Clean lines, reductive, uncluttered, monochromatic, simplicity, “less is more”—these are some of the terms and concepts that immediately come to mind when thinking about minimalism
It’s impossible to deny the serenity and simple beauty when confronted with a resolved minimalist interior, but achieving this look is more deliberate and frankly, difficult, than just choosing a few pieces of furniture for a white backdrop, which can leave a space feeling cold, sparse and unlived-in.
What is Minimalism?
“Minimalism for me is about keeping a space simple, uncluttered and accentuating the attractive architectural features of a space. The palette is mostly monochromatic and color is used as an accent,” says Sharon Blaustein, principal designer at B Interior LLC. “I think minimalism and functionality go hand in hand. A minimalist-designed space incorporates an open floor plan, lots of light, and simple line furnishings that are well-built and comfortable. All these create a soothing and inviting space that has a timeless aesthetic.”
Form, Focus & Functionality
“Minimalism allows something other than the space to be the focus. For example, the people in the space or the view from the window might be more important than the room’s decoration,” says Robert Brown of Robert Brown Interior Design. “[Everything] should be functional and add value to the space. You still need all of the items in a space for it to function, but in minimalist decor, ‘form’ is very important. For example, in a dining room, you need a table and chairs. These pieces need to speak to one another and relate in regards to things like line, color, mass, etc. They must work well together in their basic shape.”
In a minimalist condominium living room designed by Brown and his team, he says, “All of the furniture was purposeful—chairs to comfortably sit in, tables for drinks, hidden window treatments to allow views from this high-story residence, a fireplace to warm. Even the art is simple in composition. The clients have extremely active lives and need their home to be restful, not stimulating to the eye.”
Illustrating aesthetic restraint—a key concept in formal simplicity and architectural minimalism—Weinreich renovated a Central Park South home built on “principles of ergonomics, functionality and sustainability.” Working within a space with inherited elements that could not be altered, such as the existing plumbing chase (a false wall used to conceal plumbing), Weinreich prioritized reducing the bulk problem.
“The chase has an unintended purpose—that of a visual barrier, thus blocking a direct view into the workings of the busy open plan kitchen,” says Weinreich. “New full-height upper cabinets, floor-to-ceiling pantry closets, and the utilization of all under-the-counter island spaces increased the storage capacity of this kitchen by twenty percent. Simplicity in design and uniqueness in resolution are key to this alteration.”
Benefits of a Minimalist Space for Homeowners
The idea of uncluttered and clean space is truly a driver behind the minimalist movement, and the desire to seek and adapt its principal ideas in interior design. “If we really stop to think about it we do not need so many things; we can live in any space with a lot less,” says Annette Frommer of Annette Frommer Interior Design. “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 colors and textures should harmoniously blend.”
Minimalism Adapted by Different Design Movements
While minimalism erupted from the modern movement, its definition has expanded with its employment throughout various interior design movements. “Although minimalism is usually associated with a modern and contemporary look, I believe that minimalism can also take place in spaces that are classic and traditional in their design,” says Frommer. “The key is for the space to feel clean and orderly and not cluttered with too many furnishings, accessories, and colors that do not complement and blend.”
In this contemporary dining area and foyer, Frommer went with a palette of mostly grey, with touches of white. “Note that only a single crystal vase with lilac flowers adorns the glass foyer top,” she says. “The only real touch of color is in the brown dining room table which adds warmth and a welcoming feel. There are no paintings to decorate the walls adjacent to the dining room. The final look is an uncluttered, clean, airy, and sophisticated space, perfectly functional and harmonious, that offers tranquility to the eye and serenity to the soul.”
“The modern movement introduced a new way to live with open floor plans and clean designs free of unnecessary ornament,” says Weinreich.” Our opportunity as architects is to learn how to handle the complexity and realize that the art of design is to make complex things simple. The pure sensibility of my work evolves not from a predetermined architectural style, but rather from the intent to design clean, intelligent, and functional space that operates as a background to what function is contained within them.”