Compared with previous generations, buying a house is a dream that likely won't come true for many Millennials. Why? Because for many it’s too expensive to get on the property ladder. But some people are getting a little more creative with what they’re calling 'home' and turning to DIY and fixer-uppers to make their hard earned cash stretch further. Below are some of the alternative, less conventional homes which come with a lifestyle of DIY decor and restoration, and are growing in demand - with a flurry of social media accounts documenting their home-transformation journeys along the way.
One solution is taking to the waterways. Narrowboats were originally used as working boats during the Industrial Revolution, but they’ve seen new interest among young urbanites looking for a budget-friendly, minimalist lifestyle with canal boat ownership among British Millennials growing. Choosing to live a little smaller, makes room for greater freedom to travel. Once you own a boat the cost of mooring is a fraction of rent in the big smoke - an annual mooring licence for London’s canal network is around £1,000 (~$1,170) for the majority of narrowboat owners (as long as you’re happy with moving around every couple of weeks). Whether staying longer term for the slower pace of life or using it as a temporary solution whilst saving for property on land, many have poured their creativity into buying and renovating old boats - with Pinterest boards, social media accounts and Netflix shows providing no shortage of restoration inspiration. With a bit of ingenuity, the floating DIYers have come up with ways of maximising space - making use of space under the bed and taking advantage of dual-purpose furniture.
For those of you that don't fancy life on the water, the van-life lifestyle has a nomadic fanbase of its own. Similarly, they're people who don’t want to be tied to a single location and can also save a huge amount of money whilst travelling on a budget (yes - even with the petrol prices). These vans are anything but average though, you’ll find them decked out with solar panels, water tanks, wifi and all the home comforts you could need. Home decor enthusiasts have also made sure they’re not just functional but also have a bit of personality and a homely feel. With 13.5 million posts on Instagram under the hashtag #vanlife and DIY campervan ideas taking over Pinterest, van living has a strong and growing following. It’s not uncommon to see vans gutted and completely renovated from the ground up - installing furniture, tiling, rain showers and topped off with hanging plants, and bohemian decorations.
Historic homes are becoming more popular among Millennials who are looking for a more affordable fixer upper. Some of these are going for cheap (around $100,000/£85,000) but require extensive renovations. Typically these older houses are found outside of the cities in smaller towns and villages but with the shift to remote work, and many looking for a larger space without the cost - they’re becoming a viable alternative and even attractive option.
DIY restoration may have started as a pandemic hobby and a fun, adventurous project, but it has gained new heights with social media. DIY accounts are booming not only as a way of saving money but as a kick-back response to mass market furniture. Young homeowners building their dream home are after a more personal and individual aesthetic as well as a more sustainable approach - buying second hand, restoring antiques, hunting down treasures at the flea markets and charity shops or nabbing some of granny's fine china.
We’re ditching the mass-market for a bit of DIY and the spaces we call home are no exception. There are several drivers behind the buy and renovate movement, a big one being cost with the soaring prices of the housing market which incomes can’t keep up with. Other influences are down to a shift in lifestyle habits, more are continuing to remote work after Lockdown and many are living a more sustainable lifestyle, opting for buying secondhand and pre-owned over brand new. And of course, you have social media - the accounts documenting their lifestyle and home renovation journeys as well as the resellers who are selling secondhand decor and furniture off the back of Instagram and Tiktok shop.
Whatever the reason, there’s something a little more charming and meaningful about putting your own handiwork into building your dream home.