The start of a new year signals many things: an unavoidable influx of diet talk, naked Christmas trees forlornly lining residential streets, and a scramble to predict the coming year’s trends. WGSN, a global authority on trends, is among those marking out what we can expect to see in 2022. Nestled among their interiors predictions, alongside an increase in tufted textures and 'scentscaping', are 'side-hustle bedrooms' aka deliberately building your side business into your personal space.
There is nothing new about the popularity of side hustles, especially in recent years. The pandemic dramatically disrupted our ways of working and our access to space outside our homes. As a way to make extra income, monetise a hobby or build your online presence, the lockdowns presented an obvious opportunity to launch something new. Inevitably the locus of that enterprise would be the home, particularly the bedroom. This is the space that is most easily available, especially when you rent and don’t want to take up the communal living space (or perhaps don’t have one) with the additional equipment that a small business needs. Your room, by necessity, becomes your office, warehouse and studio rolled into one.
The 'side-hustle bedroom' can be seen particularly on TikTok as younger small business owners post videos of their office/bedroom/studio or share the transformation of a room into a dual space.
Gemma Riberti, WGSN’s head of interiors, tells R29 that the bedroom as a private space can hold the many roles that younger millennials and Gen Z sustain, including "student, intern, content creator, maker and small business owner". In this context, fulfilling multiple roles is understood as a sign of youthful flexibility and something aspirational. "With an entrepreneurial mindset," says Gemma, "the bedroom takes on layers of activity, from filming studio and TikTok background to warehouse/shipment facility, thus defining the side-hustle bedroom. When all of these use cases reconcile with their desire for individuality and self-expression, bedroom aesthetics become everyday moments of potential branding."
What is left out is that taking on all these different roles is often less a sign of entrepreneurial spirit and more a natural response to the pressures of the job and housing markets. Work is already seeping into every part of our lives, whether we like it or not. The digitisation of the office, the ability to be in constant contact and the need for many to work from home has accelerated the collapse of the line between work and personal life. From that collapse emerges a normalisation of inserting work into private spaces and outside of work hours.
When the cost of living is increasing, rental prices are rising and wages are stagnant, of course the younger generations are taking on several roles to find new ways to make money. They haven’t been given the opportunity to draw a line between life and what pays the rent. And that rent can only give them a bedroom in which to operate. It’s equal parts hustle culture and the necessity to get by.
This is how these work-soaked home spaces become sites of personal brand in and of itself. As Gemma put it: "Bedroom aesthetics become everyday moments of potential branding." The decor becomes part of your personal brand, which is used to promote your side hustle, which is now embedded in your bedroom. The fact you have a side hustle in turn adds greater value to your personal brand. As Amelia Horgan, author of Lost In Work: Escaping Capitalism tells R29: "It’s not just the limited space available to those desperately trying to make it, it’s the symbolic offering of 'real', 'authentic' life-content."
The side-hustle bedroom, then, is very much generational but it is less an exciting new trend and more a reflection of the fact that younger generations have no choice but to be entrepreneurial. Access to space, to jobs and the ability to draw a line between the two is largely off the cards. Instead you’re put in a position where you feel you have to brand your most private of spaces as part of your hustle in order to drive it forward. In this light, naming it as a trend doesn’t make it covetable but shows how we live in a time where we don’t allow for rooms to be just rooms, where hustle is centred in the most private of home spaces and following the influencer format of merging life with work and self-branding is a necessary fact of life.