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Baby boomer? Gen-X? The design trends each generation wants

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Master-Bath-Carrara-Marble-Surround
Marble bathrooms appeal to baby boomers, experts say. Adobe Stock

Nearly all homeowners want an open floor plan and plenty of natural light. Some other commonalities include the desire for extra storage space and flexible rooms that can be used for a variety of purposes at one time or at different life stages.

Once you get past these essential elements of interior design, you’ll start to see some variations in what people want in their homes based on their age, budget, and lifestyle. Young, single millennials naturally have different priorities than families, Gen-Xers are more likely to be upsizing or upgrading their homes, while baby boomers are more likely to downsize.

Millennials emphasize sustainability and flexibility

“Millennials often live in smaller homes and focus on flexible, multiuse spaces and furnishings,” said Jill Mastrostefano, creative director of P Four, an interior design and marketing firm in Alexandria, Va., during a panel discussion by interior design experts at the International Builders Show in January. 

For example, an island in the kitchen with a pull-out section for work or dining can be a great option in place of a dining table, said Mastrostefano. A narrow table for working at home with books or art above works well in a hallway to maximize space and personalize the home, she said. 

“If we’re looking at a small but open kitchen, a built-in banquette can make a statement and, since it’s pushed against the wall, make the space feel even more open,” said Mastrostefano.

Millennials also appreciate artisanal objects and emphasize sustainability, which can be introduced into the home with exposed beams, vintage or found items, and unique pieces such as a door repurposed as a headboard, said Mastrostefano.

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A window seat serves as banquette seating, a space saver, in this small kitchen. —Adobe Stock

Families of all ages and sizes

“Today’s families are more likely to be smaller than in the past and include single parents, older parents, and ethnically mixed families,” said Doris Pearlman, president of Possibilities for Design in Denver, speaking at the panel discussion. “Their priorities are indoor-outdoor living, energy-efficiency, smart home features, and flex spaces such as a great room where everyone can work, play, and do homework or a hobby room for all kinds of activities.”

New families typically need more space than millennials, but are also budget-conscious, so Pearlman said they’re more likely to choose luxury vinyl plank flooring instead of carpet, shiplap walls that are both inexpensive and authentic looking, and subway tile backsplashes.

“A flexible-use home office, not one with a big executive desk, is important for families because they want a contained space for work, homework, and hobbies with comfortable seating,” said Mastrostefano. “Another option is a second-floor loft with tables and seats for the same purpose.”

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Subway tile backspashes are highly sought after. —Adobe Stock

Gen-Xers looking for customization

Gen-Xers who are 40 to 55 and financially secure tend to be interested in luxury and high-end materials, said Kate Pourhassanian, chief operating officer of HRI Design in Denver, speaking at the panel discussion.

“For example, they want a showcase kitchen with an even bigger island, high quality appliances, and sometimes two islands,” said Pourhassanian.  They’re more likely to have a catering kitchen in addition to the showcase kitchen and to display their wine collection like art in a dining room or great room.”

The master bathroom is another opportunity for a statement space, with a freestanding tub or a “wet room” that incorporates a freestanding tub and multiple showerheads in a glass-enclosed area.

“Gen-Xers often want to express themselves with a highly personalized space such as an app-focused relaxation space or a room for a Peloton exercise bike,” said Pourhassanian. “They’re also redefining the home office into a more relaxed setting where they can comfortably work on a laptop. About 70 percent of Gen-Xers work remotely at least one day a week, so this is an important space in the home.” 

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One feature of a showcase kitchen could be two islands. —Adobe Stock

Boomers ready to party informally

While many baby boomers are ready to downsize their space, they prioritize casual entertaining indoors and outside, said Pearlman.

“The prime goal is an informal home with the kitchen, dining area, and outdoor space connected for easy gatherings,” said Pearlman. “A popular option is a big island in the kitchen with lots of storage and a lower table attached to the island. They want comfortable seating in the kitchen rather than traditional bar stools.”

The formal living room is more likely to become a casual happy hour space or a study with comfortable chairs and a table for multiple purposes.

“Even if they’ve in a downsized, this age group wants some luxury, so you’re likely to see a ‘marble everything’ bathroom even if it’s small,” said Pearlman. 

While some of these trends are more aspirational than achievable for many homeowners, they demonstrate the changing priorities at different life stages. 

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Casual spaces connected with outdoor spaces appeal to baby boomers. —Adobe Stock

Michele Lerner can be reached at mvlerner@comcast.net. Subscribe to the Globe’s free real estate newsletter — our weekly digest on buying, selling, and design — at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @globehomes.