Minimalism: “a chiefly American style that developed in the 1960s shunning illusion, decorativeness, and emotional subjectivity in favor of impersonality, simplification of form, and the use of often massive, industrially produced materials which extended its influence to architecture, design, dance, and theater.”
Terrie Gives Minimalism a Thumbs Up
What comes to your mind when you think of minimalist design? Generally I think of sleek, clean lines and clear, open spaces. There are few furnishings and accessories and often large expanses of naked floor and walls. Working from the introductory definition, the parts that epitomize minimalism in home decor are “shunning decorativeness” and “simplification of form”. I interpret “shunning decorativeness” to mean a lack of superfluous design elements – only a very few well chosen accessories as well as a clarity of space and form. “Simplification of form” is reflected in choosing furniture profiles that are clean and simple, no extra carving or embellishments.
- Sleek, clean shapes that reflect function and comfort without any extra embellishments
- No or very few accessories so each carefully chosen one makes a very noticeable statement
- Wide open visual spaces to make every room feel large and airy
- No clutter – there’s no where to put it!
- Easy to clean since there’s little to dust or vacuum around
- Especially good design style when there’s a great view because you don’t get distracted by interior furnishings
Sometimes our homes are over-full of stuff. We feel the need to display every little gift or handmade doodah from our children. All our travel souvenirs fight for attention with family photographs and pretty things handed down from mom. We haven’t learned how to edit. Minimalism can teach us to edit. Look at the less severe versions of minimalism with the idea of learning and adopting the best elements of the style.
Minimalist style is a living area pared down to its essence. It allows you to appreciate the volume of space, the interaction of shapes of the furnishings and the way light works its magic in a space. There are levels of minimalism. At its most extreme, it can feel stark or sterile but softened a little with furnishings that have organic shapes, a little color in a few well chosen accessories and some softer texture make it a more mainstream style.
From houzz.com, the above River Road House is an accurate depiction of minimalism in design. Everything serves a purpose and there are no extraneous items or clutter - visual or otherwise. Below, does the room qualify as minimalist or does it just feel unfinished? To me it’s straddling the edges of minimalism – simple, unadorned furnishings with clean lines and yet the accessories soften the room. To me, it needs art – but then would it step even further from minimalism?
Also from houzz.com, this Piazza Apartment is a great interpretation of ‘soft minimalism’ with its judicious use of accessories and soft lines in the furnishings and simplicity of color. It is still furnished with only the essentials in seating; shapes are clean and sharp; accessories are present but low-key; the severest edges of minimalism are softened with pillows, a touch of greenery and a few more accessories than usual for a minimalist room.
While I don’t pretend that I could be happy in a minimalist space, I can appreciate the beauty and simplicity of the style. And I can recommend that we all look at those rooms with an eye to learning about editing and refining our preferred styles.
Cindy Gives Minimalism a Thumbs Down
I enjoy looking at some of the minimalist designs – much like admiring an unusual piece of art - but I wouldn’t want to live with it. Living in many of the minimalist designs would make me feel a little lonely and a little crazy. They are too bare, too cold, too stark and too impersonal. I like welcoming, relaxing, cozy, comforting, livable and personalized.
One of my fears about living in a minimalist design would be always feeling the need to pick up after myself every time I left a room! I wouldn’t want to spoil the picture, the art. But leaving my cup of tea on the coffee table with my knitting and an open magazine turned over on the sofa when I got sidetracked somewhere else in the house would spoil the visuals in a minimalist room rather than adding warmth and personality as it would in a more livable space like the one below.
The hard, bare and industrial surfaces of minimalist design also provide little to soften the echos of televisions, telephones, video games and one family member calling to someone in another room. The noises of everyday life could become harsh clatter instead of happy sounds in a minimalist space.
“Shunning…decorativeness and emotional subjectivity in favor of impersonality” sounds cold and lonely to me. A house is just a collection of stuff – no matter how spare or functional – if it doesn’t tell you about the people who live there. A house that fails to reflect the personalities of those who inhabit it is a waiting room, a show room or a museum – not a home. I’m not advocating clutter or stuff for the sake of stuff – I’m just saying it’s OK, in fact it’s nice, when a home shares a little about the people who live their lives under its roof. Their books, their photos, their family heirlooms are vignettes about real people and real emotions instead of sterile, overly orderly and stripped down non-emotional holding pens.
The blue and white minimalist room by Anna Kasabian (above in the first section of the post) looks like a corporate waiting room. Can you imagine cozy conversations or intimate moments in this room – or even laughter for that matter? Is there anything in that room that tells you about the people who live there? To me it is attractive but cold and bare – a warehouse for waiting, not a place to live life. I can imagine a janitor with a bucket mopping the floor with antiseptic cleanser on Friday night after the work week ends – but I can’t imagine curling up for a cozy chat with my husband on a lazy Sunday morning.
The very last photo Terrie offers in the first section above is not what I consider minimalist. True, it is sparse – but there are non-functional decorative items on the shelves, books scattered on the coffee table, a huge bundle of fresh flowers, and soft cushions to cuddle up with while reading a book by the light of one of the floor lamps. I know a little more about the people living in this space than I do about those living in the blue waiting room space.
For me it’s thumbs down for minimalism. I’d rather be surrounded by the personal stuff of everyday living that makes a house a reflection of the people living in it.
Minimalism Isn’t For Everyone
Is minimalism for you….can you find something appealing about it or is it just ugly to you? What is your preferred design style?