Minimalist Interior Design Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Modern minimalist interior design relies on uncluttered surfaces and open spaces to create its aesthetic. In this home décor style, less is more.


Because this style is as its name implies, minimal, it’s a tempting style to use when you don’t have a big budget for furniture or accents. It’s logical to assume that if you just leave much of the room or shelf space empty when you design your room, you’ll have achieved minimalism. Nothing could be further from the truth.


Minimalism actually is tricky to pull off. It isn’t just about open space. It’s about simple space. Think of it as the difference between a book with blank pages and a well-edited book. A blank book is boring; a well-edited book is engaging. If you want your home to be that well-edited book, here are four design mistakes to avoid.


Mistake 1: Barely There

A bare wall in minimalist design is fine. A wall with just a couple pieces of art is fine. But a wall that has art placed in such a way that the art disappears and the bare wall is all you notice is not fine.



When you create minimalism, you’re not just spreading things around because you don’t have enough to fill the room. Instead, you’re making considered choices, such precise choices that you can rely on fewer pieces to compose an inviting space. 


When a piece has to carry this much responsibility, it better be worthy of it. The photos and the print above aren’t strong enough to carry a minimalist wall. Nothing on the wall, nor on the table, for that matter, is powerful enough to draw the eye and hold it. 


Fix 1: Cluster 

If the art you have isn’t wow enough to hold its own on a bare wall, give it something to hang out with. This clustering technique uses juxtaposition to create enough texture and interest to command attention.



Just be sure that when you cluster, you have a close connection between what you place on the wall and what you partner with it.



The berries in the vase above overlap with the simple mirror in a way that pairs the two pieces. 


Mistake 2: Vastness of Space

When you spread out weak accent pieces, you leave a vastness of space that can be so powerful it seems to erase the accents. Of course, it doesn’t do this literally. Instead, it removes the “accent” part of the accents. In other words, it turns them into a sort of home litter instead of home décor. This happens when the accents are too mundane to play a starring display role.



In the photo above, the pottery accents are too close in style to each other to create an impact, and none of them are interesting enough to hold the stage above the cabinet. Instead of being décor, they look like they’re being stored.


Fix 2: Clear the Decks

When you don’t have something uncommonly beautiful to display, you’re better off leaving space above cabinets empty. This “edits” the room to remove the extraneous noise of random accents so the focus is left on the beauty of the cabinets themselves.



In minimalist design, wood grain and other textures can be enough to sustain the interest in a room.


Mistake 3: Single Seeking Mate

Some accent pieces just don’t have the chutzpah to hang out by themselves. If you place them in an open area on a shelf, they’ll appear to wilt, like a lonely spinster at a dance.



Sad soloists like the one above are spiritless usually for one of two reasons: they blend too much into their surroundings, or they lack textural pizazz. The glass candy dish above suffers from both of these conditions.


Fix 3: Embolden

A solo accent placed alone on a shelf or in an open space between books can work in minimalist design, but the accent has to have the confidence to stand alone.



The vase above has enough design sass to carry the weight of its single status. A contrasting color to its surroundings and a bold pattern give it what it needs to stay aloft on its solo flight.


Mistake 4: Busy, Busy, Busy

A common misstep in minimalism is something similar to putting all your eggs in one basket. In an intent to leave the bulk of a wall bare, décor is crowded together in one area.



Disparate décor jammed into a relatively small area such as the shallow mantel above looks busy.


Minimalism is intended to have a serene and soothing effect. Busy doesn’t have a place in serenity.


Fix 4: Weed it Out

To fix a busy scene, distill it down to just a couple types of accents. For example, you might combine a sculpture with a vase.



Or you could link art or a mirror with a vase or vases.



The key to weeding it out is paring down the types of accents included in the area.


As you may have concluded on your own, the mistakes and fixes above are interchangeable. In minimalism, a simple cluster, a cleared space, a strong solo piece, or a well-weeded vignette can be solutions to any too bare or too busy issue in a room. The key to minimalist design is creating spacious and beautiful spaces with appealing warmth. It's not about saving money on furniture and accents. Using a critical eye, check your space for the above mistakes and try the various fixes to see what works best to correct what’s not working. 


Images used with permission, courtesy of Ande Waggener and

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