Is colorful minimalism possible?

There’s a definite trend toward minimalism and not just for those who have a modern aesthetic. More and more families are rejecting extra stuff for extra play—they’d rather have a good time than a lot of good (or not-so-good) things.

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But still the trend seems to be that houses with less are white or neutral, and that doesn’t have to be the case.

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Try this quick experiment: Open Pinterest and search “minimalism home.” How many colorful rooms do you see? None. But there will be plenty of white and wood tones (and plants).

A colorful house can be just as spare as one with white walls. In fact, cutting back on the clutter makes a colorful house feel more intentional and less crazytown.

When we bought our house, I couldn’t wait to hang a wall full of plates. I loved the look and started collecting one pretty plate on every trip to hang as a souvenir when I got home.

I took down those plates last winter, fully expecting to rehang them. But they’re still sitting in a trunk in the basement. Nowadays my dining-room walls look like this:

Photo by Casey James Photography—walls are SW Copen Blue

They’re bare. But I like it because the room can breathe. There’s not much to dust, and I’m more likely to focus on the view outside since there aren’t 15 colorful plates vying for attention.

This trend has continued in other rooms too. When I decorated my boys’ bedroom, all we brought back into the space were three beds, a desk, one dresser, and a chair. That’s not much stuff for a room that sleeps three kids. But I like the sparseness of it.

Photo by Casey James Photography—walls are SW Canvas Tan

Still, a colorful minimal room is a rarity, and there are at least three reasons white became the standby color for minimalist living:

• White goes with everything, so if you want to change up one of the few things in your room, like a chair or rug, the switch is easy to make.

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• Minimalism seems to be an offshoot of modern design. Modern spaces in general have less stuff but are heavy on the white walls and texture.

• Traditional houses have always been colorful, and historic houses have typically been more heavily decorated and filled. Think of the opulence of the Victorian era, where it was a virtue to have lots of beautiful things and plenty of ornamentation. Think, too, about salon-style art hung floor to ceiling that suggests prosperity—you have so many beautiful things you’ve practically run out of room to display it all.

Photos from a favorite House Beautiful feature years ago. Wall color is BM Mustard Olive.

A shift to historic or traditional homes being furnished in a minimal way requires a new approach to minimalism, but it’s possible and when done well can pack a strong punch—not to mention that if you’re buying fewer things, you can more easily afford a handful of high-quality things, the kind you can hand down to your kids and grandkids (and that they’ll actually want to keep).

 via—YES. Slate blue is a great shade to try if you’re afraid of color.

But a shift toward colorful minimal homes will also require people to give colored walls a try. Do you think colored walls can ever become as common as white or gray? Even if it’s possible, it might take decades to get there.

Also, this room. Not a lot of furnishings and only one mirror on the wall, but how clean and warm it feels! Clean and warm can coexist.

Tell me, what do you think of minimalism? And what do you think of homes with lots of color? Have you seen many minimal homes, and if so, what do you like and dislike about them? •

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One thought

  1. Thank You!! I like minimalism, but I LOVE colour. I can not emotionally cope with drab or colourless spaces. I keep being a voice for colour in the minimalist community! 🙂

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