Minimalism by definition is characterized by simple massive forms and extreme spareness. Although, at first it was a movement in sculpture and art, it soon took over music, fashion and gradually the design industry. Minimalism has even become a lifestyle movement. It has even kept the design industry in a state of captivity for over a decade. Let me tell you a little secret. Nine out of ten of my clients during the first consultation, declare themselves as fans of the philosophy “less is more.” They ask for a minimal styled interior within a modern context! BUT, believe it or not I always have to ask them ‘how much less is more for you?’ Why? Because, almost everyone has a different grasp of minimalism. Minimalism calls for simplicity as a means of a deeper appreciation of our surroundings. But how minimal is your style, and is less really more?
I can name, on top of my head, three typical minimalist interior design philosophies: the Japanese, Cycladic (Hellenic) and Scandinavian (there might be others, but I’m only going to talk a bit about these three). Japanese minimalism is by far, the one closest to the actual definition. It relies on the influence of Zen Budhism and hence, it instills minimalism as a lifestyle rather than a mere design scheme! Watch the video below (trust me don’t skip it, it’s only a minute and a half and it is enlightening!)
How many of you are willing to give up your possessions and keep only the very essential ones just like those Japanese did, as a way to lead the ultimate minimal living experience? Although, I admire their loyalty and faith in the “less is more” philosophy well, let’s just say that personally I’m not ready to follow it!
Let me go on to the Cycladic minimalism. That is a very special kind of design minimalism. It partly came into existence as a means to overcome nature’s “wild outbursts” such as earthquakes and volcano eruptions and partly due to the scarcity of elements like timber. (There is an evident shortage of forestry in the cycladic islands). For example, concreting different surfaces inside the cave homes of Santorini was a way to “smooth” over nature’s violent disruptions! The white color used helps reflect the sun in the summer, thus keeping the interiors cool. You could easily argue that the cycladic minimalism was a result of an environmental impact in combination with necessities. I believe that explains why when you visit the cycladic islands, its minimalism seems to make absolute sense to you. It doesn’t strike you as odd or as a misfit and soon enough you grow to love it and appreciate it. Moreover, I believe that these minimalist interiors make the most wonderful showcase of your very own personalized style. The reason is simple. There are no sofas or beds or expensive, eccentric furnishings to “steal” away the show from you. Your very own clothing and accessories (jewelry, hats, scarves, sunglasses) become the house’s decor.
Bedroom of a cave house in Santorini. Source
Next, we have Scandinavian minimalism. It is characterized by its neutral colors, wood on wood and reverence of form and function. Scandinavians have an abundance of forestry, need for natural light and deep love of nature. Their whole design philosophy is based upon those givens. They pay special attention to detail and hence, Scandinavian furniture is well known for its design, finish, quality, and durability. Scandinavian design minimalism is probably the one kind that has been scrutinized, analyzed, and duplicated over and over again more than any other design. But, a real good design concept remains good no matter how many times it’s duplicated. Moreover, it “moderately tolerated” and made allowance for hints of pluralism.
Typical Scandinavian interior. Source
Maximalism is here!
But did the design industry really surrender to minimalism completely and utterly to the point of no return? Oh, no! In some cases, minimalist interiors became sterile and boring! But, the wind of change has come! And more is MORE! Simple as that.
56th edition of the Salone del Mobile Milano
I think it would be nice to watch this short video from the 56th Salone del Mobile exhibition in Milan. It is probably the most influential worldwide furniture exhibition that took place this April. It is the one exhibition that I’m hoping to visit in person someday soon! The conclusion drawn from this exhibition is that maximalism is HERE! Colors, layering, rich textures, artisanal eclectic decor, rugs, luxurious materials i.e. marble with intense veining, mirrors, embellished wood and sculptured lights are the protagonists again and gaining ground and momentum every moment as we speak. Designers are now saying that it is time to enjoy our belongings, that we collect over the years into ensembles, without the guilt-trips of excessive splashing out.
Let’s face it. Most of us live in societies where maximalism rules in many levels and it has done so over many decades now. It has shaped us into beings who enjoy the process of transforming and constantly updating our wardrobes, our homes, our work spaces. Chances are that our existing interiors are somewhat more “plural” than we originally intended. So, perhaps there’s no real reason to beat ourselves over that, as long as we keep things balanced and feel happy about our choice. I like Iris Apfel’s attitude about life, style and interior design for this very reason. She personifies maximalism but no one would dare hold that against her. She made choices that made her happy at the end of the day and that’s evident and most inspiring.
My home makes me happy because it’s like being greeted silently by a lot of old friends. – Iris Apfel
So, time to do the maths! More plus more minus the guilt is glamour chic. I hope I got you thinking a little. You see the term “minimal” is used by many a bit loosely and not very justly.