Earlier this month, Emma Ganzarain posted a TikTok that instantly made her the Internet’s latest villain. To read the comments you would have thought she had killed a puppy; one of the tamer ones reads, “This is heartbreaking.” Ganzarain’s actual crime? Decorating the flat she shares with her boyfriend – banishing his multi-coloured sofas and vintage knick-knacks in favor of a minimalist aesthetic known to its online detractors as ‘sad Millennial grey’. Recently popularized by the Kardashians—think the unadorned off-white halls of Kim’s Calabasas mansion, described as a “futuristic Belgian monastery” by Architectural Digest—the aesthetic has offended younger generations because of its perceived sterility and resemblance to unlivable IKEA screens.
Ganzarain isn’t too bothered by the internet’s opinions. “Imagine saying all those things over someone else’s house. It’s just kind of funny, actually,” she told GQ. She and her boyfriend — who is 29, and asked that this story not include his name — had been living together in a year and a half when they decided to redecorate their first place together. It was a change he initiated and one he says he’s happy with. From Oslo, Norway, the 26-year-old at the center of this minor controversy gave net us insight into her home decor inspirations, aesthetic gap relationships, and what became of the red light that people keep messaging her about.
What would you say is your aesthetic versus your boyfriend’s?
I like it really clean and natural, and he likes the same, but when he was decorating his own apartment, he got a lot of his furniture from different family members. He likes my style and he likes it more colorful too. He doesn’t care that much to be honest. So I think that was the most taken out of context. Everyone thinks he drew the whole apartment and I changed it all.
Did you keep all the other items that he kept from his family that people really wanted you to have in the apartment?
We had given some of it away. The lamp that people are really obsessed with was there when he bought the apartment. All that personal kind of decoration we still have in boxes and we haven’t put them up yet. We’re not done, so that’s what people were really mad about too, that I threw away all his stuff – but we still have it.
Were there any items he really wanted to keep?
I just said, Do you want to keep it, do you like it? And then he said, Ah, yes, this is from my grandfather, so I want to keep it and then it was okay. So everything we threw out we were in complete agreement. We still have three more rooms in the apartment that we haven’t shown and he decorated them himself.
What was the inspiration for how you designed the apartment?
I just always liked the kind of Pinterest apartments where they see the white couches and the neutral color palette, I guess other than it was just trial and error, so we just went to a store and we liked that couch, so we bought it and then we put it all together and it’s still not done, so we might change things and I wouldn’t say I have a real style yet, but maybe soon.
We talk a lot as a culture about age gap relationships, and even intelligence gap relationships, but how is that aesthetic gap relations? What advice would you give to couples who have completely different ideas about what their apartments should look like?
I guess compromise, so you both have something you like. I think the most important thing is to have a common ground for what you want. I like more things and he likes more things and just trying to find what we have in common I guess. And I have no problem sacrificing a couple of things if he wants it different and then maybe a few other things, I get it the way I want it. Yeah, just compromise, I guess.
What’s the worst piece of furniture or art you’ve seen in a man’s apartment?
Good question. I think it’s those navy sheets. Maybe it’s always the default. Or just a pillow. I do not know. I have some really good-looking guy friends, so I think they all have pretty nice apartments, but usually they might not have a lot of pictures and decor yet.
What was your house like when you were growing up? What was the aesthetic of the house?
Lots of stuff, really colorful. Not really a “style”, I’d say. I think I’ve gotten more interested in it now that I’ve gotten older. My mother wasn’t too keen on it and not very good looking, I’d say.
Who are your home style inspirations?
I just think randomly – a lot from TikTok and Instagram that I see when it comes to pictures. I have some friends who are really good at decorating, and this is my first time decorating since we just moved in together, so I think I just see pictures and I like that clean aesthetic. I don’t have a significant other that I look up to when it comes down to it. You are probably familiar with Swedish influencers such as Bianca and Kenza. Do you know them?
I do not!
So the Swedish influencers are big too, and they have really nice big apartments with a lot of marble and very luxurious apartments, so I like those styles. I guess.
When you talk about it being nice and clean, does that make you feel more like a functional person?
I think I just feel really calm. I love being at home and drinking a cup of coffee. I just feel that everything is a bit stressful when I have a lot of stuff everywhere and a lot of colors. I also think it’s nice to have some earthy colors.
Yes, that’s a good point. I never really thought about it that way.
I go to houses that are completely the opposite, and then I think, Oh, this is so cool, but I guess I’m a little afraid to go that route myself. I guess it’s safer to go with neutrals, so maybe for our next apartment, we’ll go a little more crazy and try to experience or try different things. I heard many say that. Also, when it’s your first apartment, you usually go with safe choices because you don’t really know what you like yet.
Yes. Also, a lot of people that I’ve seen videos of have said that your new apartment or the redesigned part of your apartment reminds them a lot of the Kardashian house. Were you influenced by them at all?
Not those specifically, but I guess the whole trend around the beige-gray is really baked in Scandinavia, meaning Norway and Sweden. When I talk to my friends about interior design, we always go back to those styles. All my friends were shocked when they saw all the comments. We were like, What? This is what is nice. It’s like part of our culture. Subconsciously, I think I’m only attracted to neutrals, I guess.
I think it would be really funny if you sold some of the items to the people who are upset that you are getting rid of things.
And I said that too. I told them “You can decorate your own home just the way you want.” You can have this if you want. And many people have asked me if they can buy the old lamp and the old sofa. They really want it, but it’s too late.
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