Less is more, functional, clean lines, white on white on white-all could be the basic definition of minimalism-or are you actually describing modernism? Or maybe even contemporary design? Though they all have shared traits, they're definitely not interchangeable. You wouldn't be the first person to get them confused, so we're setting the record straight once and for all on what minimalism actually is.
It Grew Out Of A Rejection For Expressionism
While abstract expressionism resulted in an almost chaotic design style thanks to its emotional intensity, minimalism sought to pare down to an essential nature and remove all excess, creating harmony from simplicity. The term was first used in the early 1960's. "Minimalist design is all about living with less, but living with better."
It Prioritizes Efficiency
Cut out as many "extras" as you can, because minimalism is all about what is strictly functional. No trendy accent tables or chairs that are totally uncomfortable to actually sit in. If you aren't going to use it and it isn't absolutely necessary, it's gone. "The main feature of minimalism is designing with form and function always being top of mind. A piece should provide a real function," says Liz Bachman, interior stylist and the blogger behind Grey & Scout. Prioritizing space is key here.
It Kicks Clutter To The Curb
All spaces need to be cleared-countertops, your dining table, your dresser-store what you need out of sight, and nix anything that isn't totally necessary. This concept carries over from decor to design, favoring open-concept spaces that are flowing and devoid of any cumbersome and overwhelming furniture taking up visual (or actual) space.
Go Neutral Or Go Home
Minimalism generally doesn't mess around when it comes to color. There's a very set color palette, and that is neutral. It keeps the space clean and fresh, and makes everything feel just a bit more calm. However, warm minimalism is having a moment, where deeper hues are starting to pop up in design, making a space feel more inviting. Think burgundy, navy blue, and clay. "It's about creating a sense of cohesion, so no piece of furniture or color is over-dominating the space," says London-based interior stylist Cate St Hill.
Texture Is Used To Add Warmth
Where pattern, furniture, or decor accents are generally used to warm up a space, minimalism relies on texture. Sheepskin rugs, linen pillows, and knit throws help keep a space from feeling cold and stark-but don't go overboard. As in all things minimalist, restraint is encouraged. "Done right, minimalism can be very cozy," Bachman says. "Stay away from the contemporary trends of everything all white. Mix your woods, mix metals, use soft, plush textiles like rugs and pillows."
Quality Over Quantity
Because you're paring down, minimalism seeks to choose items that will stand the test of time-meaning, trendy pieces are out. "Minimalist design is all about living with less, but living with better. It's a less is more approach-being mindful of how furniture is placed in a room, where it comes from, and how it's made," St Hill says.
Minimalism Respects Space
Reducing designs and decor to their most basic and necessary form naturally creates more empty space. Whether floor or countertop, minimalism encourages space and finding beauty in the simplicity. Excess should never obscure design. "When I'm designing I like to think of Coco Chanel's famous saying 'before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off,'" St Hill says, "the same ethos can be applied when decorating the home."
The writer is an associate editor of
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