By selecting fewer yet powerful pieces, you can cultivate amazing rooms

So you like space, clean uncluttered surfaces, and simple elegance with an abundance of room featuring well-chosen possessions and maybe a huge splash of color. Well, gorgeous, you are a minimalist! I admit to all of you that this is not my cup of tea, but I’m a professional! I can still expertly guide you in regards to this type of design. And I do understand the attraction. The electronics that are such a part of our daily lives sport the same clean, uncomplicated lines, so it is only fitting a certain set of the population is drawn to this classic clean look. In addition, minimalism can be less stress to come home to, especially if you are someone that spends your day in virtual chaos.

So, let’s talk about how to accomplish this pared down and orderly look that is minimalism. By selecting fewer yet powerful pieces, you can cultivate amazing rooms—without making it feel like you don’t own anything. With these this type of interior, color, scale and proportion unmistakably go hand in hand. So here we go!

The Inspiration

German architect Walter Gropius launched minimalism in 1919 as part of the efforts to rebuild after World War I. Known as the Bauhaus movement, which stands for “school of building,” the concept was to merge art, design and industry. During the school’s mere 14 years, many of the most well-known modernism designs emerged, such as the Wassily chair by Marcel Breuer in 1925. Nearly a century later, many of the sleek and modern elements of contemporary kitchens, cantilevered chairs, chairs and tables that stack, clean bright white walls and open floor plans owe their birth to the Bauhaus movement. Even those extremely clean and hard-lined pieces of furniture that are actually antiques, are—surprise, surprise—from the Bauhaus movement. Another strong influence is the De Stijl group, which emerged in the Netherlands in the same time frame. The Dutch movement featured natural materials, strong geometric shapes and primary colors. Rugs from this movement almost resemble the works of Spanish contemporary artist Joan Miró.

The Canvas

Perhaps starting from the ground up—from a blank canvas—might be the best avenue to understand this design concept. Flooring in this type of home might be as simple as 12x12-foot tile in a color such as white, cream, brown, gray or charcoal. Or, you might see concrete floors polished to a slight sheen, low-luster birch floors (maybe stained dark tobacco), bamboo or cork. Rugs vary from solids or ones with a strong chalk-like windowpane pattern to strong vibrant hues with a neutral background in a very geometric pattern. A stylized animal print or a dense shag in interesting geometric shapes could appear as well.

Walls are painted in the lighter, expansive tones: white, creams or some level of gray and even dusty charcoal. The concept is to have a clean sleek appearance where pieces of furniture sit like sculptures in the simple boxes that are the rooms. Ceilings are very often the same color as the walls to give that endless spatial feeling.


For a minimalist effect, sofas and chairs will be streamlined in combinations of leather and chrome. Leather or solid fabrics might be selected in shades such as canary yellow, pumpkin orange or a clean, classic black. Another option is almost molded wood finishes with usually solid fabrics and chunky block feet or antenna thin legs. The website Design Within Reach is a treasure trove of beautiful reproductions and new forms of this type of furniture.

Just a bit of a heads up when it comes to falling in love with this type of design: Contemporary furniture is not inexpensive. In these very linear silhouettes, the craftsmanship is paramount to the sharpness of the piece. This means the stitching is often visible and must be flawless.

Cabinetry is geometric and very angular with finishes that vary from willow-inspired maple to the darkness of rich coffee. Finishes may also be a laminate of bright white, fire engine red or even dense chocolate. The key is that the pieces are sharp and sleek with very little hardware. If hardware is part of the design, it will be very clean and unadorned. Pieces will appear on the lower side in this type of design as horizontal lines are very important. You will find an almost Zen like presence in these interiors, where the lack of decoration is not seen as a deficiency, but as living in order, where the sparseness is almost liberating.


Now for the accessories. In minimalism, they are sparse and chosen for their statement and impact. Think cylindrical ceramic vases, in accent hues or part of the monochromatic color scheme, filled with the simplest bundle of sticks or bright acid green reeds. Tall slender vases in clear or colored glass are left empty to put the focus on the study in shape rather than the contents. Lamps are cantilevered from tabletops, craning over beds or sofas, or even attached to the ceiling with an almost dentist-type ability to adjust. You might see very geometric, clean, polished chrome in boxes and sculpture. Throws in rich colors or natural hues are flat tight weaves, almost an art form. Artworks are graphic blasts of color with modest frames. Mirrors are done in the same manner with almost undetectable framing so the mirror is the attraction.

Silent but productive window treatments include wooden blinds in rich natural wood tones or clean unfussy Roman shades. The treatments offer privacy without much presence. If drapes are used, the rod is simple and maybe recessed, creating a juxtaposition of soft fabric falling from the ceiling in contrast to the geometry of the room.

Minimalism is just what it announces it is: Life enjoyed without all the stuff. It’s manageable and clean. A home like this is most definitely dedicated to a person who probably enjoys the pure pleasure of a grand sound system and perhaps the joy of food and entertaining. Without an abundance of things, the attention is most often drawn to other avenues of enjoyment.

I will end with beautiful words of Mother Teresa:

“The more you have, the more you are occupied.

The less you have, the more free you are.”

Have a good week and I will be here next week.

Jan Colvin has been a professional interior designer for over 25 years (Allied ASID).

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