Can luxury Chinese help young tenants build their dream homes?

What happened: According to an Ziru Research Institute report published in 2021, as many as 90 percent of recently graduated Chinese students in 10 of China’s top cities rent (rather than buy) their homes. Unlike previous generations who leaned utilitarian – with a “function over fashion” approach – many young renters are looking for a dream home environment despite not owning their space. This sentiment has sparked a spate of DIY home makeovers. The topic “rennovation rented apartment” is over 438,000 posts and 469 million views on lifestyle platform Xiaohongshu, while the phrase “Finding happiness in a rental home” exceeds 107 million.

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

The Jing Take: Mainland China recently included record high unemployment among young city dwellers. This, coupled with a housing crisis characterized by hesitant buyers and unaffordable prices, means that the large percentage of young people choosing to rent should come as no surprise. And with more investment in other lifestyle markers such as hair care, beauty, petsand even in general welfare it seems natural that the next step of “premiumization” should be in home furnishings. In fact, increased purchasing power means that even non-traditional furniture markets are thriving, with the country’s smart furniture market expected to top the list. $29.6 billion (200 billion RMB) this year, and the local custom furniture industry reached $49.5 billion (334 billion RMB) by 2024, as reported by HKTDC Research.

Although the popularity of home decoration has been here steadily rising in recent years, the expansion of ‘home-living’ practices to include ‘rental housing’ belies the increased priority of reflecting one’s unique personality and social status through housing. Frank Cho, 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 “household goods are largely driven by consumer self-awareness”, thus serving as a general marker of social material and qualitative change in the industry.

Recent store openings from Hermès and Missoni in Wuhan and Chengdu respectively, are evidence of the continued investment of luxury in the homeware and consumer interest in the quality of such products: both stores use these lines extensively as part of their shopping experience.

Perhaps investing and renovating temporary rental spaces reflects not only the lifestyle of young consumers, but also a mindset that strives for self-realization and unique personality through product features. The popular online slogan that “the apartment can be rented, but life is not” (“房子是租的,生活是自己的”) has become a motto of these young do-it-yourselfers – making it clear that the connection and emotion for a product are really what counts, whether it be luxury furnishings or other household items such as odor, beauty devicesand household items.

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the top 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 discussions that erupt on Chinese social media.

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