Home & Style

Millennial Maximalism, the Design Trend That Explains Why So Many Younger People’s Homes Are Starting to Look Like Your Grandma’s Groovy 1970s Living Room

Meet the new look favored by twenty- and thirtysomethings.

Photograph courtesy of Libby Rasmussen

If you’ve grabbed a cup of coffee or a salad in, oh, the past decade, you’ve likely noticed that public spaces geared toward the professional millennial crowd tend to look exactly the same: sparse white walls, minimalist wooden furniture, perhaps some neutral-hued subway tile. The Scandinavian-chic vibe has dominated in the homes of twenty- and thirtysomethings, too—just open Instagram and count the knockoff Eames shell chairs in your feed.

But after years of this pared-back aesthetic, a shift is afoot. Some in the design world are calling it “grandmillennial” or “cottagecore”—references to the shelves stuffed with houseplants, rich velvet textiles, macramé wall hangings, mismatched vintage furnishings, and other decor showing up in millennial abodes that looks straight out of your nana’s groovy 1975 living room. Here, we talk to some Washingtonians who have fully embraced this new wave of maximalism.

Photographs by Mary Sarah Ivers

The home: A one-bedroom apartment in Columbia Heights

Who lives there: Sally DeNapoli, 32; her husband, John, 32; and their rescue dog, Cleo

On her style: “Eclectic-but-collected, nostalgic, and bohemian. Definitely not minimalist. I always feel most inspired when I’m traveling and spending time in beautiful spaces.”

Favorite DIY: “I recently repainted a vintage vanity from Craigslist and created a little workspace corner for myself in our bedroom. Another project on my to-do list is framing some horseshoe crabs I collected on the beach in Cape Cod.”

Photographs courtesy of Alexandra Angel

The home: A four-bedroom Colonial in Chevy Chase DC

Who lives there: Alexandra Angel, 38; her husband, Jordan, 39; their three daughters; and their Rottweiler mix, Fran

On her style: “My family is WASPy—the chintz on almost everything, use of strong colors, oil paintings, and silver frames have made an impact on my definition of home. But living on the West Coast has shaped it, too. So I have maybe a fusion style, East Coast vintage meets West Coast midcentury.”

Favorite room: “The kids’ rooms. You can get as funky and whimsical as you want, and the further you push, the more your children will enjoy it.”


Photographs courtesy of AJ Dronkers

The home: A two-bedroom-plus-den apartment in Lanier Heights

Who lives there: AJ Dronkers, 34, and his boyfriend, Brandon VanDriesen, 29

On his style: “I did the modern thing, but [then] it felt austere and uninviting. Moving into an older building inspired the marriage of those sleek pieces with parquet floors and molding magic. This sent us down the journey of buying vintage, [going to] antique auctions, and hunting for charm to meld with more modern pieces.”

Favorite piece of decor: “The vintage cocktail stirrers from my great-grandmother that I had framed above the bar. I was lucky enough to know her until I was 12. She traveled all over, singing on a piano, and collected the stirrers from famous Las Vegas hotels and defunct airlines.”

Photographs courtesy of Libby Rasmussen

The home: A one-bedroom apartment in a historic Mount Pleasant house

Who lives there: Libby Rasmussen, 30

On her style: “Expressive, maximalist, colorful, collector of treasures and oddities. There’s not much rhyme or reason. It’s mostly a combination of all the things I love, put together in a way that works for me but I’m sure some would say is too much.”

Favorite piece of decor: “My colorful Depression-glass collection. [It] started from a few items from my grandparents. I’ve been collecting for a few years now and am excited to see it grow with each new treasure.”

Photographs by Mary Sarah Ivers and Nicole Laemers

The home: A two-bedroom Colonial in Hyattsville

Who lives there: Nicole Laemers, 32; her husband, Will, 32; their cockapoo, Ramona; and their cat, Gemi

On her style: “I’m a maximalist to my core, and my style is ever-changing. You could stop by on Wednesday and I will probably have rearranged my entire living room since your last visit on Sunday.”

Favorite piece of decor: “The ’60s rattan mirror hanging over our couch, which I found at Miss Pixie’s. It’s the only piece in our house that hasn’t moved since the day I put it up, because it’s absolutely perfect where it is.”

Mimi Montgomery Washingtonian
Home & Features Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She’s written for The Washington Post, Garden & Gun, Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Del Ray.