Even as a young kid I was enamored with good design in people’s homes. My own room was a constant changing environment that mimicked what I saw on TV and in my friends’ homes. I had a pal in elementary school who lived in an amazing design-rich home. Her insanely hip mother owned an art gallery and their walls were a rotating display of giant colorful paintings. The square footage of the house was massive, but this woman did not feel compelled to fill it. There was negative space (probably so the art could “breathe” or something poetic like that) and everything was clean and white. I loved exploring the rooms during sleepovers, studying the giant paintings, admiring the fact that there was nothing to compete with them in the room.
This was the beginning of my love affair with simple home design–Scandinavian design in particular.
Clean palette. Lots of space. Unfussy furniture. Mix this with my paradoxical passion for color and you’ve got yourself quite a happy, clean environment!
I do not live in an all-white house and I probably could still afford to 86 some gear in our abode. Yet, I have figured out some design tricks to hep a home feel open, more fresh and inviting with a nod to some current design trends.
1) Large art beats a collection of small pieces every time.
When trying to simplify a room, go with bigger pieces. I think it has something to do with the eyes having one specific resting spot on a wall instead of having to dart your eyes all over the place to take it all in. When I visited the homes of my portrait clients, I always suggested an investment in one bigger piece instead of a hodge podge collection of smaller prints. Small prints are for bedside tables and albums. The statement piece should be loud and proud (be it a family portraitor an oil painting) and command your attention.
2) Create monochromatic rooms with wall paint and furniture & add colorful accessories to accent.
If you suddenly decide yellow makes you feel queasy, you can pitch the yellow chevron pillowcovers without a huge financial loss. ‘Not so much with a couch! Also, you can edit accessories when your tired eyes need less color in view. You can change them out seasonally to match the mood of your days. I love white, but my husband fears it, so we compromised with a pale yellow. It’s calming and also cheerful in our dark Northwest winters. The colorful pillows and art I’ve got going on give it some personality. I change it out constantly (just like my childhood) and it’s easy because it doesn’t involve moving furniture or spending a lot of money.
3) Clear off those surfaces.
Use a leafblower if you have to! A clear kitchen counter is as close as I get to nirvana these days. The mail lives in one little wooden bowl (not to be unleashed to other areas of the downstairs) and my whittled down kitchen utensil cannister enjoys its big open space on the island. I gave up decorative trinkets for Lent and never went back. Clear surfaces = serentiy. Believe it!
4) Create a furniture layout that invites conversation.
I love doing this verses circiling up the seating to worship the idiot box (as the hub likes to call it). It does wonders for developing some quality family gathering, as well as free up some space because you’re not limited to TV watching angles with furniture placement. Better yet, nix the screen altogether–a feat I could personally do, but I fear the family may show up with picket signs.
5) Negative space: It’s a beautiful thing.
Try not to subscribe to the typical room layouts…night stand/bed/night stand/foot-of-the-bed-settee/dresser chair/dresser/vanity….It’s your house. You can do whatever you want with your space. Don’t need a dresser because the closet is just enough space for you? Get rid of it! Voila’! Space for the eyes to rest. Don’t use your dining room? Sell the table and chairs and toss in a chaise and a bookcase–instant Library of Calm.
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I do little trial periods of hiding furniture pieces in the attic to see if we miss it. I’ve got quite the stash for our spring garage sale. Look me up if you’re in the area and are in need of a burlap ottoman. 🙂 Looking at this collection of sale-bound gear has motivated me to avoid purchasing decor “just because it’s lovely”. A minimalist home doesn’t have to consist of stark wood and two Eames chairs…although it is so lovely.
You can take most appealing design ideas from this aesthetic and incorporate them into your own home. Just the subtraction of stuff can do wonders to simplify your space. It sure has for me.
Here’s to having homes that make us feel calm and happy!
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Oh wow, my eyes were really resting on these pictures. I too love the clean and empty space… Kitchen counters have to be empty, same with kitchen table. I remember visiting friends and seeing all the food left out to tables and kitchen counters, the tubs of this and that and pots of whatever- painful sight.
Useful article! Will defo use these guidelines to redo living spaces 🙂 Thanks!
I love your decorating style. Thanks for sharing!
Beautiful, and great ideas, thank you. Last week I cleared our guest bedroom of clutter (because we had a guest!) and it looked amazing. I’m going to keep it that way.
Isn’t it funny how having a guest can jumpstart the process? 🙂 I hope it turned out how you wanted it to!
Great tips! I love open space, but sometimes it’s hard to let go of the little things – those pictures are beautiful though, and so much better than the clutter!
I’ve just put everything away so I can paint my kitchen, and I’m like, wow I could actually live like this! we’ll see what happens….
Heather-I’ve totally done this! I cleared out stuff to clean and then took a good look around and noticed the openness….It’s an “aaahhh” feeling for sure. There’s not law you have to put it all back 🙂
I agree – large artwork all the way! Makes much more of a statement. Though I do like putting small photos or prints on desks, bookcases, or bedside tables.
I like thaat too. My bedside shrine of my kids is a nice thing to look at right before falling asleep 🙂
I love my kids but don’t like them looking at me in bed…;o!!
Mine stay in the hallway on the secretary desk LOL
However, our couple pics are fine in the bedroom…
I have a 30×40 above my bed of my husband kissing my cheek on our wedding day. I just love it and it makes me happy every time I crawl under the covers. 🙂
This is so great. As a photographer too, you really speak to me. Negative space! Yes!
It’s so funny that when I owned my studio there was SO MUCH going on in my images. Lots of color and detail. Now I just wanna shoot stillness…water, sky, still life fruit, fields…weird how this whole paring down thing trickled into my art as well.
Are those photos from your house? They are so lovely. I want to live there.
no, sadly, they’re not—but this is very much my style. I love clean palettes…my house is modern farmhouse with a twist of indrustrial. It’s been such a journey paring it down!
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Love it! Scandinavian is my style as well 🙂
Love your photos….I love white and wood and gray…and negative space. We are in the process of building a house and I don’t want to just fill it up with stuff. I want it to feel open and airy. :).
open and airy has become my mantra these days…it needs to go on my headstone…”she was in search of open, airy, spaces and fun and light circumstances” 🙂
:). Love that.