A picket fence, a backyard, or even just a patch of front lawn: For millennials, these emblems of adulthood have largely lost their allure—or, at least, their relative attainability. We might have a hard time buying any kind of property, much less that fantasy home, thanks to an increasingly tough housing market, but there is one consolation. We can buy a nice sofa.
This might sound dismal (that, admittedly, is the word used to describe the prospect of homeownership for our debt-riddled generation), but really, it’s just a different way of looking at things. Instead of a dream home, we’ve chosen to pour our resources into making the living space we do have feel a little more special. And there may be no easier way to do that than buying a velvet couch.
Article, the direct-to-consumer furniture seller largely known for its mid-century–inspired options, was one of the first vendors to offer one. Its Sven sofa, launched in 2013, has practically become a punch line because of how popular it is among city-dwelling millennials who, more likely than not, have a creative streak. It’s available in a few velvet colorways, though the retailer says that the most chosen shades are blue and green. The latter, notes Zoe Garred, Article’s director of product development, is frequently styled with another hallmark of millennial interior design: houseplants.
“When we first introduced the Sven, that mid-century–modern feeling was becoming very popular. We’ve seen it really evolve from there,” she says. “Now we’re seeing a ‘70s kind of feeling.” Earth tones, like burnt siennas and oranges, are gaining a bigger following.
While all velvet sofas might have the same feel, that’s not the case for their silhouettes. “The material can cross so many aesthetic styles—retro, traditional, masculine, bohemian—and now we’re seeing more curved velvet upholstery reminiscent of ’80s glam,” says Christina Higham, who designs interiors for millennial-focused room-share company Sonder. “It also lends itself well to both maximalist and minimalist sensibilities—you could imagine a super-tailored velvet sofa with more minimal, neutral furnishings, or a patterned velvet piece that packs a punch à la Kelly Wearstler.” As Garred simply puts it, it’s a chameleon.
Blogger Arianna Danielson, who has had her chartreuse sofa from Interior Define for just over a year, was looking for something a bit different when she decided to buy the piece. “I loved the vibrant color and the texture that velvet adds,” she says. “I’m definitely a little extra, and that’s why velvet and I get along so well.”
Photographer Arielle Vey chose her Article sofa about two years ago. “I love the simplicity mixed with the bold color,” she says. “Even though it is blue, I’ve been surprised at how easy it is to pair decor with it.”
Most important for a generation that eschews the stuffy sofa covers they might have found in their grandparents’ homes, velvet sofas may look finicky and dramatic, but they’re also soft and surprisingly easy to clean; just vacuum and treat stains as needed. After all, we want our purchase to last for the long haul, even if our aesthetic does shift from mid-century to bohemian to ’80s glam.
When you can express your style in a way that doubles up on comfort and versatility, evokes nature but also give in to your more luxurious side, and acts as a central hub for gathering with friends and family—or just taking a bit of R&R for yourself—you’ve found the key to creating a dream home you can take with you. And that’s the velvet touch.