o you have a separate Instagram account to document your home renovation? Is Oliver Bonas your go-to shop for “quirky” home decor bits? Do you Live, Laugh and Love?
If you answered yes to any of the above then I’m afraid the Gen Z cool police are coming for you. Your crime? Being cheugy.
Yes, the latest youth buzzword upon which the keenest investigative minds are training their laser-focussed journalism has moved out of your wardrobe and on to your perfectly plumped Made.com aubergine velvet sofa.
For those who don’t know how to surreptitiously plug a new phrase into Urban Dictionary, “cheugy” is an updated version of “basic” as an insult, the latest salvo in the decidedly one-sided intergenerational war between Gen Z and millennials.
Cheugy (rhymes with boogie) is an age-related diss for skewering the popular taste of everyone in their mid-20s and up. And it includes homewares, too.
Pumpkin spice lattes, loving Disney in public beyond childhood and Uggs occupy the overlap in the Venn diagram between basic and cheugy, but cheugy is expansive enough to include Live, Love, Laugh signs, chevron patterns and generally trying too hard.
At the ripe old age of 28 I have made peace with the knowledge that youth culture has moved on without me. So I asked some Gen Z sources what they think is so awful about millennial tastes.
Lily, 16, from London, hadn’t even heard of cheugy. Teenagers have better things to do than think of new derogatory words for millennials. But she knew enough to let me down gently when it came to the tragically gauche tastes of my millennial brethren.
“It sounds really mean,” she apologises. “But it’s avocado toast, skinny jeans, latte art.” Ouch.
However Bella, 20, from Boston, is well versed in the term, which is perhaps unsurprising as it originated in the States.
“Do you remember Pinterest?” she asks, earnestly. “Pinterest was a huge thing for millennials for, like, their weddings and house decor. Everyone had the same boards.”
Ultimately, to be cheugy is to be trying too hard to reach an aesthetic standard today’s young people have never valued. “It’s like, okay, they’re kind of out of touch with what’s in right now,” she adds.
From my research, here is a non-exhaustive list of cheugy interior trends: signs or framed prints of a motivational slogan or an instruction to be positive (and/or drink); curating an interiors mood board on an app; light boxes; setting up a corner of your home as an Instagram backdrop; round mirrors; making a separate Instagram page for documenting your home renovation project; bronze hardware; patterned accent rugs; furniture that looks good in a photo but is uncomfortable to sit on; anything from Made, Oliver Bonas or any high-street homeware brand.
Gen Z are smart enough to know that’s all a lie sold to them by corporations hungry for a fresh crop of disposable income. They know it’s melting ice caps and gig economy jobs all the way down. What’s the point of planning your Instagram grid like it’s a military operation when you can have a lot more fun doing silly dances on TikTok and buy second-hand?
So, how can you channel Gen Z chill and decorate your space in a less violently curated way?
Lily and Bella took pity on me and offered some suggestions. “A lot of Gen Z decor right now is self deprecating,” says Bella. “People on TikTok turn their pill bottles into fairy lights and use them as decor, which might sound insane but it’s kind of funny.”
Wallpapering your room with a hand-picked selection of vintage posters, postcards, art prints and pages cut from magazines is the pinnacle of cool.
Or, if you don’t care about getting your deposit back, invite your friends to tag their names in Sharpie or even spray paint on the wall. Think of it as a modern-day version of the guestbook your boomer parents kept in the spare room.
Houseplants are, surprisingly, still cool. Candles are okay but incense is preferable. Vintage desks, vinyl and CD players are in vogue. Pillows shaped like animals are popular — Gen Z is in no rush to grow up.
Most importantly, step back from the hectic cycle of social media. Browse for homewares on eBay and Depop or, better yet, your local charity shop.
“A lot of Gen Z decor is trying to be your own thing decorating with personal stuff that’s a reflection of you,” says Bella. “You craft your own style,” says Lily. “That’s quite cool, to have your own thing.”