The term Minimalism sometimes conjures up an image of a spartan space that may look good in a lifestyle feature but would prove impossible to live in. Nothing could be further from the truth and in an age where we are seeing an influx of smaller living areas, minimalism can help create a harmonious feel to your home.
By following some simple guideline you can declutter your environment, and in the process, bring a renewed magic to your surroundings. Maximising your space without filling it with unnecessary detail allows you to keep your personal stamp without overcrowding the senses.
Many believe that minimalism is rooted in the Bauhaus era that flourished during the 1920s, while others claim that the 1950s were the true starting point. However, look beyond the West and you will see that minimalism is based in the principles of Zen Buddhism. Thousands of years of tradition have influenced Japanese architecture and the use of interior space. This tradition has gained a strong foothold in the West and Feng Shui is now well known and widely practised.
This simplicity transformed itself into all aspects of Japanese culture, art and lifestyle, and did not align itself to mass consumerism, however, for a short time after WWII Japan embraced capitalism in a bid to meet the excesses of the West. This took hold for a few decades, but the need to reconnect with the simple beauty and power of the Japanese aesthetic has seen a return to these core values by young professionals in recent years.
Image: Japanese minimalism - Photo Credit HomeISD
The Japanese have a wonderful term that describes minimalism perfectly; ‘Ma’. ‘Ma’ does not describe objects and things, but the space between them. The awareness and appreciation of the negative space are exemplified in everything from interior design and architecture, landscaping to flower arranging and literature. ‘Ma’ could be called the glue that makes minimalism work.
The Bauhaus movement can’t be overlooked and did have a huge influence on Western minimalism. Between 1919 and 1933 they focussed on producing items that were both functional and timelessly beautiful. Many of the furniture pieces born of this era still look modern and fresh today and are ideal in any minimal space.
The latest ‘rise of minimalism’ gained impetus during the late 1950 and 60s when these principles bled into other parts of the design and craft disciplines. The Scandinavian clean blonde wood furnishings of the period were a huge influence on a new breed of creative mind and by the late 1990s, minimalism was (yet again) the new buzz word. Minimalist architects and designers flourished and we began to see stripped back styling in everything from home furnishing to fashion.
Image: The Le Corbusier couch. As modern today as it was in 1928.
The popularity of minimalism is due in part to the stressful lifestyles that many professionals lead. The home environment is one in which they want to take refuge from their busy daily regime, and relax in a harmonious, non-demanding space rather than be visually stimulated at every turn.
New trends in furniture design have taken the popularity of minimalism into consideration and we now see multi-purpose storage units, adjustability and hidden features in many household pieces. This kind of innovation is essential when wanting to create a minimal feel but have no idea where to store the endless bits and pieces that clutter our lives.
A university study concluded that the average family home holds a staggering 30,000 items. This may be at the extreme end of the scale but does show that we probably spend a lot of time looking for something or the other that has been misplaced and a good argument for minimalising the home. The trend toward the smaller urban homes with open-plan living/dining/kitchen areas has also been a factor in minimalism’s growing popularity.
Minimal need not only mean modern or contemporary. The key to minimalism is for a space to feel clean and orderly without being over-cluttered with furnishings or accessories, or non-complimentary colours. This can be achieved in classic and traditional settings as well as the cutting-edge chic. This shows that minimalism is actually more of a mindset than a design trend.
Amongst the most important considerations when creating a minimalist space is quality, furniture, texture, design and accents.
Quality cannot be stressed enough and applies to every aspect of the minimal room. If you are creating from a blank canvas, consider your room fixtures carefully. Chandeliers and fixed lights, mixers and faucets, counter surfaces and built-in storage units are ‘unmoveables’. Make sure they are positioned correctly the first time around. Buy the best quality your budget allows. A few tips; always make sure taps units and mixers can be opened for the replacement of worn washers etc, and that the replacement parts are easily available. The same applies to light fittings. There are a confusing number of globe shapes and sizes available recently. Make sure that your bulbs are easily replaced.
When installing or refinishing any cabinetry always be careful to align all openings, surfaces, countertops and handles. Storage areas are a crucial element in making a minimal space work and can be incorporated into bench seating, drawers under stairs, and sleek wall units. Where possible, walls and floors should be level to create minimal join lines and connection points when installing fixtures.
When considering a dominant fixture such as a fireplace remember that this will automatically become a focal point in your room. Whether choosing a stock unit, or have the luxury of commissioning a bespoke piece, scale, practicality, and design are important.
