Millennials Are Finally Buying Houses... And Making Them Ugly

What’s up with all these hideous renovations?
Katie Way
Brooklyn, US
Person in construction gear removes drywall
Construction Photography/Avalon via Getty Images

There’s a war raging all around us, and the battlefield is recently renovated houses. On one side are the excited, young homeowners, eager to transform the fixer-up they bought into their dream home. On the other side, there’s… pretty much everyone else, furious and horrified at the sight of the original hardwood replaced with slate-colored vinyl flooring, or vintage bath fixtures ripped out and modernized into a vision in chrome and off-white marble. 


TikTok is rife with people posting their renovation before-and-afters, and unless the house is literally falling apart in the “before” portion, each video is met by an inevitable stream of comments about how much better it used to look.

For the record, I agree with the haters—the HGTV-ification of homes across the U.S. is ugly as hell. These renovations strip down the quirks of a house built decades ago, replacing warm wood tones, funky wallpaper, and brick exteriors with nouveau-McMansion chic: shades of beige and gray, brushed silver fixtures, a “clean,” monotonous look. Plus, everyone who redoes their bathroom adds the style of toilet where you have to push a button on top to flush, which I despise. Couple that with the fact that new consumer goods, housing materials included, are often demonstrably lower quality these days, and you have a recipe for schadenfreude. Not only is it hideous, but it’s going to age like a fine carton of milk! 

The renovation backlash smacks of more than just a universal passion for interior design, though. A little under half—48.6 percent—of millennials own a home in the U.S., and I couldn’t even find information on Gen Z homeownership, so it feels safe to say that a lot of the people shitting on renovation content have never actually done a renovation themselves, myself included. On a personal level, watching someone my age renovate a house makes me feel envious. When the renovation sucks ass, that envy tips into a twinge of self-righteous anger—not enough to make me hound a woman into oblivion for putting a wine cellar under her stairs, but enough to get me to watch three to five TikToks telling her she fucked up. 

In defense of these renovations, though, we obviously know less about the property transformations we see on TikTok than the people who post them. Maybe that adorable seashell sink’s drain clogged every other day; maybe mildew made the wallpaper smell like old socks! And, you know, the choice to go with cookie-cutter interior design could also come from the same place that keeps us from living in these vintage homes we’re so crazy about: Money is tight. Mass-produced is cheap. Do I think I could do better on a budget if I had the chance? For sure. But how would I even find out?

Mortgage rates are trending upward and inflation looms, which means the prospect of homeownership for anyone my age (without a six-figure dose of help from Mom and Dad) feels less and less possible for the foreseeable future. Until something about that changes, I guess we’ll all have to content ourselves with being mean about other people’s homes instead.