Minimalist design is more than “less is more”. Minimalist style dates back to the Japanese culture of Zen, and borrows from geometric abstraction. Learn how to create a minimalist living room and deal with the most common minimalist misconceptions.
Today, minimalism is a tagline for a cool, fashionable lifestyle. The minimalist design label is applied to almost everything, from fashion, to art, to the way we conduct our lives. “Less is more” is the ultimate cool punchline.
On the one hand, it is good because minimalists advocate for a decluttered life, where we buy less, surround ourselves with fewer things, and learn to enjoy what matters.
On the other hand though, the whole concept of what minimalism traditionally entails is lost somewhere in translation. The real Minimalist design pioneers are forgotten in a dark corner, and we watch vloggers, such as Matt D’Avella. We’re not saying it’s a bad thing to follow minimalist vloggers, but it is even better to get to the bottom of the minimalist style and how it really came to be.
Tracing Back the Origins of Minimalist Design
The minimalist design movement is fairly new. As with most art movements, it rose to fame as a rejection of the subjective expressionism of the 20th century.
The expressionism movement was a chaotic, rebellious, vehement style that screamed spontaneity, evoking strong emotional reactions and ideas. By contrast, minimalism stripped it all down to the bare minimum, the essentials. The minimalist home design achieves its purpose when you cannot remove anything else from it to make it better in any way, color, or shape.
Some art critics trace the roots of minimalism all the way back to traditional Japanese culture. They might have a point, as the Nipponese culture treasures simplicity and equilibrium above all else.
Nevertheless, the Western minimalist design as we know it today appeared after World War II and became a powerhouse design trend in the 1960s and 1970s.
Who is the father of minimalism?
Most critics mention German-born American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe as the father of minimalism. Together with other prominent names such as Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto, Walter Gropius or Frank Lloyd Wright, he is considered one of the trailblazers of modernist architecture.
Mies advocated for an architecture with a minimal structural configuration that involved unrestricted open spaces and freedom of movement. He nicknamed it “skin and bones” architecture. Mies is also credited as the genuine author of the famous “less is more” adage.
Other New York artists from the 1960s began experimenting with geometric abstraction – different basic geometric shapes and forms that the human eye is familiar with.
Expressing an idea through geometric shapes means stripping it down to the core, and that is why geometric abstraction is also highly related to minimalism. Donald Judd and Dan Flavin are two American artists of that era who contributed a lot to the principles of minimalism through their works showcased at the Green Gallery in New York
What are the principles of minimalist design?
- “Essential” is a requisite in minimalism
All the elements in the design should be stripped down to the very essential. Everything needs to be clear and straightforward without being boring.
- Functionality is primary
Every little thing should first be functional and then beautiful. Every piece of furniture or storage space should serve a clear purpose. They all have their purpose.
- Clean, simple lines
A minimalist house design borrows from the principle of geometric abstraction – where geometric shapes are used to guide the designer towards a simple, decluttered living space.
- Neutral colors are used as accents
There is no place for screaming colors in minimalism. The color palette is minimal and almost monochromatic
- Limited materials
Any minimalist mid-century living room has glass, steel, concrete and wood as the only materials.
- Natural Light is Key
The minimalist design relies on letting natural light inside by building a borderless, open space that gives the impression of freedom and frankness.
Design Movements related to Minimalism
The Bauhaus movement is related to Minimalism to some degree. According to their design principles, form follows function, i.e. design should put utility before aesthetics.
Other Minimalist design associations include the DE Stijl movement (“The Style” in Dutch) and the Swiss Design school devoted to order, tidiness (see the grid system of organizing stuff), and the use of negative space.
However, Scandinavian Design has got to be the biggest name here. It has many overlaps with a minimalist design that we can’t ignore. We could even talk about minimalist Scandinavian design here. The main common principles are:
- Simplicity serves function
- Clean lines
- Bright, natural lighting
- The use of neutral colors
- Natural flooring options
Last but not least, minimalist design overlaps the Japanese philosophy of “Zen”, which promotes calm, meditation and simplicity in all things.
How do you become a minimalist interior designer?
- Neutral colors
A minimalist living room’s walls will always be painted in a simple, light tone. Beige, ivory, cream, champagne are just a few suggestions. Floor carpets or rugs should also be neutral.
Natural materials are key to a minimalist interior design. Try to opt for wood floors in light colors, or stone tiles. The idea of a minimalist house design is to get as close as possible to the proverbial blank-slate area with zero visual clutter.
If you start with a neutral setting in the walls and floors, it will be easier to spot any unnecessary things in the design.
- Involve simplicity in everything you do
If you’re looking for minimalist living room ideas, you should study the concept of simplicity first. “Simple” is not easy because “simple” does not have to be boring. Simplicity entails combining form and function to such a degree that it is both visually pleasing and convenient.
For example, one of the critical components of a modern minimalist living room is storage space. It needs to be simple and highly functional for the owner to keep away any potential visual clutter.
However, even storage needs to be organized in such a way that it exudes order. Open-box shelves are standard in minimalist living room design. Every opening and cabinet align into a visually pleasing geometrical order.
- Carefully decide on the stand-out pieces
To keep simplicity away from “boredom”, you need to carefully select one show-stopping piece that is both functional and also stands out from all the neutral hues.
An actual minimalist style interior design will incorporate one or two striking patterns, lines, or stripes.
- Visual balance is imperative
In the end, if you want to attain a cozy minimalist living room and make it your own, you can play around a bit with different types of furniture, flooring. The primary condition is to respect the symmetry of the layouts, color schemes, and light entering the room.
Strive to achieve vertical or horizontal visual balance. For example, take a center line in the room and guide yourself by it.
- Plenty of breathing space
In a minimalist living room or bedroom, you need to have space to breathe, literally and virtually.
Quality needs to come before quantity, and old memorabilia you cannot get rid of should be tucked away in clever storage space. Minimalist design will help make the best of your space.
3 Misconceptions about minimalism
- Minimalism is boring
No, minimalism should make time for us. By keeping a neat living space where everything falls into space, you can lead an exciting life and have more time for fun and entertainment.
- Minimalism is cold
It doesn’t have to be. Minimalism as a concept teaches you to let go of things that you don’t need. In the end, all the decorations in your room will hold a significant meaning to you.
- Minimalism is all about less and less
The word minimalism comes from the Latin “minimus”, meaning “least”, “the smallest”. However, minimalism shouldn’t be perceived as a trend that compels you to throw away as many things as possible and even more.
No, minimalist design is about finding meaning in the things surrounding you and putting away all the others that do not make absolute sense.
What interior design trends will replace minimalism in 2021?
During the pandemic, people found out that less is not at all more. So you see, the very idea of a minimalist living room where everything is where it should be and where you spend a few hours a day no longer applies to the work-from-home environment.
As people had to spend more time in their places, they felt the need to surround themselves with all sorts of things. So our homes became our everything – homes, schools, gyms, and it was almost impossible to sustain a sleek, minimalist design anymore.
It is understandable, and this is why maximalism is bashing through the door in 2021. However, minimalism will never die. Instead, at some point, we will get tired of our crowded, eclectic spaces and get back to the airy, neutral and sleek minimalist interiors.
Trends change with time, but they never die. So stay minimalist at heart and do not lose yourself in all the clutter.