Minimalism is a philosophy that extends to the arts, product design, architecture and, more generally, in our day-to-day lives as a way of stripping things back to basics and concentrating on what's important. In visual art, the term began appearing in New York in the early 1960s as artists moved away from traditional themes of floral motifs, distinct complex patterns, and flamboyant styles that were popular in the 20s/30s in the form of Art Deco and the 40s/50s in the form of Abstract Expressionism (think Jackson Pollock). This new movement was much more simplistic, focusing on geometry and symmetry as a means of provocation. Aesthetically, minimalist art aims to be a purified form of beauty. Many believed art should contain no emotion in and of itself, that it should not reflect the personal expression of the artist and that the object should be neutral and subjective. For example, colours are used not to express a particular emotion or suggest anything specific. Instead, they are used purely for their aesthetic and are meant to be taken literally. Unlike traditional art, red does not mean blood/anger/passion, blue does not mean water, the cold or a sense of calm, for example.
Minimalism in Interior Design
These ideas are true of other minimalistic movements including architecture and interior design. In a minimalistic interior, items of furniture are often very angular and geometric. They are often functional, with a focus on practicality over aesthetics. There is often a lack of any accessory that does not have a function or contribute to the feeling of simplicity and sustainability. Adornments are rare and artwork is usually neutral in colour and abstract in style.
Minimalism is as much about a lifestyle as it is a look, as is the case with any interior design style. A traditional country style inspires you to bake a cake, enjoy the outdoors and live a life of comfort and homeliness. An Art Deco style is all about making a striking impression and living a life of luxury. Minimalism is the rejection of modern constraints and a return to roots - living your life with modesty and humility, a contrast from the over-sharing of everything we do nowadays thanks to the ubiquity of social media and the internet of things. It's about enjoying life's simple pleasures and moving away from a habit of consumerism and unsustainability.
A minimalist interior lacks in expression and tries its best to not be bombastic, instead opting to get across the idea of a simple but fulfilling lifestyle. Because of this, minimalism is easy to incorporate into an interior but difficult to get perfect. It can look unfinished or cold without the right items of furniture or without little touches that add warmth without bringing too much personality. Minimalist interiors usually suit smaller properties that are targeted towards younger buyers. Those who are older and may have more money at their disposal to spend on their home often want something in a more traditional style that has a touch of class and antiquity, maybe something that takes them back to the family homes of the 50s, 60s and 70s.
As professional interior designers, we are tasked with matching a property to a particular style and the client's target buyer. This can be difficult, especially in situations where a more minimalistic style is favoured by the client or would suit the architectural style of the property as we have to think outside the box in order to create a nice looking home that is warm, light, inviting and ultimately, increases the property's value. We do however love a challenge and there are ways that minimalism helps us - firstly, it allows us to work with more space since there are fewer items of furniture and accessories in each room. We can also create an interior that is less imposing since we won't be using large pieces of wall art. It's also an interior that is quite neutral so we don't have to worry about making the interior too feminine or too masculine.
Below, we have listed some various interior design styles you can incorporate into your home in small or large doses depending on your preference, in order to create a minimalist-inspired interior without creating a bare and impersonal look.
Styles that work well with Minimalism
We'll start with the most obvious example. 21st-Century Scandinavian Style. This interior design style is recognisable as the predominant "modern" style you see in many homewares stores. Popularised by IKEA, items in this style can be found just about anywhere - our own shop, The Emporium in Draycott, Derby (cheeky plug) as well as other high-street retailers like TK Maxx, Dunelm, The Range, M&S etc. 21st-Century Scandi-style differs from its origins in the mid-19th Century where dark, rich wood was popular, as well as outlandish designs like the egg chair. You can read more about Scandinavian interior design in our blog post here.
Incorporating this style into your home is extremely easy. All you need to do is stick to one or two colours at most, make the room as light as possible and use lots of natural, light and angular furniture. You can soften the look with plenty of soft furnishings - the more the better to create a cosy feel, but be careful with going too far with textures/patterns.
We recommend wood for furniture where possible, but other natural and "back-to-roots" items made of concrete and marble also work if they aren't too dark and are contrasted by less intrusive pieces. The beauty of this style is in its versatility. Its properties share links with Art Deco and Glamorous interior design styles, its abstract and fun characteristics cross over into post-modernism and because of the straight lines and often simple designs, furniture is easy to work with and match with soft furnishings like cushions/throws and other items like rugs, curtains and plants.
Some examples of one of our own interior design project using a 21st-Century Scandinavian Style interior with Ochre/Grey as the colours of choice.
Below is a collection of some great accessories available from our suppliers Gallery Direct, Coach House, and RIVA Home, as well as some high street chains like Dunelm and TK Maxx that you can use as inspiration for your own project!
We have selected items that are very light and fitting with a Scandi-style interior in that they have lots of wood and are both neutral and natural in look and feel. We hope you agree that these items are wonderful and perfectly suited to this kind of interior.
Believe it or not, you can actually make a glamorous interior design style work in a minimalistic way. Since minimalism is more of a philosophy than a hard and fast "rule", as long as you keep things simple and stripped back, you can make a range of styles work. While glamorous styles are characterised by rich colours and textures, bold repeating patterns and glossy furniture, when used sparingly and if mixed with more neutral tones, it works quite well. The added bonus of these styles is that they are very comforting and warm, taking some of the weight off the soft furnishings. Just remember to stick to the advice we gave about Scandi-Style; stick to only one or two colours, keep things light and furniture angular.
Again, here are some items from our suppliers Gallery Direct, Coach House, Shankar UK, ThinkRugs, Searchlight, Dar Lighting and MADE.com that look fabulous and that you can mix and match with lighter items of furniture to create a unique look that is equal parts cosy and minimalistic.
In order to keep your minimalist interior inviting and avoid it looking too bare, we recommend using lots of plants - artificial or real, it's totally up to you. They are natural and add warmth while keeping with the simple, sustainable theme. They also provide an opportunity to bring together the colours of the interior with coloured planters and hanging baskets to match your chosen theme.
The term "minimalism" is quite an abstract concept that can be confusing and difficult to apply so we hope you have learnt something about its origins and how you can take the ideas and make them work in your own home. If you would like to learn more about our interior design service, view our Interior Design Quotes page here.
We offer free, bespoke interior design quotes for homes and show-home properties alike, so whether you're a homeowner looking to revitalise your house or a property developer looking to increase market value, we can help ☺.