Design Debate: Is Minimalism Stark or Stunning?
Minimalism — the idea of living with less, allowing only the things we most value into our lives and removing everything else — resonates with many today. And when it comes to interior design, the pared-back approach is more popular than ever (thanks Marie Kondo!). Spare spaces often seem larger, and by streamlining finishes and possessions, the excess is stripped away leaving only what is essential. The end result? Beautiful, airy, soothing and uncluttered rooms. Sounds great, right?
The minimalist vibe, however, can be a challenge to get right. There’s the danger that spaces could seem cold, sterile or stark. Working within a color palette of neutral or pastel hues can seem restrictive. Then there’s maintenance — it requires a certain tidiness to keep spaces pared-back and organized.
At H&H, we think minimalism is a fabulous design aesthetic. We’ve collected some of the best minimalist spaces from our pages, and we want to hear what you think: Is minimalism stark or stunning?
This sleek, minimalist kitchen features an abundance of cabinets to hide clutter and a satin brass finish on the pendants, handles and faucets to warm up the all-white space. The look is bold and memorable.
Adjacent to the kitchen, the dining room is equally monochromatic and boasts an expansive mirror. A whitewashed oak dining table and fir columns bring a touch of rustic style to the bright and airy room.
In the living room of this Muskoka lake house, a single carved wood sculpture makes a striking statement against pale walls and minimalist furnishings. Cedar planks installed on the ceiling warm the room up.
Designed by Margot Bell and Dasha Ricci of Peaks & Rafters, this serene cottage’s pared-back look puts the emphasis on neutral finishes and natural light. In the kitchen, sleek white, wood and steel cabinets are accompanied by large-scale porcelain tile floors and uncomplicated furniture.
This cottage bedroom is simply dressed in relaxed linens. Built-in floating nightstands and simple articulated sconces are the essential pieces in this peaceful retreat, allowing the forest view to really shine.
The spare entry strikes a gallery-like note with a dramatic piece of art, simple bench and otherwise bare white walls.
Ken and Renee Metrick’s cottage retreat includes this beautiful — and minimalist — boathouse dock. Modern loungers and side tables are the only furnishings needed when the view of the woods and lake are clearly the stars of the show.
A uniform style throughout the cottage keeps the aesthetic simple and cohesive. In the principal bathroom, a contemporary vanity and fixtures, along with minimal accessories, creates a sleek and streamlined look. The marble tile almost feels like a continuation of the rocky terrain outside.
The bedrooms are also intentionally free of extra ornamentation. “The only art I wanted here was nature,” says Renee. Bare windows accentuate the natural light flooding the uncluttered space.
This clean-lined kitchen reduces visual noise with an all-white palette, custom touch-latch cabinets and panel-ready appliances. “Clutter starts to happen when pots and pans are displayed,” says designer Peter Wilds. “In an open-concept space, it can look chaotic.”
A simple workspace designed by Carrie McCarthy is tucked into this home’s loft bedroom. The spare look allows the shapes of the roofline, window frame and simple furnishings to be the main focus.
The aesthetic continues with built-in benches in the great room, which add form and function to the off-white, minimal space. The seating does double duty as storage for pantry items and bed linens, preserving the airy and clutter-free vibe.
A 1968 Bouloum chaise by Olivier Mourgue, unique accent table and wall of charcoal-stained white oak panelling are all that’s required to create this dramatic and elegant room. The drapery blends into the wall, shifting the focus to a stunning fireplace. This space is proof that bare doesn’t have to be boring.
This serene bathroom features a Japanese-style custom tub clad in hinoki cypress and textured black granite on a portion of the walls. The rooms’ simplicity and lack of ornamentation creates a bold design statement.
In a cozy ski chalet in Mont-Tremblant, a solid oak platform bed blends seamlessly into the white oak flooring of the principal bedroom, creating a minimalist envelope. A wall of cedar cupboards provides plenty of storage and keeps the space serene.
The kitchen of this breezy Palm Springs home is light and unfussy, with open shelving instead of uppers and minimal decoration. Natural textures and pale hues are relaxing and welcoming.
Save for a single piece of art, this guest bathroom is bare — its sparseness is striking in its simplicity.
In the guest bedroom, the minimalist look evolves to include a touch of pattern and texture, along with black accents to ground the space. A framed textile adds a shot of color in the mainly pale-hued room.
A light-filled cottage bedroom masters the minimalist look with a spotlight on functionality and purposefulness. The crisp white walls and blue-striped Marimekko duvet creates a soothing sleep sanctuary with a subtle nautical vibe.
This airy bathroom is enveloped in hexagonal Carrara marble tile, creating a cool, minimal look punctuated only by the elegant matte tub and gold-toned fixtures.
Lysanne Pepin’s cottage bedroom is an exercise in comfortable minimalism, with bare, pale walls and cozy layered linens in a restrained palette of whites and light greys.
This understated dining area is filled with natural light, thanks to large windows and folding doors. The calm, spare aesthetic promotes a sense of spaciousness and well-being.
In a quiet corner of a home designed by Nam Dang-Mitchell, white oak floors in a chevron pattern complement a streamlined bench for a serene look with maximum impact.