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    Can Luxury Help China’s Young Renters DIY Their Dream Homes?

    Many Chinese tenants are transforming their living spaces into dream homes through DIY apartment renovations — with a fashion-and-function consumer mindset.
    Many Chinese tenants are transforming their living spaces into dream homes through DIY apartment renovations — with a fashion-and-function consumer mindset. Photo: Missoni
    Charlotte CaiAuthor
      Published   in Lifestyle

    What happened

    According to a Ziru Research Institute report published in 2021, as many as 90 percent of recent Chinese graduates in 10 of China’s top cities are renting (rather than purchasing) their homes. However, contrary to preceding generations who leaned utilitarian — with a “function over fashion” approach — many young tenants are seeking dream home environments, despite not owning their space. This sentiment has generated a wave of DIY interior design home makeovers. The topic “rented apartment renovation” has over 438,000 posts and 469 million views on lifestyle platform Xiaohongshu, while the phrase “Finding happiness in a rented home” stands at over 107 million.

    Xiaohongshu users share decor ideas for their rented homes. Photo: Xiaohongshu
    Xiaohongshu users share decor ideas for their rented homes. Photo: Xiaohongshu

    The Jing Take

    Mainland China recently recorded record-high levels of unemployment among young city-dwellers. This, coupled with a housing crisis characterized by hesitant buyers and unaffordable prices, means the large percentage of young people choosing to rent should come as no surprise. And with increased investment in other lifestyle markers like haircare, beauty, pets, and even overall wellness it seems natural that the next step of “premiumization” should be in home decor. In fact, increased purchasing power means even non-traditional furniture markets are flourishing, with the country’s smart furniture market expected to exceed 29.6 billion (200 billion RMB) this year, and the local custom-made furniture industry reaching 49.5 billion (334 billion RMB) by 2024, as reported by HKTDC Research.

    Though the popularity of home decor here has been rising steadily in recent years, the expansion of “home living” practices to include “rental living” belies the increased prioritization of reflecting a unique personality and social status through living space. Frank Chou, founder and creative director of Frank Chou Design Studio and the first Chinese designer to collaborate on Louis Vuitton’s Objets Nomades, told Jing Daily that “homeware is significantly driven by consumers’ self-awareness,” and thus serves as a general marker of social material and qualitative change in the industry.

    Recent store openings of Hermès and Missoni in Wuhan and Chengdu, respectively, are evidence of luxury’s continued investment in the homeware industries as well as consumer interest in the quality of such products: both shops heavily feature these lines as part of their in-store experience.

    Perhaps investing and renovating temporary rental spaces not only reflects the lifestyle pursuits of young consumers but also a mindset that aspires for self-realization and unique personality through product characteristics. The popular online catchphrase that "the apartment may be rented, but life isn't" ("房子是租的,生活是自己的") has become a motto of these young DIY enthusiasts — making it clear that the connection with and emotion for a product are really what count, whether it’s luxury decor or other domestic commodities like fragrance, beauty devices, and homeware.

    The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.

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