'Urban Aunt' is the latest interior trend to take over our social media feeds, and like the other viral trends that personify a look, (think Coastal Grandma, or my personal favorite for 2023, Tomato Girl), it's not just an interior design fad, it's a whole lifestyle. We love the interior design trend - it's maximalist, eccentric, and celebrates texture, and decor, all the while championing the idea of the home as a space for entertaining.
But what exactly is it and where has it come from? 'This Urban Aunt Aesthetic is everything!' says Tamara Honey of House of Honey. 'House of Honey loves the eclectic and electric and has been designing in this vein from our start. We think the key to this aesthetic is vibe - it's all about sumptuous layers that land in the sweet spot between chic and cozy and result in an intentional, artfully collected home that is elevated, approachable, and always smart.'
We speak to the interior designers who specialize in Urban Aunt aesthetic to get to the bottom of this exciting viral sensation. In doing so, we hope to give you an idea of how you can invite the Urban Aunt look into your own home.
What does the Urban Aunt trend look like?
Let's imagine the Urban Aunt's house to help visualize the look. Firstly, it might not be a house, and if we're thinking urban, we're imagining this aunt living in a downtown loft or apartment. With exposed brickwork walls, hardware floors layered with rugs, and dark-colored beams across the ceiling, your Urban Aunt's home embraces the history and heritage of the building. It's highly decorated too, and filled with trinkets from a life well lived. 'Urban Aunt always has one unique piece that she found, and she has a hilarious story about how she acquired it,' says designer Jennifer Morris.
There is a huge focus on using the home for hosting. Its open-plan layout keeps things open and airy, but your Urban Aunt creates cozy pockets and corners geared toward intimate conversation. Your average Urban Aunt is ready to entertain at all times. From sofas that welcome guests to relax in your home, to the dining and tablescaping essentials, your Urban Aunt has impeccable hosting skills.
She likely has a home bar too. A wet bar is the more luxe option but involves getting the plumbers in, but a token bar cart gives the same vibe. It's immaculately accessorized, complete with tasteful coupes, antique-style drink bottles, and a stylish cocktail mixer.
'The name is giving an upper east side cool aunt you wish you were related to, vibes,' summarize Amanda Leigh and Taylor Hahn of House of Rolison. 'More windows, more skylights, more indoor outdoor. Natural lighting is an easy way to brighten up your space and bring the outdoors in.
'Add personality to your space with a thought-provoking light fixture. We love a conversation piece. Every room needs a statement maker that infuses the space with drama and charm - two key components of the urban aunt aesthetic. Mixing materials, particularly in a bathroom. Pick a few tiles and vary them together. It’s a great way to achieve custom curated, high-end vibes and interesting textures.'
'We love mixing vintage with contemporary for everything - furniture and lighting, which brings us to the next element,' says Tamara Honey of House of Honey. 'We think sculpture that functions as lighting fits this aesthetic well.
'Think vintage Murano glass chandeliers, and pendants that riff on jewelry. They add their exaggerated charm and good looks to a space while creating the perfect ambiance and highlight for the host and all her guests at their best angles.'
How to get the Urban Aunt look
Decor is a crucial pillar in the Urban Aunt aesthetic. Use any spare surfaces to display your decor and take care to avoid the matchy-matchy look. Coffee table books are a must, so keep them on rotation to make sure all your collected books get a moment in the spotlight.
John Ike, partner at architectural firm, Ike Baker Velten highlights the importance of fusing the historic with modern decor for that boho living room look. 'I’m a fan of mixing modern and traditional furniture and objects to create an eclectic space that is geared more towards sponsoring conversation than relaxation,' he says. 'Urban Aunt embraces this diversified aesthetic, layering larger pieces of furniture with objects such as books to personalize a room and add interest.'
Artem Kropovinsky of Arsight, an interior design studio based in New York, agrees: 'Blending vintage and modern decor is key,' he says. 'This fusion gives a touch of character, reflecting past and present meeting.' We suggest broadening your shopping horizons to do this effectively. Consider weekends spent at flea markets, browsing vintage websites and thrift stores to scour for one-off goodies. Keep your eyes peeled for ways to incorporate different textures too. Texture is big for the Urban Aunt look, so go for high-pile, fluffy rugs and layers of cushions and throws. 'Think luxurious fabrics alongside rustic materials,' says Artem. 'This produces a complex texture.'
Finally, consider lighting. Your aunt doesn't believe in keeping the big light on and prefers to layer the space with pockets of light around the room and well-lit corners. 'Statement lighting is a must,' says Artem. 'It adds drama and sophistication.'
What is the Urban Aunt color palette?
As with all trends, the Urban Aunt look has a very specific color palette, using colors that make a house look expensive. 'The Urban Aunt look is an interesting mix between sophisticated and playful,' says Artem. 'So consider vibrant colors against soft tones for a bright yet comforting ambiance.'
The ultimate Urban Aunt loft has plenty of exposed brickwork and timbers on show, so colors that work with those natural materials will create a harmonious finish. Mix these natural finishes with jewel tones like deep purples, dark greens, and chocolate browns.
Pattern also drives color, and mixing patterns in unconventional ways is another major element of the Urban Aunt look. Think Persian-style rug with a deckchair stripe accent chair. Get brave with your patterns too and make sure not to shy away from those bold prints - see House of Hackney for inspiration.
3 buys to give your home an Urban Aunt makeover
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Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.
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