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Grandmillennial chic

Maximal replaces minimal and heirlooms make a comforting comeback

Fashion aficionados know that the design pendulum always swings back to the past to influence the future, and interior design and decor emulate that cycle.

With the proliferation of grandmillennial or “granny chic” home decor on Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok, the design trend has gained significant traction even with millennials and Gen Zers, who are cognizant of the environmental impact of disposable pieces. But don’t be fooled: if the trend makes you think of stuffy, plastic-covered sofas, shag toilet seat covers and overwhelming tchotchkes, that’s a misnomer. As the antithesis of minimalist, Scandi clean lines and neutrals, grandmillennial chic embraces pops of bright colours, bold patterns, maximal florals, including wallpaper, wicker and rattan, chinoiserie, and vintage and heirloom furniture.

“I lost my aunt last summer and inherited a lot of her heirloom pieces,” says Kyla Bidgood, creative director of the award-winning interior design practice, Bidgood, in Victoria. “She was my cool aunt—single her whole life, well-educated, refined and extremely well-travelled. She was my inspiration and muse for this project.”

We are actually sitting in “this project,” entitled Heirlooms, constructed inside the spectacular, newly opened Gabriel Ross on Government Street in Victoria, after a two-year building renovation. The 13,000-square-foot showroom, envisioned in gallery settings over two floors, is an intriguing adventure to walk through. After 30 years in Rock Bay, the downtown location doubles the previous space, sparking new ideas, from furniture, lighting and accessories to coffee table decor and design tomes. Alison Melis, Gabriel Ross partner and CFO, worked with Kyla to bring the Heirlooms living room/dining area vignette to life. It’s an eclectic mix of colourful iconic furniture that elicits memories of the past with a modern twist.

Kyla reframes the concept of grandmillennial chic to embrace emotion and longevity.

“My interpretation revolves around the art of collecting heirloom pieces that are carried with you and potentially passed on, rather than a trend or style for people to emulate,” she explains. “The most interesting homes reflect peoples’ travels and finds, as opposed to a contrived aesthetic. The idea is a physical and progressive reflection of their life and personality. And a big part of that is quality,” she adds. “Gabriel Ross is known for quality and, if a piece is not well made, it’s certainly not going to last.”

Many pieces of the furniture in Heirlooms appear modern yet designed with elements rooted in the past. For example, created by architect Piero Lissoni for Kartell, the Largo modular sofa system anchors Kyla’s vision in quintessentially textured black-and-white houndstooth fabric, an optical illusion popularized in the 1920s and originating in Scottish tartans. Later, it became a classic of 1950s fashion by Christian Dior. And yes, the pattern is based upon the shape of hunting dogs’ teeth!

Oriental art and denim textures create a mesmerizing pattern of orange and blue swirling florals in Moooi’s Rendezvous Tokyo Blue Rug that, upon closer inspection, hides playful macaque monkeys.

If you’re a fan of films from the Golden Age of Hollywood, you’ll remember seeing actresses like Ginger Rogers in their swanky penthouse boudoirs, usually in a fringed pouf in front of their vanity table. Kyla has included two in the living room vignette. Moooi’s Amami Poufs in deep blue velvet have long, sensuous fringes that will conjure your inner grandmillennial chic movie star.

Mother Nature would approve of the gigantic yellow LZF Dandelion pendant light made from wood veneer by German-born designer Burkhard Dämmer, and originally created in 1996. In the dining vignette it’s suspended over a Karakter Castore dining table made of clear glass with a Carrara marble base designed by Italian sculptor Angelo Mangiarotti in 1975.

My own maternal grandmother had a huge impact on me design-wise. I vividly recall (and have inherited) her love of the colour blue and the porcelain Real Old Willow-pattern dishes by Booths. The chinoiserie craze in England during the 18th and 19th centuries influenced the production of the Real Old Willow pattern. It depicts star-crossed Chinese lovers eloping together over a bridge, and the cobalt blue-and-white pattern has become a timeless heirloom classic. I think of my late grandmother with love every time I use the dishes.

Riffing on the resurgence of chinoiserie in grandmillennial chic decor, Kyla has included Moooi’s funky interpretation entitled Blow Away Vase by Royal Blue Delft in the dining area vignette. A porcelain blue and white vase looks exactly like it’s had a run-in with a tremendous gust of wind.

So, I wonder, does one entice millennials and Gen Zers to take an interest in collecting heirlooms, and can they afford to even do so?

“I think they are much more aware of the environment and not to be wasteful and how things might have a second life,” Kyla says. “Vintage is of great interest to the younger generation; the hunt is fun, and because the cost of living is insane, they are being a bit more creative to furnish an apartment.”

“When you look on social media, you’d be surprised at just how sophisticated some young people are when it comes to design,” Gabriel Ross’s Alison adds. So, if grandparents or parents are downsizing, it’s an ideal opportunity to inexpensively start collecting meaningful heirlooms to mix and match with modern pieces.

As the master of maximal shoe design for over 50 years, John Fluevog Shoes has joined forces with Vancouver’s Otto Studio, which produces paper-based removable wallpaper that’s perfect for renters wanting to curate a grandmillennial chic floral vibe.

“We were thrilled to be asked to do a limited-edition wallpaper collab with John Fluevog Shoes,” say co-founders Jen Cook and Hannah Lee of Otto Studio.

The two intrepid entrepreneurs launched their wallpaper company during the COVID-19 pandemic, intentionally targeting DIYers who wanted to bring some joy into their apartments while working from home.

“Fluevogian Florals was originally a mural in John Fluevog Shoes’ New York City store. The mural was torn down when they renovated, so this retro pattern is like a homage to that,” Jen explains.

“We also have florals in a decal pack that are great for kids’ rooms and for covering laptop lids and thermos bottles. It’s definitely a nod to the ‘60s and ‘70s ‘flower power’ era,” adds Hannah.

The sky is the limit when it comes to imaginative wallpaper applications.

“We had a client who used the easy-to-remove wallpaper along the bottom of their kitchen island,” notes Jen.

“Although design movements don’t change according to geographical locations, as designers we do like to tweak design stories for specific client requests,” says Lu Kapp, senior interior designer at Lakehouse Home Interiors in Kelowna. “I’m really loving large print wallpaper applications, oversized florals as well as grass cloth, which creates a fabulous organic feel. And as a more local Okanagan interpretation, I’m often adding gorgeous rattan pieces of furniture that can be grandmillennial chic, but at the same time, add a hint of beachy West Coast cool to my projects.”

Interior design styles may come and go but grandmillennial chic endures because it triggers nostalgia that we all crave in uncertain times. Granny would approve.