Good design is based on the beauty and form of any item, as are the materials used to create them. The design of any item needs to be clear in intent, simple, but never boring. This is where the quality of materials is as crucial as the craftsmanship of the item. The simpler the design, the fewer places there are to hide any mistakes.
The architecture of your room is another huge consideration and unless you are building from scratch, one that you have little control over. Look at your room. How does the light fall and at what time of day? Do you have a view you can feature? Is there an interesting architectural element to the room that needs to be enhanced or played down? Once you understand how your room works you’ll be able to position your furniture accordingly.
Use a view to your advantage by making it the main feature of the room and pairing everything back to ensure it dominates. Keep the furnishings very simple and consider hanging a contemporary artwork to off-play the look.
Decorating with light is a wonderful way of enhancing your minimal effect. Interesting shadows, washes, and high-lit areas all bring interest and can be easily created with a well-considered choice of lighting. Natural light should be used to its maximum advantage.
Image: Light and view are perfectly used in this minimalist kitchen arrangement. Photo Credit: Decor Aid
When furnishing any minimal space you will still need all of the items that make the room function, but the form of the objects now becomes important. In any dining room, you need a table and chairs, but deeper elements such as line, colour, mass and suitability within their architectural space become crucial to a successful decor.
A good place to start your room layout is with one feature piece of furniture. This is usually a sofa, but could also be a grouping of chairs or tables. The room’s story can pivot around this anchor piece.
Minimalism embodies straight lines, smooth curves, simple shapes, and flat planes. Steer clear from complicated pieces of furniture, engraved with intricate details or embellishments.
Tables can easily be used in a multitude of minimalist applications and Leonardo –Table by Design’s ranges and collections are a superb source of inspiration when planning your room. Using materials like marble, glass and stone on a table surface is a simple and effective way of introducing a touch of elegance to a minimal scheme. Speak to the Leonardo team about creating a bespoke masterpiece for your home.
A muted colour palette is the norm for minimal interiors and any use of colour is well considered. Texture, however, is a key element in the successful scheme and extends from fabrics through to materials like glass, timber, stone and pottery. The goal of marrying form and function can be easier achieved in the texture-rich home. One of the main challenges is to balance minimalism with warmth.
If you are considering using patterns make sure that they are subdued and preferably geometrics that featuring neutral colours or monochromes. The fewer details and colours the more suitable the pattern could be.
Plants are a good way of adding interest and a natural element, but as with everything in minimalism, don’t overdo it. One feature plant with a strong silhouette or a hanging group of interesting ferns is sufficient. If you decide on grouping pots make sure that the containers match.
Although purists say an all-white interior is the way to go, it doesn’t suit every environment. Greys and tints of Earth-tones are ideal to bring interest but the golden rule is to keep a neutral background palette. Lift your scheme by adding accents of pastel monochromes or full-hue primary colours in a cushion or vase, but be careful not to ruin the effect by overdoing it.
When choosing furniture always ask yourself how many pieces you actually need. Don’t be tempted to fill empty spaces with extra items. Remember the all-important ‘Ma’ principle of the importance of negative space; the unused area.
Interior Decorator, Annette Frommer puts it quite simply. "How many sofas do we really need? How many chairs? Do we need to hang pictures at all on walls? Maybe only on one wall? Or on none? How many knick-knacks do we really need on our coffee table or shelves? In reality, we need functionality and practicality that blends with no superfluous embellishments. Shapes should be quite uncomplicated, and colours and textures should harmoniously blend."
When selecting art for a minimalist room you can fly in the face of minimalist convention and happily choose a large, bold piece, but limit it to one dominant work for maximum impact. If you have used pops of colour in your accessories, try to pick these up in the colours of the artwork.
image: A striking artwork is often all the wall decoration needed in the minimal room. Photo Credit: Lifestyle Files
As with any project, knowing when to stop is paramount to a successful outcome. If your space functions well and is simple without being boring, you are finished. Don’t fall into the artist’s trap of ‘just one more brushstroke’. Know when to stop. Also to remember is that minimalism is all about the fine detail and the gap between the light fitting and the ceiling, or the few misaligned tiles could be the make or break of your room.
I hope this glimpse behind some of the principles of minimalism had inspired you to consider a ‘declutter’ of your lives. Remember we are always on hand to offer advice on the correct table for your room.
Until next month,
Yours in Design – Frank
Image: Leonardo's Emerald Coffee Table and Rectangles Side Table. Perfect to add interest to a minimal setting. Photo Credit: Leonardo - Tables by Design