The Minimalist Home Design

Simple, elegant and balanced, the minimalist home brings calm and tranquility to its occupants. Photo by decorology.

Is it Time to Unclutter Your Home?

It strikes me that most of the content on RafterTales.com has been about adding stuff to your home. But lately, I’ve been thinking more about less … uncluttering my own space. After reading Leo Babauta’s excellent post, titled A Guide to Creating a Minimalist Home, on his blog, ZenHabits.com, I decided it was time to offer you all some new ideas on minimalism in home design.

 

Less Can be More!

Let’s face it; Americans are way too focused on stuff. But as our awareness of ecology and the whole “Green” trend increases, there may be hope for us to grow beyond our material possessions obsession and move toward minimalism!

The whole philosophy that less can be more and is really more a philosophy about how to live your life far more than just how to arrange your home and living space. But, once you begin to embrace this philosophy, you’ll find a whole new paradigm opens up as you consider how to embody minimalism into your own home.

Why a Minimalist Space?

In general, minimalist home design emphasizes clean lines, simple color palettes, and unadorned surfaces, breaking forms and structures down into their most basic elements. Famous designers who pioneered minimalism in interior design include Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and members of the De Stijl Dutch art movement, with open floor plans, removing dimension and intersecting visual planes that connect.

Clean lines, subdued colors and open spaces characterize the minimalist home. Is it right for you? Photo by internetpowerlunch.

Asian influence is common in many minimalist designs. The initial focus of minimalism in interior design focused on “rediscovering pure forms”, but has evolved toward a “Zen” approach, infusing interior spaces with a sense of calm, harmony, balance and spirituality. Here are some reasons you may wish to follow the minimalist aesthetic in your home:

  • Stress Reduction – Because we focus so much on materialism and wealth accumulation, Americans live with too much stress. We obsess over work, money and generally keeping up with the Joneses that we tax our bodies, minds and spirits with a whole lot of stress! Uncluttering your home is one way to help reduce stress and change your whole mind set to working to live instead of living to work!
  • A Fresh Look – Simple, clean spaces generally hold more appeal than interior designs that are over-designed. By reaching for simplicity in design, the objects that remain take on more significance. When done correctly, the minimalist space takes on an ethereal, almost dream-like feel.
  • Ease-of-Use – Duh, it’s a no-brainer; less stuff means less to clean, maintain and keep up!

Reduce your living space to its bare essentials. Note a single, striking piece of art on the wall, dining set and modern lamp are all that adorn this eating area! Photo by Takeshiyo.

The Minimalist Look

Of course minimalism varies by degrees; you might go super-Spartan or you may prefer to compromise a bit. Really, the degree to which you minimalize is entirely personal, but here are a few guidelines you can follow as you decide the right balance for your home and lifestyle:

  • Minimalism Emphasizes Simplicity – In the purely minimalist home, simplicity is everything. Surfaces are kept clear and uncluttered; no books or knick knacks on the coffee table, nothing stacked on the floor, etc. You won’t find fancy trim around the windows, multi-layered crown moldings or baseboards, etc.

  • Minimalist Furniture – When it comes to furnishings in the minimalist home, two aspects must be considered: 1) Minimalist interiors contain only essential, functional pieces (example: the family room might have a simple entertainment center, one sofa, a coffee table and one additional chair) and 2) The furniture selected will have clean, simple lines and is not adorned with frilly decoration (leather or plain fabrics instead of intricate patterns or prints, straight or curved lines without features such as fluting, hand-carving or other intricate wood working).Decorations are kept to a minimum and carefully chosen for quality over quantity! Photo by architectural photography.

  • Minimalist Accents and Decorations – Of course, you don’t want to leave your home entirely free of objects; that would be far too boring and could make the living space feel “clinical”. But, instead of hanging a group of photos on a single wall, you might just pick a single photo or piece of art that suits your taste and, hopefully, expresses something about you, your family and your lifestyle. A simple floral arrangement on the coffee table is sufficient; you can store accent pieces and change them out as the seasons change or anytime you feel the need to make subtle changes.

  • Emphasize Quality over Quantity – More than anything, the minimalist emphasizes quality. For example, when we got married, my wife and I bought a handmade Quaker dining table and a set of Windsor chairs. It was the first new, expensive furniture we bought together and 20 years later we still use it daily. Time and use have added character to the set, along with a lot of great memories!

10 Steps to a Minimalist Living Space

  1. Start with one room first so you won’t be overwhelmed by the task. Once you have simplified and uncluttered one room to taste, move on to the next until you achieve the balance and harmony you want to achieve throughout your entire home.
  2. Begin by emptying the room. Try to visualize the look you want to achieve then consider what objects you can reuse and which may need to be replaced. Focus on comfort and function when selecting furniture pieces. Use quiet, subdued colors and select furniture and objects which are plain and unadorned. Remember to utilize only the essentials, asking yourself in each case whether or not you truly need the object in consideration!
  3. Keep surfaces clear; furniture only on the floor, selected objects on table and shelf surfaces, sparse wall decorations, etc. Anything you don’t really need should be stored out of sight, donated or thrown out! Start with less, try living with the space for a few days and then, if you feel it is too plain, try adding additional objects one at a time, deliberately and consciously focusing on simplicity, calm and balance.Simple bathroom design shows how elegant and harmonious the minimalist home can be! Photo by wonderblunt.
  4. Choose a specific place for everything; once you find the perfect place for something it should remain there; one of the basic tenants of minimalism is the old adage “a place for everything and everything in it’s place”, harkening back to a simpler time when space was limited and only the essentials were evident in a well-kept home.
  5. Keep color palettes subdued and plain. Bold color palettes and intricate patterns tend to clutter a space visually and do not lend well to the minimalist aesthetic. Choose a primary color and augment it with one to three complementary colors.
  6. Keep stuff hidden from sight unless you really need it readily accessible. For example, RIP all your CDs to disk, putting them on your iPod and connecting the iPod to your home audio system. This way you can box and store you CDs neatly away. Choose in-wall speakers over free standing floor speakers. Follow these concepts as you consider everything that will be visible within the living spaces of your home.
  7. Keep window treatments plain; bare windows may be acceptable where privacy and light control are not crucial. Simple wood blinds or cellular shades that stack neatly when opened are better than curtains or draperies. If you do select draperies, go with simple pleated drapes or curtains and don’t select fabrics with heavy patterns, floral prints, etc.
  8. Try leaving some walls completely bare; you can always add simple artwork over time if you find the “white space” too boring. By displaying quality artwork on selected walls, you will create harmony and peace without distracting the eye with visual clutter!
  9. Keep decorations to a minimum; again you don’t want to clutter spaces. Select quality accents and décor items that have sentimental value or express your personal tastes and reflect thoughtful attention to detail in their selection and placement.
  10. Edit, edit, edit! The essence of minimalism is reduction so should be continually editing the objects in a room, whether each object is essential and its placement within the overall space you’re designing!

Please leave your comments, questions and thoughts on designing a minimalist home. If you try some of these ideas please let us know how they work and what you learn in the Zen act of uncluttering your home!

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