Keep these three considerations in mind to design Millennial friendly kitchens and baths
by Mary Cook
What do Millennials want? That’s the 21st century equivalent of the iconic 20th century sales trope “the $64 million dollar question.” It’s not a surprising shift given the sheer size of the Millennial market; at about 80 million strong, they’re a quarter of the U.S. population. What’s surprising is the answer: great kitchens.
Yep. You read that right. Contrary to popular belief that Millennials are too cash-strapped to buy real estate, 36 percent of them do own homes—typically by age 31, according to AIMsights, a consultancy that focuses on Millennial purchasing habits. And their research shows that the room that’s most important to this generation is the kitchen, which makes “what Millennials want” in their kitchens a critical concern to anyone in the housing business. And of course, where kitchens go in the building business, bathrooms follow. Both rooms came in at 48 percent in a Harris Poll on which rooms Americans plan to remodel in 2018. The same holds true in new construction and multifamily; from our work designing amenities and model home interiors, we see both spaces getting the star treatment right now from savvy builders and developers.
Make Kitchens and Baths Millennial-Friendly
Since the great majority of Millennials have yet to buy homes, builders and developers who want to achieve high occupancy rates or high sales velocity need to prioritize these rooms. The first step is understanding how Millennials operate in kitchens and bathrooms. Both require super-efficient floor plans, as much storage as possible, and hardworking, durable fixtures, finishes, furnishings, and appliances. That’s because all kitchen and bath trends are influenced by this generation’s desire for low-maintenance, high-tech spaces.
Know How Millennials Operate in Kitchens and Baths
Millennials have a DIY mindset that stems partly from a cash-strapped start in their adult lives, and partly from the fact that they really do like to do-it-themselves. Think of the rise of Etsy and YouTube channels devoted to cooking, how-to tutorials, fitness routines, and more.
In fact, Millennials are “the foodie generation” according to SpoonUniversity, and are changing the way we cook. Instead of starting from scratch with cookbooks in hand, they rely on hacks that let them do part of the work, such as courses or meals that are finished off at home, and get their instruction online, be it recipes or how-to videos. In bathrooms, the same scene can play out with makeup videos or just streaming a video while they prep for the day.
Bottom line, Millennials use hacks for everything, and always have their tech on hand. By the numbers, 59 percent cook with their smartphones or tablets according to ThinkWithGoogle, and 85 percent of them take their smartphones to the bathroom, according to a recent survey by SureCall, a company that produces cell phone reception boosters. What do the stats mean for kitchen and bathroom design? Here are three key considerations architects, builders, and developers should incorporate into the kitchens and baths in their homes, condominiums, and multifamily projects to drive signatures on the dotted lines.
Respect the New Essential—Tech
Millennials are never without their tech. In kitchens they use it for food prep and entertainment; in bathrooms the food prep shifts to personal care. On a daily basis, they need somewhere to sit while pursuing emails, the news, recipes, and videos. In both rooms, that means somewhere to prop up their gadget of choice and keep it splash free so they can watch their how-to videos or listen to music. In kitchens, where a few choice smart appliances grace countertops, the need is even more pressing. Broad counters, ledges and open shelves, as well as charging stations, are critical in both rooms.
Keep Layouts Connected and Flexible
Millennials like to socialize at home, just like prior generations. But unlike their predecessors, they cook together and build their social experiences around group activities. They want and need fluid living spaces that have fewer walls and are multipurpose so they can change with their needs. Kitchens must be efficient, flexible, and connected to eating and living spaces. Bathrooms may be behind closed doors, but chic, high-end showers with minimal glass partitions are supplanting those with doors, and Millennials are swapping out their tubs to gain more space—trends substantiated recently in the New York Times.
Make Design Modern and Open So They Can Personalize Each Space
Millennials prefer clean-lined, sustainable, modern spaces that they can customize or personalize to suit their own aesthetics. Many do with their own rustic, vintage, or artisanal touches that make these streamlined spaces go from antiseptic to everything from quaint and charming to street-savvy and urban chic.
They also have less “stuff” than prior generations, so they can make do with smaller kitchens and bathrooms, but want them to be exacting and aesthetically intriguing. Cabinets should be streamlined; open shelves and drawers are making a comeback—the former since they showcase their eclectic possessions and the latter because they hold more stuff; and easy-to-clean fixtures, furnishings, and appliances reign supreme. Goodbye permeable stones and eye-blinding shine, and hello sturdy quartz countertops and matte finishes!
Mary Cook is the founder and principal of Mary Cook Associates (MCA), a full-service commercial interior design firm that focuses on the homebuilding and hospitality industries. She is nationally known for creating innovative environments targeted to market demands and designed to increase property value. She may be reached at www.marycook.com