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Millennials, Gen Z hates your cold and minimalist interiors

Have you heard maximalism is in and minimalism is out? Rooms bursting at the seams with clashing florals, colorful furniture, and innumerable knick-knacks, this is what defines the new interiors trend ‘cluttercore’ (or bricabracomania).

Some say it’s a war between generation Z (born 1997-2012) and minimal millennials (born 1981-1996), symptomatic of bigger differences. Others say it’s a pandemic response, where our domestic prisons became cuddly cocoons, stimulating our senses, connecting us with other people and places. But what really lays behind the choice to clutter or cull?

Why do some people revel in collections of novelty eggcups? Or have so many framed pictures you can barely see the (ferociously busy) wallpaper? And why do those at the other end of the spectrum refuse to have even the essential stuff visible in the home, hiding it behind thousands of pounds’ of incognito cupboards?

One important reason for the clash between minimalism and maximalism is simple: the relentless pendulum swing of fashion. Whatever psychological or cultural rationale pundits may suggest, fashion is always about the love of what strikes us as new or different.

This struggle might seem new but it is just history repeating itself, encapsulated in the interior struggle between less and more that began between class-ridden Victorian commodity culture and modernism’s seemingly healthy and egalitarian dream.

A lot of stuff

Victorians liked stuff that they could put on display. These things communicated their status through solid evidence of capital, connectedness, signs of exotic travel and colonial power. Think inherited antique cabinets and Chinese ivory animals. Then imagine the labor required to not only create, but polish, dust, manage and maintain these myriad possessions.

But this deluge of stuff was made possible for more people as mass-produced commodities – especially those created from synthetic materials – became cheaper.

All this created a novel and lasting problem: how to choose and how to organize a world with so much aesthetic possibility – how to make things “go together”. The 19th and 20th-century guardians of culture and the “public good” were just as concerned about the spiritual chaos of too much clutter as modern “organizational consultants” like Marie Kondo.

In response, they set up design schools and educational showcases, like the Great Exhibition of 1851, the 1930 New York World’s Fair, and the Festival of Britain in 1951.

Very little stuff

The minimalist mantra “less is more”, courtesy of German art school the Bauhaus was established in the 1920s. For some modernists, “needless decoration” was a sign of an “uncivilized” (read feminine and non-white) mind. They nevertheless also looked to “primitive” cultures for bold aesthetics and authenticity superior to western excess.

Modernists believed that simplicity and elegant functionality, enabled by mass production and cost-effective new materials (like tubular steel and plywood), could promote social equality in interior design. They had a point. Without staff, what working person can, realistically, keep “curated” clutter looking cool (and clean)?