May 18, 2020 | Carpet One Floor & Home
Interior designer Annie Fair explores the art of minimalism.
My husband often finds it necessary to declare himself a minimalist. In so doing, he is contrasting himself against my, apparent, maximalism. I don’t self-describe as a maximalist. I do love the layers of life and character that populate the faded chintz curtains and upholstery of English country houses. I do want to display all the gorgeous art books I own. I am driven to find the needle in the estate sale haystack. And I absolutely want to go to the red apartment Billy Baldwin created for Diana Vreeland just to breathe it all in over cocktails. Dare I even mention Tony Duquette? Or Doris Duke’s Shangri La? OK, OK. Perhaps I have a penchant for more.
For the sake of a happy marriage and a spring refresh, I have agreed to explore the art of minimalism. After all, I love the simplicity and beauty of Japanese ceramics. I love a Zen hotel as much as the next person. I admire how one can live in a spare industrial artist loft. How hard could it be?
As I look out over my stacks of art and design books held up by a variety of bookends and my carefully curated collection of African cowbells that offset the Memphis-inspired candle sticks with their towering candles, where do I start? We start as we always do, of course, with a list. Here are my top ways for a maximalist to explore the art of minimalist interior design.
For this exercise to work, we need to start with a clean slate. Let’s say you want to refresh your dining room. As much as possible, empty the room of all unnecessary accessories, décor, and furniture. Keep only what is absolutely required for the room to function. For a typical dining room, that would be your table and chairs. If you want to go a step further, consider if you can abandon your chairs and opt for floor cushions and a low table. Once you’ve determined how you want to dine, then you may invite some of your other pieces back to the party. However, before we go from stark to stacked, consider the value added by an item versus the amount of space it takes up. Bring back as little as possible. Be strict. I think you can have an elegant dining room by just bringing in three more things. On my list , those three things would be a modernist console table, an antique candelabra, and a plant or vase for flowers. Done.
Our firm always mixes furniture and accessories from vendors high and low. Working like this allows clients to invest as they can, but still be able to live in their homes and be comfortable. Following our minimalist doctrine, let your investment piece be the star of the room. It does not want to share the spotlight with clutter and distraction. Give space for your special item to be special. If it is a credenza, for example, keep the surface clear of décor and accessories and allow it to float freely on a wall without overcrowding it with other furniture. This will draw your eye as well as help the special something be center stage in your room. Drama.
Rather than purchasing something new and acquiring more stuff, consider refreshing your living room by redecorating it using items you already have—perhaps you can swap lamps and throw pillows from another space to mix it up a little. Try putting one of your bedside table lamps in your living room, and move that floor lamp into that dark corner of your bedroom! Bring the art from your dining room into the entryway. Roll up those rugs and move them around! This exercise will also help you to see your items differently. After the relocation, you may have some leftover pieces that don’t work anymore. If you don’t love them, donate them. Release.
Consider how many dishes or glasses or towels you have versus how many people live in your home. How many of these items can your family use in a given day? How many sets of sheets can you use on your bed at once? Rather than having four sets of sheets when you really only love one of them, donate those that are no longer your favorites, and treat yourself to another set of the best! That way, you are always sleeping your best sleep, and there is less clutter in your linen closet. For me, this provides a good reason to invest in a brand I love rather than have second-rate bedding. I am also more likely to make my bed if I want to show off those gorgeous sheets! Clean and fresh.
Even as maximalists, we can understand how too many pillows may not be the best use of our sofa space. Rather than storing all the things you can’t currently use, consider donating them. Keep only the items you must use or that you feel you aren’t ready to release. Clinging on to things you don’t need will hold you back. Having less stuff allows you to consider the architecture and lines of your home.
Allow yourself one cheat day. Or cheat room. The powder room is always a fun place to really turn up the volume. And after all this minimalism, a little maximalism will surely come as a welcome relief! Have fun!
OK, maybe not, but these exercises have been helpful to determine what is really working in our homes and what is just taking up space. Recognize that more is not always better. Invest in quality and not quantity. Allow that investment piece space to truly shine. Do not feel obligated to cover every surface. Let the architecture and finishes of your home speak without embellishment. Remember what Coco Chanel said: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror, and take one thing off.” Less is more.