There is an entire generation for whom the word home, has become an increasingly abstract term. And not in the way that inspirational quotes on wooden boards at cheap homeware stores would have you believe. Home may be where the heart is, but is the importance of home as an extension of identity an ageing concept? 

Riffing on the semantics of home is a privileged conversation to a have, when the likelihood of many young Australians ever being able to purchase a dwelling of their own is slim to none. Let alone having the gall to philosophise about its spiritual importance. 

Now, this is not to diminish the significance of having ones own space, but it is important to highlight that the concept of home looks very different to a demographic whose future is a perpetual 12-month lease. An inherited sentiment that may still ring true, is that it is not the bricks and mortar that define a home, but who and how the space is filled. This has never been more pertinent, as Generation Z has become the generation of necessary detachability. 

Here we have a generation that can’t afford to purchase a house, but have just spent two years forcibly trapped in someone else’s investment property. Not only that, but the forcible lockdown has been followed by the rollout of working from home as a new social norm. As a result, we are spending more time than ever in our dwellings. 

Our spaces are more than just a place for survival, they are extensions of the individual. A person’s home speaks volumes about who they are, regardless of whether their name is on the title deed or not. Generation Z are bombarded with a sentiment that they are a materialist generation, but it is likely that a collection of material goods are all they’ll ever be able to own. Homewares and furnishings are the strongest tool in customising a space that, for all intents and purposes, they aren’t the owners of.

Whereas Millennials are still clinging onto the ambition of home ownership, Gen-Z are slightly more realistic and therefore accepting of longterm renting. In an age shaped by identity politics, where those in their twenties are hamstrung by the previous generation’s entwining of identity and home. They have Inherited an ideology that ones home is a strong reflection of who they are. Yet, have been presented with an economy that has closed the door to this “dream”. 

So, with that ideal out of reach, what are they left with but material possessions?

To analogise. When wanting to express their personality in the garden, why would these perpetual renters plant rows of beautiful flowers in their landlords garden, only for them to remain there once they themselves have left?
Instead, they plant in pots. Pots that can be uprooted and transported to the next place of residence.

Two competing, yet coalescent ideas, present themselves as a consequence of the constant upheaval. Furnishings and homewares are what our identity is tied to within the spaces we live, but we are also more inclined to change them as we move from place to place. Leading to a notion of detachable space. Sense of self and personality can detach from a dwelling and be transplanted to another, because the spirit of the furnishings remain the same. Whilst at same time, the constant movement prompts the constant evaluation of belongings. Resulting in a higher likelihood of replacing furnishings if they are no longer an accurate representation of the occupant’s identity.

That addresses the why. Now, to turn to how Generation Z are using homewares to express identity.
It is not the case, that they are a generation without vision. Nor without a capability to attain affects. Instead, the challenge lies in imagining both how these furnishings fit in their current space, and how easily they can be transported to the next. 

Currently there is a greater overall value being placed on design, specifically interior design. Whether that is because a piece holds significance due aesthetic appeal, or it is connected to certain memories. It is our belongings that make our spaces feel like home, rather than the brick and mortar they reside in. To this point, more thought and purpose is being put into selecting how we furnish our temporary dwellings. From futons to forks, there is an ability to use shared knowledge to inform all of these decisions.

With the onset of visual-forward social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok, as well as an ease in overall knowledge access, design literacy is at an all time high. This exposure paired with globalisation, means that geography is no longer a boundary to design. Japanese, American and Scandinavian designers are now no longer half a world away. Traditional media too, plays an important role in providing knowledge and exposure to broader design language. Whether that be in set design in film and television, or documentaries about architecture and interiors.

Pre-existing circumstances have created a generation that uses materialism in the form of furnishings, to emulate the expression of identity that past generation’s have placed great value on. There must be an attitudinal shift. Moving away from the dismissive nature in which aesthetic driven design within the home is viewed, because for many people now and in the future, their “home” will not be the four walls they’re surrounded by. It will be their chair, rug and prints hung on the wall. All of which can be neatly packed into the back of a moving van and unloaded into their new place in 12 months time.

George Davies

Well-Dressed Background Noise

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