A fervent interest in interior design is probably what sparked my minimalist strivings in the first place. It’s much easier to create a beautiful, functional home if there are clean, open spaces – as opposed to crammed, cluttered ones. A friend who recently stayed at our apartment while we were away sent us a text, exclaiming that she suddenly felt calm, centered and inspired – thanks to the harmonious decor. So, what is a minimalist home, and how can you strive towards one? Let me give you some suggestions.
First, and most important, is to omit needless things. Strive towards keeping only the pieces of furniture that you need and love. If I’m not mistaken, Coco Chanel once said something like “The best way to make a room more glamorous is to remove something.”, which is certainly true. Space is luxurious. If you’re short of it, clearing up becomes even more important. Therefore, removing excess furniture is the best way to begin. That means, you’ll have to ask yourself what is really necessary in, say, a living room. We ended up with a sofa, a small side table, a sofa table, two rattan chairs and a cabinet for media storage – that’s it, even though our living room is rather big and could easily fit twice as much.
When you have removed all of the furniture that you can do without, you’re likely to find that if you go on to declutter cabinets, bookshelves and other storage spaces, you’ll probably need even less furniture than you thought. One example, is us being able to get rid of a huge, laminate wardrobe, thanks to decimating our number of clothes and shoes. Another, is the fact that we keep our books in the kitchen cabinets, which means we need no bookshelves. This is, of course, possible since we own very few kitchen appliances.
Note that this is approach is the exact opposite to the commonly promoted idea of creating more, or better, storage space in order to achieve a harmonious home. Maybe you do have enough storage space, but too many possessions? Could it be that you do not, in fact, need a bigger home in order for it to feel spacious; perhaps you could just declutter? Might it even be possible for you to move to a smaller, cheaper apartment if you just get rid of excess possessions?
The furniture you do keep should honour your taste, and, preferably, go together. A simple, and relatively cheap way to achieve this is to paint them all in the same colour. Most of our pieces are quite high quality, but inexpensive, flea market findings that we’ve painted white. One good example is the aforementioned livingroom cabinet, which is very unobtrusive, yet contains no less than all of our bed linen, towels, extra pillows and a duvet, a stereo, two lap tops, a printer, some paper and pencils, and the paperwork for our company. It also serves as a TV-rack.
After eliminating excess furniture and decluttering, a second priority is getting rid of decorational items that add to the clutter, rather than harmony, of a room. Besides a few pictures, we have absolutely zero decorational items, but, despite this, our home has a welcoming feel to it. There are three reasons for this: rugs, textile and plants. When it comes to rugs and textile, we keep to cheap, second-hand bargains worth a small fortune. If you manage to get items that are very high quality, it doesn’t matter if they’re worn and torn – the patina only adds to their beauty. If you strive towards hard-core minimalism, you might skip rugs and textile altogether, but since we live in central Gothenburg, we need them to muffle the city noise. Plants may also be expelled from the homes of true minimalists, but we keep them for comfort, air quality and well needed greenery during Swedish winter.
If you chose to add rugs, pillows, curtains and the like to your sparsely furnished, decluttered home, consider keeping a unitary colour scheme throughout. We’ve gone with mostly white, and some green, since this happened to be the dominant colour of one of the ridiculously cheap, but very luxurious rugs, we managed to find in a second-hand store that obviously had no clue what it was worth.
Being an interior design-geek, I could go on forever, pointing to the benefits of using mirrors to enhance light and space, the absolute necessity of proper lighting, and the like. I’ll get back to such topics in later posts. I’m sorry to say that the third, and last, suggestion for now, has to do with cleaning. Now, the presumed link between hygiene and health, causing housewives to clean frantically in order to prevent disease, has been dismissed for some time. Nevertheless, keeping one’s home neat, tidy and relatively free from dust and smut, is appealing to most people. I, for one, work from home most days, and thus demand a quite spotless abode in order to keep happy and focused.
The good news, is that cleaning becomes very manageable once you’ve minimized the number of things in your home. Have you ever tried to hoover in a room filled with small rugs, side tables, extra chairs, flower pedestals, news paper racks and floor lamps? It’s absolutely terrible, which prompts a first, minimalist guide line: keep as much as possible off of the floor. For example, chose wall lamps over floor lamps and put wall hook racks in your hallway instead of wobbly clothes racks standing on the floor.
Another guide line would be to choose a few, big items over many, small ones – one flowerpot in every window instead of three or four, a generous, single vase of flowers on your dining room table instead of a number of decorational items, and so on. This makes wiping off the surfaces much easier. When it comes to kitchen countertops, the same principle applies: for the love of God, keep them clutter free! We have one single item on our countertop – an electric kettle, which we use often. This aids our daily kitchen cleaning routine very much. Are you starting to get the picture?
The very point of striving towards a minimalist home, then, will vary between people. Some just hate cleaning and want to get it over with as soon as possible, while others may prefer a strict, minimalist aesthetic. My own primary motive, is the experience that with fewer things, comes greater peace of mind and a space in which to think more clearly. Receipts, letters, books and trinkets catching your eye, also catch you thoughts and sends them off in a different direction than you might wish: “Oh, have to return that one!”, “When is that due?”, “I should really get to that!”, and so on, in endless tirades brought on by clutter. So, what is a minimalist home? I’d say, it’s a home that allows your busy monkey mind to rest, every now and then.