recent posts

social media menu

How to be minimal – without getting clinical

When I moved from a place that looked like a Victorian pawn shop to a clean-lined Sixties house, it was the chance to embrace the sort of minimalism I’d always admired. Not stark – but calm, considered and classy. The result? Cold, uninteresting and clearly lacking something. Where was I going wrong?
Clean and lean: (clockwise from top left) interior designer Staffan Tollgard's stunning London flat (via Living Etc.); a vintage chandelier from eBay Abbey Chandeliers; clean citrus lines from Coastal magazineClarkeDesai architects 

Interior define What exactly is minimalism? “It is simplicity,” explains George Clarke, architect, Ideal Home Show ambassador and fan of pared down interiors. “It is quality not quantity; design stripped to its most fundamental features; maximizing your living space so that your home doesn’t look cluttered; it is calming.”

Opposites attract Minimalism does not need to look like a sleek white box (or, in my case, a half-furnished room). Soften empty spaces with warmth – like a sofa full of velvets and fake furs in a sparse, industrial setting. “Minimalism’s power,” says Alan Hughes of the Inchbald School of Design, “is based on juxtaposition … light against shadow, wool against leather, reflective against matte.”

United colours “There is also a control over the colour palette, adds Hughes. “Usually a single pale or neutral hue,” which brings varied textures to the fore as a way of adding interest and depth. But you can still be minimal-ish with brights, by picking just one.
The relaxed, homely vibe of this kitchen proves minimalist can be cosy, too. The image is from Pale and Interesting, the gorgeous online store run by stylist, designer and author, Atlanta Bartlett, 
Shine a light Switch clutter for bulbs: “Clever lighting can turn a boring space into an extraordinary piece of architecture after dark,” says George Clarke. “I like recessed architectural feature lights – especially low-level ones in halls or on stairs.” While visual artist, Claire Heafford, who hosts interior workshops at Papered Parlour, lights her studio with salvaged antique chandeliers (from Arch Source). “They scatter kaleidoscopic patterns across bare walls, the pretty effect is always admired by visitors yet involves no added ornamentation.”Want to know more about chandeliers - or spot a real bargain but it's a bit knackered: Abbey Chandeliers in Derby - full of useful info to help you find the right lights for you.

Bin there Clutter can be a hard habit to kick. Try the two-stage trick: tear yourself away from useless objects by storing in the attic/garage/self-storage unit. Make a six-month date: anything you haven’t missed – charity charity shop, or rotate it with objects from home. Try also the Clutter Clinic book.

Shelve it Clear kitchen surfaces for smooth lines: Lakeland’s under-shelf baskets (£11.99) for cupboards and under-sink shelves are pure genius.

In-store Kate Mooney, interior designer and Occa-Home MD suggests decorative storage trunks (this is one of Occa Home's, above) or any dual-purpose furniture with a secret niche) and keeping corners visible to enhance an air of space. Floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall mirrors are magic too.

Loose Fit Floundering? I like the sentiment Kelly Hoppen expresses in her book Close up: Attention to Detail in Design (Quadrille): “A room that is over-disciplined is in danger of becoming boring," she writes. "And a space punctuated with too many ingredients will have the awkwardness of a badly composed sentence.” I may have to focus on writing.


  1. I love the room in the last picture, looks very relaxed but still uncluttered. I'm a huge fan of Scandinavian design but it's true that sometimes a combination of white color and spacious rooms can look almost too empty and lack character. great post!

  2. Thanks Maggie! I love that room too... it's all about keeping things simple, which is often harder than it looks I think - K