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Minimalism in interior design: five steps to achieve the “less is more” look

Minimalism is a timeless staple, and applying it to your design has never been easier. Learn about the history and practice of this style and put into action in just a few steps.

minimalist style bedroom
Interiors by Lawless & Meyerson
Minimalism in interior design: five steps to achieve the “less is more” look
Clara Carlino de Paz
November 22, 2022

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Few trends have impacted interior design as much as minimalism. Now, that sounds like an overstatement, but we promise it is not. Not only has it become the guiding principle for many designers, but it has impacted consumer habits, taste and even how we conceptualise a greener, better world.

Before we get started – what is this movement about? Minimalism, like many influences in the interiors world, started with the visual arts. In the mid-twentieth century many artists experimented with breaking down artifice and trying to get to the bare bones of beauty and aesthetics. This meant breaking away from superfluous needs, wants, ornaments, colours and lines. 

In philosophical terms, this taking away of the unnecessary was extended to life itself. “How many things do we actually need to thrive?”, “What is to want and to need?”, “Why do I have a desire to accumulate possessions?”. While these questions have very personal answers, they do get to the crux of minimalism: freedom is the liberation from the material world.

When we apply this in interiors, we see a continuation of this thought. Function is prioritised over form, and style is stripped back to the essentials. This style is characterised by the use of few colours, simple lines, and a pragmatic approach to motif and ornament selection. In the words of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1947, “less is more”, friends.

Now that we have some of our bases covered, let’s go through the most important factors in the minimalism style – and how you can achieve them in your own home or professional designs. 

01. Remove all unnecessary elements from your design

We know this is hard – stripping away at a design can feel like stripping away at our own taste and style. But knowing when to withhold is just as important as adding to a design. Let the lines of the architecture speak for themselves, and keep the furniture usable and simple, without any ornamentation. For example, if you are thinking of adding a stool just to fill up space – don’t. Be conscious and thoughtful about your choices, always putting feeling and use of an object above the looks of it.

Kitchen by Lawless & Meyerson

02. Move past the clinical look and introduce points of warmth

Minimalism gets a bad reputation when it comes to coldness… and that’s reasonable. When we remove so much from a design, we run the risk of being impersonal and removed from the liveable nature of a home. 

To make sure this doesn’t happen, opt for a warmer colour palette for your design. This means picking up a paint that interacts well with your architecture, lighting and sun orientation. Also, make sure to choose flooring that connects with your style and design. Wooden and timber floors are a fantastic choice for this, because they reintroduce natural, imperfect elements into scaled-back, thoughtful designs.

C Penthouse by Vincent Van Duysen

03. Bring the “personal” into the design

As much as minimalist design relies on bareness, the inhabitant of a space still requires their needs met and their comfort levels satisfied. It might be obvious to many, but we don’t all need the same things to be happy in a space: where some people need bookshelves filled with books and their counters wiped down and empty, others need colourful rooms for the kids and laid back dining rooms where the focus can be on the food. We don’t need to strip back in the same spaces or say goodbye to our joys to be minimalist. 

Styles must be adapted to the person living in the home, so don’t get too caught up in minimalist rules. Trust your gut and challenge your tastes, but always with the client in mind.

Salud, Madrid by OOAA Architects

04. Get real about clutter and chaos 

In the name of realism, here is a big nugget of truth: minimalism only looks good when clutter is kept to the bare minimum. Maximalist designs are more resilient in the fact that a book, a rug or a mug out of place will not stand out or feel out of place. On the other hand, minimalist designs have a low threshold for things lying around or elements being disorganised.

When designing, prioritise storage space in every room, and make sure the furniture you choose has drawers, shelves or discrete spaces for clutter. Of course, if you want to go the purist route, remove or throw away all clutter altogether and reduce your consumption as much as possible.

Kitchen by Marie Stadsbader

05. Finally, buy sustainable items that will last a lifetime

Speaking about consumption, minimalists believe in spending thoughtfully on the smallest amount of things possible. Besides this being an aesthetic choice, it is also a response to the increasing consumption in our homes and the consequences of it on this earth. When designing a minimalist space, investing in quality products that will last for decades will be an incredibly important aspect for your design. If you need somewhere to start, you can explore sustainable brands we’re loving right now, or start thinking about sustainable considerations you should integrate into your design.

Oslo House Bedroom by Paulsen & Nilsen