Earlier this month, Emma Ganzarain posted a TikTok that instantly turned her into the Internet’s newest villain. To read the comments, you would have thought she’d killed a puppy; one of the tamer ones reads, “This is heartbreaking.” Ganzarain’s actual offense? Redecorating the apartment she shares with her boyfriend—and banishing his multicolored couches and vintage knick-knacks in favor of a minimalist aesthetic known to its online detractors as “sad Millennial gray.” Recently popularized by the Kardashians—think of 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 due to its perceived sterility and likeness to unlivable IKEA displays.
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 tells GQ. She and her boyfriend—who is 29, and asked that this story not include his name— had been living together for a year and a half when they decided to switch up the interior design of their first place together. It was a change he initiated and one that he says he’s pleased with. From Oslo, Norway, the 26-year-old at the center of this petty online controversy gave us insight into her home decor style inspirations, aesthetic gap relationships, and what became of the red lamp 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 does like the same, but when he decorated 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 really care that much, to be honest. So I think that was what's been taken most out of context. Everyone thinks that he designed the whole apartment and that I changed it all.
Did you keep all the other items that he kept from his family that people really wanted you to keep in the apartment?
Some of it we had given away. The lamp that people are really obsessed with was there when he bought the apartment. All of that personal kind of decoration we still have in boxes and we haven't put them up yet. We aren't finished, so that's what people also were really angry about, that I threw away all of his stuff—but we still have it.
Were there any items that he really wanted to keep?
I just said, Do you want to keep that, do you like that? And then he said, Ah, yes, this is from my grandfather, so I want to keep that and then it was okay. So everything we threw out, we were fully agreeing on. We still have three more rooms in the apartment that we haven't shown and those he has fully decorated himself.
What was the inspiration for the way that you designed the apartment?
I just always liked that kind of Pinterest kind of apartments where they see the white sofas and neutral color palette, I guess other than that it was just trial and error, so we just went to a store and we liked that sofa, so we bought that 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 really a style yet, but maybe soon.
We talk a lot as a culture about age gap relationships, and even intelligence gap relationships, but what about aesthetic gap relationships? What advice would you give to couples who have completely different ideas of what their apartments should look like?
I guess compromise, so that both of you have something that you like. I think the most important thing is having a common ground of what you want. I like more things and he likes more things and just try to find that thing we have in common, I guess. And I don't have a problem sacrificing a couple of things if he wants it differently and then maybe some other things, I get it the way I want it. Yeah, just compromise, I guess.
What's the worst piece of furniture or art that you've seen in a man's apartment?
Good question. I think it's those navy sheets. Maybe that's always the standard. Or just one pillow. I don't know. I have some really stylish guy friends, so I think they all have quite nice apartments, but usually, maybe they don't have much pictures and decor yet.
What was your house like growing up? What was the aesthetic of the house?
Lots of stuff, really colorful. Not really a “style,” I would say. I think I've got more of an interest in that now that I've become older. My mom wasn't really that into it and not that much stylish, I would say.
Who are your home style inspirations?
I think just random—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 the first time I'm decorating since we just moved together, so I think I just see pictures and I like that clean aesthetic. I don't have a significant person that I look up to when it comes to it. You're probably familiar with Swedish influencers like Bianca and Kenza. Do you know them?
So the Swedish influencers are big also, 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 sleek and clean, does it 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 like everything's a little stressful when I have a lot of stuff everywhere and a lot of colors. I think it's nice too, to have some earth colors.
Yeah, 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 kind of scared to go that road myself. I guess it's safer to go with neutrals, so maybe for our next apartment, we'll go a bit more crazy and try to experience or try different things. I heard a lot of people 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.
Yeah. Also, a lot of people that I've seen videos of have said that your new apartment or the newly designed part of your apartment reminds them a lot of the Kardashian house. Were you influenced by them at all?
Not them specifically, but I guess the whole trend around the beige-gray is really baked in Scandinavia, so Norway and Sweden. When I talk to my friends about the interior, we always go back to those styles. All of my friends were shocked when they saw all the comments. We were like, What? This is what's nice. It's kind of a part of our culture. Subconsciously, I think I'm just 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 stuff.
And I said that, too. I told them “You can decorate your own home just how you want.” You can have this if you want. And a lot of people have been asking me if they can buy the old lamp and the old sofa. They really want it, but it's too late.
Originally Appeared on GQ