Most Seinfeld fans can remember George Costanza’s father randomly shouting “serenity now” in an effort to achieve calm in the chaotic world of the Costanza family. However, he may have been able to achieve the same effect by simply eliminating some of the clutter in his home.
Drawing from Japanese design principles, minimalism exemplifies the concept of “less is more.” Simplicity, openness, and often symmetry are some of this disciplined style’s guiding principles. And while the removal of non-essential elements is key, the end goal is not to create stark or sterile spaces. Instead, a minimalist approach to design helps draws attention to outside views, architectural features, key furnishings or striking artwork. The following are a few minimalist design tips to help create peaceful, appealing spaces by reducing visual distractions and interior clutter.
Crack Down on Collection of Stuff: This includes ridding spaces of odds and ends that accumulate over time, as well as purposefully paring down to a few meaningful items. And for those things that remain, similar items should be grouped together for more impact and less clutter. However, even when grouping items, remember that the “less is more” principle still applies. If something has no special significance or doesn’t serve a useful purpose, it should go.
Kitchens and bathrooms are busy areas where clutter can quickly take over. Store as few items as possible on surface tops, again using the principle of grouping items to create a visually appealing arrangement of functional items, such as a few regularly used oils and seasoning bottles in the kitchen. Organization and storage are critical to maintaining a minimalist design aesthetic. Everyday items like kitchen utensils, cleaning supplies, paperwork and bath products should be kept out sight and out of mind. Minimalism is not getting rid of everything; it’s simply not allowing the stuff to take center stage.
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French writer (1900–1944)
Function First for Furnishings: “Fussy” little end tables, extra shelving or curio cabinets are often unnecessary and encourage accumulation of more stuff. A bedroom pared down to the essentials of a bed, side table and chair provides a calming retreat. The primary furnishings in a living room should provide comfortable seating for those living in your home, not every guest at a dinner party.
Adding Décor and Color: Although some people picture stark white walls and austere furnishings, minimalism does not equate to an absence of warmth, style or personality. Minimalist designs typically feature solid, calming colors for flooring, walls, window treatments and large furnishing like couches. Most minimalist interiors focus on neutral colors to maintain a light and airy feeling, with pops of accent colors used sparingly on accent walls, furnishings or accessories. Adding multiple hints of one or two bright colors throughout a room can provide a sense of balance and visual interest without overwhelming the senses. Fewer, carefully selected items translate to a less crowded space and make more of a statement than a multitude of pieces that ultimately make no statement at all. Plants work well with minimalist spaces, complementing the light and airy spaces.
While minimalist design is not for everyone, incorporating some of the basic principles of this disciplined, deliberate style is worth considering. It’s about choosing quality over quantity, focus over chaos and simplicity over excess. After all, everyone can use a bit of “serenity now”!
Stacy Hollinger, IIDA has more than 20 years of experience as a commercial interior designer. She respects the impact of color and space on people’s emotions and loves to create calming interiors that allow special details such as a stunning view or signature artwork piece to take center stage.
Additional resources on this topic:
This blog explores the idea that minimalist design principles, and particularly ridding yourself of clutter, could actually make you feel better. Freshhome.com – Why Minimalist Interiors are Good for you.
This Houzz contributor details strategies for “getting the greatest impact through careful editing and restraint.” Less is More – 6 Principles of Minimalist Design
The interior spaces featured in this blog illustrate that minimalist design does not equate to stark empty spaces. Decoist.com – Minimalist Interior Design Ideas
If you really like the concept, try this challenge: The 30-Day Minimalism Game.
RLPS Interiors Blog Editor – Jodi Kreider, LEED AP