and prepared to make all sorts of compromises to get what they want in their homes, according to a new poll.
And the reason? They want something worthy of posting on Instagram, according to researchers for M&S bank who spoke to 2,000 people under 35 about what they look for when house hunting.
So what would their ideal home look like – and how does Herts shape up, I wondered, all assuming they could afford to buy, and not rent one, that is.
Key must-haves in the survey were a kitchen island, a spa-style bathroom, an office space and a (yes) garden fire pit – all incorporated into an open-plan design.
Other deal-clinchers were underfloor heating, log-burning stoves and pleasant views – that, and a decent restaurant nearby.
As many as nine in ten said they would even compromise on the size of a property if it meant getting one in a “cool” location, and seven in ten actually admitted they wanted to boast on social media, saying they would even be prepared to spend more on a house if it was (their words) in an “Instagrammable” area.
It’s hardly surprising, given that so many of the decisions we make these days seem to be shaped by a desire to use the platform to project an image of ourselves. Our homes are, naturally, a key part of that, especially given the way online influencers often present theirs as not only aspirational but exciting and, thanks to their knack of dishing out advice, achievable.
I wrote in these pages a few months ago how Hertfordshire is home to some of the best interiors influencers around. Then we have the likes of TV stars such as Sam Faiers and Emma Willis sharing pictures of their Hertfordshire homes on Instagram.
Instagram itself reports that more than 70 per cent of users admit to making style-related purchases after seeing a product there. Pinterest even goes as far as to say users come to its platform in a “buying state of mind”.
And it’s not all about trendy fixtures and fittings. There are quite a few other trends gathering pace, such as the “selfeet”, where people seek out and snap pictures of the floors they’re standing on.
There’s one school of thought that suggests such things matter only to the fickle but I recall the Anglo-Swiss philosopher Alain de Botton’s musings on the relationship between surroundings and aspiration.
A depressing home, he said, can mean that “our optimism and sense of purpose are liable to drain away, like water from a punctured container. We may start to forget that we ever had ambitions or reasons to feel spirited and hopeful.
“We depend on our surroundings obliquely to embody the moods and ideas we respect and then to remind us of them. We look to our buildings to hold us, like a kind of psychological mould, to a helpful vision of ourselves.”
Paul Stokes, head of products at M&S Bank, said their research “highlighted a trend that’s making a huge impact in the housing market”.
He added: “Young people have completely different priorities than the generations before them.”
If he wanted real-life examples, he’d do well to spend the day at his London Colney branch which has some striking examples on its doorstep; such as any of the ultra-modern terraces at the newly-built Gabriel Square in St Albans, Oakbridge Homes’ Seventy One development in Old Hatfield or Rockwell Homes’ new Wendover Pines development in Welwyn village.
Some come complete with those views his firm’s poll highlighted; such as the open fields backing on to Shanly Homes’ Westminster Fields development in Harpenden or those at Crest Nicholson’s Lancaster Grange in Bricket Wood.
The point is, in an area such as Hertfordshire which attracts a constant flow of high-earning, aspirational couples, the bar has been well and truly raised in terms of expectation.
If I’d used the survey findings as a checklist when house-hunting myself, I’d have been able to tick off all of them at eighty per cent of those I viewed only a few years ago.
And any on the turn-off list would have been probably been listed “as having scope for modernisation”, rather than just presented as they are.
Those included avocado bathroom suites, like the one I have to confess to fitting in a bungalow I was renovating in Northampton back in the eighties. And the heavily-patterned carpets my in-laws were so keen on, not to mention pebble-dashed walls and Artex ceilings.
Not that Millennials don’t like old houses. It just seems their taste skipped a generation or two. Another survey suggests that homes built between 1970 and 1999 are often passed over, for either new or older, period, ones.
That survey, conducted in the US in June, drew the same condemnation of all things avocado, along with lots that was hot around that time, such as Formica worktops and shag carpets.
But it also identified a few hot trends among the thirtysomethings; anything pre-war such as Victorian, Queen Anne, or cute Arts and Crafts bungalows.
That’s a view that resonates over here too, according to Emma Page, who runs the Victorian Emporium near Leighton Buzzard, although she points out that it’s often more a case of necessity than a love of the style that drives them, at least initially.
“Many first time-buyers, if they’re not buying a flat, tend to get a Victorian terrace that probably hasn’t had anything done to it for years and, rather than go to Ikea, look for original features that will add value and take them up the property ladder,” she says.
“And there are so many property programmes about adding value, such as George Clarke’s Old House, New Home, that are quite inspiring. So they may not have a passion for it at the start but will have by the time they’re, say, 40 and have moved on.”
So does she have a constant stream of calls from thirtysomethings looking for something more traditional than modern?
“The funny thing is, I do but not directly. It’s quite an interesting phenomenon in that I tend to get calls from parents who say ‘my son or daughter has seen something online but they’re at work so I’ll place the order as I’ll be the one waiting in when it arrives’.”
And regarding the comment about wanting all things to be “Instagrammable”, it’s interesting to note that, if we broadly assume the app is a millennial tool, there are some that appreciate the traditional. The account #Victorianhouse has posted more than 205,000 times and one called simply #Victorian more than 1.6 million.
And they can’t all be from oldies waiting in for deliveries.