What Is Minimalist Design? Learn the Secrets of the Simple Style

Minimalist design is clean, calm, and purposeful. Use these tips to decorate in the simplistic style without sacrificing personality.

Minimalist design is often misunderstood as cold, boring, or impersonal, but in fact, this streamlined aesthetic is simply efficient and purposeful. By avoiding unnecessary clutter and ornamentation, minimalist homes emphasize what's most important to the homeowner, using simple forms, pared-back colors, and sleek materials to achieve functional, elegant spaces.

Influenced by Germany's utilitarian Bauhaus movement and the simplicity of Scandinavian and Japanese design styles, minimalism provides a quieter alternative to over-accessorized interiors. Minimalism creates a tranquil atmosphere in living rooms or bedrooms and gives kitchens and bathrooms a clean, modern look.

Although it's designed to appear effortless, decorating in minimalist style is highly deliberate and can be difficult to pull off. Learn more about its key characteristics and discover tricks to achieving a clean, minimalist look without sacrificing personality.

minimalist living room with gray sofa and wood floors
Matthew Williams

Elements of Minimalist Design

The mantra of minimalism is "less is more," often attributed to architect and furniture designer Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe. Each element in a room should have a place and a purpose, which means you won't often find many superfluous items or needless decorative details in minimalist homes.

Smart organization is essential, and storage is typically streamlined or hidden away to avoid visual clutter. On furniture and accessories, clean lines and simple shapes help maintain a streamlined look. The overall effect of a minimalist room is generally open and airy, with an emphasis on natural light and plenty of breathing room.

Minimalist color schemes often start with a neutral foundation, but they're not limited to shades of white. Neutrals including gray, taupe, black, and wood tones are commonly used in minimalist designs. With the right application, hues including blush pink, green, and blue can serve as muted accent colors. The key is to keep the color palette mostly monochromatic with only slight variations in shade and tone.

arched doorway white bedroom
Jay Wilde

How to Decorate in Minimalist Style

To embrace a minimalist aesthetic, start with a clean, uncluttered foundation. Remove or store any unnecessary items, and consider painting your walls in a neutral hue. Use the wall color as the basis for your color scheme, and incorporate an accent color or other neutrals in varying intensities to create subtle visual interest. Opt for solid colors and subdued prints over bold, statement-making patterns on rugs, upholstery, and other surfaces.

All furniture should be comfortable, functional, and appropriately sized for the room. If you're short on space, consider furniture with hidden storage or multi-purpose features to save space. Limit decorative accents to a few impactful pieces, such as an oversized mirror, a sculptural houseplant, or a piece of abstract artwork. To prevent a minimalist design from feeling too sterile, incorporate natural materials like wood, stone, jute, wool, and linen for added texture. Overall, the goal is a restful, well-designed environment that's beautiful in its simplicity.

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