Last week my daughter and I watched a documentary called ‘Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things’. The film follows two men who changed their lives when they decided to become minimalists. The documentary focused primarily on Minimalism from a philosophical and lifestyle point of view - they describe Minimalism as a tool that can assist you in finding freedom and consciousness - but it got me thinking about Minimalism specifically in the interior design world.
Quite often the concept of ‘Minimalism’ is thought of as an extreme. I know the first things that would pop into my head were white, sterile and utilitarian. Often beautiful and stunning, but not in a way that I connected to personally. Not something I could live with day to day. However, I’ve come to realize that although that is Minimalism for some people, it doesn’t have to be for others. It isn’t about following a strict or extreme design process, but more about employing a sustainable and thoughtful approach.
So, what is Minimalism? Minimalism is officially defined as a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity. However, it is subjective and can mean something very different from person to person, such is the nature of art and design. I believe Minimalism, at its core, is about reducing the clutter of things that are not necessary and/or are not really meaningful to you. Thinking about it like this made Minimalism accessible to me. As a designer, I love beautiful things across all spectrums of art and design. Over the years I have managed to gather a pretty good collection of items, from stunning coffee table books bought in New York while visiting my daughter to old antiques left to me by my mother. The idea of Minimalism would appear to challenge that and require me to clear these things out, reducing them to only a few. In my mind, this is not the case. These things add value to my life, they are the gallery of my life and experiences. In other words, they are meaningful and necessary to me. Just as much as someone else’s toy car or stamp collection is meaningful and necessary to them. This is where Minimalism can become your own. It isn’t about owning very little but about deciphering what adds value to your life and giving these things space by removing the things that don’t. It allows your interiors to breathe.
This made me think about my own approach to interior design and the way in which I like to collaborate with clients. When I work, my aim is to help clients find their own style. I must learn about what is important to them and what things are essential. When I have discovered this then I can help them create a home that looks beautiful and functions correctly, a home that works with it’s inhabitants.
I think this element of functionality is what interests me most. Minimalism is about being sustainable and economical, two things that I am very conscious of when I design. Now more than ever we are subjected to ever-changing styles and trends and it can be very costly and unsustainable to try and keep up with it all. That’s not to say they aren’t fun, I love nothing more than playing with new colours and designs. However when designing a client’s home, or even my own home, I try to identify the style or trend that is sustainable, that is going to last and stand the test of time. This includes using sustainable materials - check out our Inspiration: Wood blog post which discusses our thoughts about up-cycling and using salvaged materials.
The economical design solutions developed by people seeking a minimalist life inspire and amaze me. I live in a tiny cottage. I am forever looking for ways to accommodate everything without my home feeling cluttered or messy - I’m an interior designer after all! I find the Tiny Houses movement the most fascinating. Obviously, these are the extreme of economical design however we can definitely learn a lot from them about making the most of the space we have.
I believe that the way we perceive our surroundings has psychological effects. I know personally that I struggle to be productive in a space that is cluttered. Before I can start any day in the office my desk has to be organized and clean so that my mind feels like it can function properly. Similarly, when working in a space that has been designed intelligently and economically I feel inspired. I think this is Minimalism’s key function in relation to interior design.
I would not describe myself as a ‘minimalist’ interior designer, just as I would not describe myself as a ‘traditionalist’ or ‘modernist’. I have an appreciation for all design styles. Overall, I think Minimalism in it's full-force (lifestyle and design) can be unrealistic and inaccessible. However, I definitely believe that approaching any scheme with minimalist values can only serve to improve and enrich.