As we all know by now, trends are cyclical—the phrase ‘everything old is new again’ is an ubiquitous refrain across cultures and over time. But that doesn’t make it any easier to reconcile the fact that Y2K decor is currently taking over TikTok as a so-called vintage aesthetic. At the time of this posting, the hashtag has more than 8 million views, with videos of people (often teens) flashing their bedrooms adorned in smiley faces, pastel tie-dye, lava lamps, and a whole lot of neon.
So, we turned on *NSYNC and turned to the professionals to ask: but why? And if you want to incorporate elements of the Y2K aesthetic, how?
Meet the Expert
- James Waylett is the head of marketing at sheepskin home accessories brand Jacobs & Dalton.
- Amy Donato is a senior marketing manager at paint brand Glidden.
- Drew Scott is a home decor DIY blogger and founder of Lone Fox Home.
- Teri Simone is the chief kitchen designer for Nieu Cabinet Doors, a DIY cabinet refacing resource.
- Courtney Stables is a marketing and PR specialist at Custom Neon, a neon art service.
It’s All About the Nostalgia
“The resurgence of Y2K interior trends is rooted in nostalgia,” says James Waylett of Jacobs & Dalton. But even if it’s a look back at our recent past, fans today are putting a new spin on things.
“The new Gen Z take on the Y2K trend has been transformed,” Waylett says. “It’s an effortless blend of nostalgic mementos and late ’90s staples, alongside a more up-to-date version of the bubblegum era.”
Amy Donato, senior marketing manager at Glidden, agrees. “Similar to today, the year 2000 was focused on the unknown, as many were uncertain what the new millennium would bring,” she says. “Like two decades ago, we are back to craving rebellion in the form of bright and fun elements to help brighten up our spaces after the previous year’s challenges and uncertainty. Many DIYers and homeowners are shifting away from the stark, neutral palettes of yesterday and opting for color, color, and more color—much like was the trend in the early 2000s.”
Start in the Bedroom
Given that this aesthetic is taking over TikTok, it makes sense that it’s rooted in teens updating their own bedrooms, says Drew Scott of Lone Fox Home.
“When I think of the Y2K interior aesthetic, I think of the typical 2000s teenage bedroom: lava lamps, beaded curtains, statement rugs, and pops of pastel/neon colors,” he says. “Maximalist goes hand in hand with Y2K: gallery walls, squiggly mirrors, inflatable chairs, and basically anything that gives off the early 2000s nostalgia. Think Lizzie McGuire meets Paris Hilton!”
Ease Into a New Look
“This is far from [my personal aesthetic],” says Scott—but even if that's the case, that doesn’t mean you have to skip it entirely. “I do, however, love to DIY and recreate some of the trendy Y2K elements and make them fit my current design vibe.”
Scott advises starting with accent pieces. “Including a few standout statement pieces throughout your home versus every trend is an easy way to follow the vibe without it feeling like a trend overload,” he says. “In [a recent project], I included a few Y2K elements but still kept the room feeling elevated. I DIY tiled nightstands from IKEA, a foam mirror, and included a collage of disposable camera pictures on her dresser.”
Just DIY It
If you’re also all for DIY, Scott has a few tips for tackling Y2K-inspired projects. “Think pastel hues and bold prints when DIYing … I purchased resin and coaster molds from Amazon and created [some] really cool, gold/dried floral resin coasters,” he says. “I also took basic taper candles and, using hot water, molded them into wavy candle sculptures.”
“When it comes to Y2K, go big or go home is the motto, and TikTok has some great DIY tutorials in achieving the Y2K look in an affordable way,” Scott says.
Blend It With Boho Style
“Gen Z is far more thoughtful and responsible in their consumption than generations before, so we’re seeing more natural and bohemian elements incorporated into interiors now,” says Waylett.
“This trend cycle means we’re seeing a more romanticized version of Y2k today—think natural, comfortable fabrics, dreamy motifs such as butterflies and hearts making their way amongst hanging plants and beaded curtains, and, of course, the classic shades of pink—whether bright and bold or pastel and muted,” he says.
Spice up Your Kitchen, Too
While the softer elements of Y2K decor make it a great aesthetic for living rooms and bedrooms, Teri Simone, the chief kitchen designer for Nieu Cabinet Doors, says there’s no need to shy away from incorporating it into your kitchen.
“Bold colors in kitchens have been finding their place in 2021 and will continue into 2022,” says Simone. “Dramatic backsplash, whether marble or a funky pattern, paired with mixed metals and bold hardware dress up the space and bring the maximalist look to a new level. Texture upon texture is in, and it's gorgeous—with layering faux brick finishes, wood tones, backsplash tile and/or marble sometimes all within the same space. The key to this look working is having just the right amount of tension within the layers, without feeling cluttered or haphazard.”
Dare to Go Bold
Courtney Stables of Custom Neon notes that, along with this aesthetic, neon is absolutely back. “Neon was also huge back in the late 90s and early 2000s as people introduced it into their homes,” she says. “[Neon wall art] is the perfect piece of retro decor that would look awesome in any Y2K-inspired space.”
Paint With All the Colors
If you’re eager to incorporate this style, Donato tells us that color is key. “The early 2000s were all about vibrant and energetic colors. Our 2022 Glidden Color of the Year, Guacamole, is the perfect shade of green to get the Y2K aesthetic while also capitalizing on the green trend we’re seeing going into 2022,” she says. “To make all your Lisa Frank–inspired dreams come true, consider a girly purple like Glidden’s Wild Lilac or a punchy pink like Mountain Laurel, a la Lola from Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen.”
But beware! When it comes to painting with shades of the early aughts, it is possible to go too far. “Consider using a bright Y2K-inspired hue on a single wall, behind shelving, or on a piece of furniture for a bright pop of new millennium color,” Donato suggests. “Pair these small doses of color with Y2K decor, like a squiggly mirror or printed throw pillows. [Or], for a modern play on the fuzzy furniture of the early 2000s, opt for textured boucle furniture.”
Whether you lived through the Y2K era the first time around or you’re just dipping your toe in during its resurgence, one thing is true—it’s an aesthetic that’s made to look lighthearted, fun, and playful, so don’t take your design plan too seriously.