Class of 2020: How YouTuber Alexandra Gater is Helping Millennials Rethink Design
Apartment Therapy’s Class of 2020 Design Changemakers is a specially-selected group of the 20 people in the design world everyone should know about by next year. We asked experts (and you!) to tell us who they think should be included—see the rest of the nominees here.
Why Alexandra is part of the Class of 2020: “For this special new feature I wanted to really look to the future and new voices that haven’t been heard. Alexandra Gater came to me through her YouTube channel by way of a number of my daughter’s friends this past summer. While only having a YouTube following of 170k, Alexandra has style, but it’s her no-nonsense, direct and easygoing approach to transforming rooms via smart snappy video that sets her apart. She is Apartment Therapy for a new generation.” —Maxwell Ryan, founder and CEO of Apartment Therapy
One look at Alexandra Gater’s YouTube channel and you’ll find a special corner of the internet that’s packed to the gills with quippy and cheerful Millennial-geared decorating content. Her videos draw you in one budget and renter-friendly video at a time, without a whiff of pretension or stiffness. And while her personal design style and penchant for making over even the blandest of spaces is nothing short of impressive, she’ll be the first to tell you she isn’t an interior designer. “I have so much respect for interior designers who are trained in the field,” she says. “But it’s just not who I am or what I’m trying to do.” And clearly, the formal training—in her case—isn’t needed. She’s built a very loyal audience based on the premise that design should be, in short, fun, and that anyone can make their space beautiful.
Thanks to a natural aptitude for being in front of the camera, a keen eye for design, and an envy-inducing DIY-savvy, it would seem that Alexandra’s been doing this her whole career. But her foray into becoming a Youtuber started in a roundabout way. Post-graduation, she landed a job at the Toronto-based magazine Chatelaine with the intent to pursue a career in journalism. After cutting her teeth as an assistant to the home director, Alexandra was unexpectedly promoted to the role when her boss left. With big shoes to fill, she hit the ground running, excited to bring their audience a bit of a fresher perspective—and she wanted to start with YouTube. “I was one of the youngest editors at Chatelaine, and no one else really seemed to be consuming YouTube in the way that I was consuming it,” she says. “The videos we were producing just weren’t YouTube friendly, so I pitched a series on home decorating, specifically targeted at millennials—teaching millennials how to decorate on a budget.”
From there she began her video series for Chatelaine “The Home Primp” inspired by, as she says, the lightbulb moment of, “Wait, decor can be fun, and it can be accessible and anyone can do it—there’s space for decor to be fun and not so rule-based.” She quickly hit her stride with the “Primp” series (making over everything from a cubicle to a nursery quickly and inexpensively), proving that there was, in fact, an audience hungry for the type of content she was producing. The series hit a million views—and a month later, she got let go from the magazine. Determined to continue what she had started, she began her own channel—and things snowballed from there. We sat down to talk about everything from peel-and-stick subway tile, how you should forgo trying to “match” everything in your home, and how even the smallest, most awkward spaces in your home can be made useful and beautiful.
Apartment Therapy: What do you remember as being design inspirations growing up? What is your inspiration now?
Alexandra Gater: It’s so funny because I never in a million years thought I would be a designer. My passions growing up were creative writing and photography—I was a photographer in high school and university. But I totally remember being one of those kids that were always changing my bedroom around. I also was one of those kids that organized my room a lot. But in terms of inspiration, I think photography has really influenced me. And pouring over magazines as a kid and style and clothing. All of those things have contributed to what I do today.
Now, I’m so inspired by seeing what others in the YouTube community are doing—even non-decor channels. Some of my favorite videos are vlogs of people decorating their homes and that’s where I get a lot of my ideas from. When I’m feeling burnt out or uninspired, I binge a bunch of videos and immediately feel more motivated to create quality content.
AT: What’s your favorite project you worked on in 2019 so far? (and why?)
AG: I definitely think it was moving into my apartment and doing my rental reno series on my channel. It really helped me develop my decorating skills because I was kind of redecorating this apartment from start to finish. They gave me a lot of confidence because it was my own space to play around with different materials, and to kind of push the box on what I’d done before because it was my own space. One of my most favorite, projects in my apartment was turning my closet into a home office. It was the simplest thing to do, but I feel like it was really different and it was so fun. I’d never done anything like that before, and I think it really summed up what I’m trying to do in terms of finding small spaces in your home and making it beautiful and making them functional. Even if you rent a really tiny apartment.
AT: Is there a specific piece or design of yours that you think is particularly indicative of who you are or what you’re trying to do?
AG: I think my rental kitchen reno video. I basically did a mini reno on my kitchen, and I feel like that really summed up what I’m trying to do. I have pink tiles on my backsplash, they’re peel-and-stick tiles, they’re renter-friendly since I rent my apartment. And I also did bigger changes too, that I understand not everyone can do in a rental, but could maybe be useful for someone who’s bought their first house. And I did it for just over a thousand dollars– I feel like that really sums up the content I’m trying to make. And targeting it at people who rent and also people who had just moved in, or bought their first home. We want to show people that they can turn something really ugly into something with lots of personality at not a huge price point.
AT: What three words would you use to describe your work or style?
AG: Eclectic, colorful and lots of pom poms!
AT: What makes you feel at home in your own space?
AG: Oh my gosh, being surrounded by the things I love, definitely. And I feel like that’s kind of my biggest tip. I think a lot of people feel like a well-designed home has to fit into a specific formula. You have to have a rug that matches your artwork, and cushions that all match together. But for me, my home feels like home because I walk into my space and I see all the things that I love. Things that I’ve gotten on my travels. And everything in my home has been chosen with intention and because I love them, and not because they all match together, or they fit into a specific formula.
AT: Any big plans for 2020 or beyond you can share with us?
AG: I hope to make my videos so much bigger and better. I have such a great team right now, but my goal for 2020 is to form a really concrete team that’s going to allow me to take on bigger projects. I also really, really want to give back to people, and start doing makeovers that are more driven towards people who really need a makeover, for financial reasons or other needs.
AT: What legacy do you hope to leave?
AG: That’s a big question! I often say—and this is going to sound morbid—that if I die tomorrow, I’d feel content with what I’ve done so far and that’s all down to the viewers who watch my videos every week. I feel so honored that there’s a group of people who allow me to be creative every day, and it feels like a dream that some of those people are even inspired by what I do. It might sound over the top, but I really feel so lucky to get to do what I do and I couldn’t imagine anything filing me with more joy—and I do not for one second take that for granted.