If you've spent some time on interior design TikTok and Instagram lately, you may have noticed a curious new (or at least resurfaced) school of thought on your 'For You' and 'Discover' pages. Nestled among the Amazon product hacks, renovation journeys, and hauls from the best home decor brands are creators documenting their choice to 'de-modernize' their home, a practice that seems to typically involve returning a contemporary home to its old-school roots.
In one now-viral video with over 5 million views and 700K likes, for example, user Rachel Parker, @rrachelp, is seen replacing a light fixture in her new kitchen with an antique-looking vintage piece she purchased from an estate sale. 'This is what I want to see. Gone with the neutrals and sad beige,' one user commented. 'More demodernizing yes,' said another.
In another viral video, user Charlotte Violet, @happyenchantedhome, shows the behind-the-scenes of de-modernizing and restoring her 1882 Victorian home, which involves stripping away paint to reveal the structure's natural wood and restoring modern hardware with more vintage-looking pieces, among other swaps.
It seems that much of the emerging trend stems from the abandonment of the so-called 'sad beige' aesthetic, or the neutral-toned and muted design style that's risen in popularity among millennials in recent years (the moniker itself is more of a joke among the trend's detractors than its subscribers). Unlike 'sad beige,' the ethos of de-modernization is rooted in buying secondhand and thrifted pieces, as well as building 'interiors that speak to the personality of the homeowner or renter,' Insider summarized, per a conversation with Rachel, the creator who installed the secondhand light fixture in the first video.
It also seems to often boil down to the differences between Millennial and Gen Z decor tendencies — Millennials traditionally prefer minimalism, clean lines, and anything mid-century modern, while Gen Z loves maximalism, personality, and sustainability.
'For me, de-modernization means making my home stand out while standing the test of time,' said Lauren Kupfer, another content creator documenting her journey to de-modernize her modern farmhouse online. 'Moving away from the trendy, high contrast, bright white ‘farmhouse’ style aesthetic and instead gravitating towards a homey, cozy, layered palette with familiar textures, colors, and overall feel.'
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'Prior to our current home, part of what we loved about living in early 20th-century character homes was the unique elements and one-of-a-kind details that made those homes unique,' she continued. 'I want to show my followers that we can bring those elements into a new build and preserve the overall character of ‘home’ even when starting with a blank slate.'
For example, when Lauren went to work on her daughter's bedroom, 'just bringing color' in the mix 'completely transformed her space and made it feel so much warmer and more comfortable,' she told me. 'Every week we will be going through a new element of this change, and little by little converting her room into a space that truly reflects her — with little details and elements that are unique to her.'
As for the most difficult part of the process so far, well, Lauren seems far less worried about the scale of the project or the overall design work as she is about pacing herself. 'I see pieces on Facebook Marketplace or at the thrift store and want to buy [everything] – even for rooms we aren’t yet working on,' she said. 'I want to make sure we are being intentional in our decisions and the changes that we are making, and am forcing myself to scale back and take my time.'
So what do you think? Is de-modernization in your future? Though the trend itself is meant to focus on secondhand and vintage pieces rather than new buys, I've taken the liberty of rounding up a few fixtures (some handmade or thrifted!) I think would fit nicely with the look — and would surely add some character back into your space.
The demodernization edit
Price: From $24.65
This print designed to look like an oil painting evokes the same vibe as an old art piece found at an estate sale or flea market —pre-loved, full of stories, and perfect for above the mantle.
This scalloped tole tray is actually an antique, featuring a hand-painted gold floral motif. Place this on a coffee table and accessorize for a lovely vintage tablescape.
Since de-modernizing is about moving away from that 'sad beige' color palette, this red wooden side table — natural yet unique and different — is the perfect way to spice things up.
Somehow, this end table from Wayfair looks as though it were a family heirloom, passed down through generations. It's a piece that's full of character.
Price: From $114
I really am in love with flush mounts that have this art deco feel. They say and add so much with such a simple design.
Put on your thrifting hat when buying this Tiffany-style pendant, featuring a floral motif comprised of whites, reds, purples, oranges, and greens.
The "X" wood grain pattern is the real star here — it feels antique and custom-made, despite this being a piece from Burke Decor. But the navy coloring is also a real draw, since we're not afraid of the rainbow in this edit.
This feels a bit more modern than some of the other pieces here, but I still think its grounded in the de-modernization movement. Its traditional and classic, with just a bit of flair that differentiates it from the pack.
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Brigid Kennedy is a style editor at Livingetc.com, where she is responsible for obsessively combing the internet for the best and most stylish deals on home decor and more. She was previously a story editor at TheWeek.com, where she covered both U.S. politics and culture. She describes her design style as colorful and clean, and in her free time enjoys reading, watching movies, and curating impossibly niche playlists on Spotify. She lives in New York.
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