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7 Things to Know About Working With Millennials

Chicago designer Anthony Michael shares his top tips you should know about working with Millennials.   

Alison Martin
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This Millennial loft, designed by Michael, has multiple ‘wow’ factors — the bright rug, the wall decor and the statement sculpture in the corner.

Award-winning Chicago designer Anthony Michael, owner of Anthony Michael Interior Design, says about 20 percent of his clients are Millennials, a sizable and growing portion. Here, Michael shares his insights on what it’s like to work with clients of this generation.

1. Millennials love the "wow" factor. 

One Millennial client bought a bar from Restoration Hardware that looked like an undersea helmet. When the piece arrived, the client had no idea what to do with it. 

This happens often, Michael says. Millennials have a statement piece — a Colonel Sanders portrait or a pinball machine — and they want to incorporate it into their decor.

“My job is to take what they have, to take what their tastes are and clearly define, refine and put it in a setting that makes sense,” he says.

2. They do not want their parents' homes. 

Millennials want nothing to do with their parents’ styles, and in many cases, they’ll go the opposite, Michael observes. If they grew up in a home of neutrals, they want color. If their parents had traditional furniture, they want modern. 

They’re not great about taking care of their furniture. Michael sees a lot of Millennial clients with the disposable-furniture mindset. 

“I think I tend to take a little more of a paternal role as I work with these Millennials in the sense that I’m offering them good advice, sound advice,” he explains. “I’m not trying to change them by any means, but I want them to understand the value of what they’re receiving and also to appreciate and understand that this is an investment. I think there’s a little difficulty there.”

3. Instant gratification is an issue. 

Millennials grew up with Amazon — anything and everything is just two-day-shipping away. With furniture especially, that’s not the case, and a lot of Michael’s Millennial clients don’t understand that.

The owners of the loft gave Michael the freedom to create spaces around their favorite pieces. Note the guitar prominently displayed.

4. Budgets aren't always reasonable.

When setting a budget, Millennials plan for furniture, but they don’t consider electrical work or window treatments. 

No one wants to talk about money in the Midwest (“It’s like it’s taboo,” Michael jokes), but Michael insists on it. When he gets a client with an extensive wishlist and small budget, he explains what the budget can get and where he thinks those dollars would be best spent. In most cases, clients find a way to make up the difference or they roll it out in phases.

“We’re not judging anyone on any level,” he adds. “We share their enthusiasm.” 

5. Believe it or not, Millennials are more willing to listen than baby boomers.

Millennials give Michael more latitude with their spaces.

6. Print publications don't make an impact. 

Most of Michael’s Millennial clients are on Houzz, Pinterest and ElleDecor.com, but they’re not subscribing to shelter magazines.

7. Millennials have gaps in their knowledge. 

Millennials know a lot about home furnishings, but that information isn’t always accurate. Reality home shows set unreasonable expectations for remodeling budgets. Understanding what constitutes as quality furniture is also a challenge, especially when Millennials can see a similar chair at three different price points.

“It makes my job a little more difficult,” Michael says, “because when I’m showing them the $450 chair and they’re seeing the $45 version, this is where I have to give them an education on what they’re really getting for that $45 and what they‘re really getting for $450 and for $4,500.”

As Michael demonstrates, being a source of knowledge for Millennial clients makes him an invaluable resource as a designer.

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