The Beginner’s Guide to Minimalist Style

Minimalist isn't minimal. It's pop!

By now, most of us have heard about the "tiny house movement", and even looked at galleries of these inspired spaces, daydreaming about this sort of super-simplified way of life. And while the idea of streamlining our lives to such an extent that we can live in the equivalent of a garden shed may seem wildly appealing, it may not be "doable" for most of us. Whether we have kids who require their toys and separate spaces or our jobs and lifestyles don't allow for the fewest belongings possible, we can still take a lesson or two from tiny homes and find ways of living along the minimalist guidelines.


After all, if you look at the most common minimalist goals, they include living without duplicate items, having clutter free homes, traveling lightly, dressing with less, simplifying all meals and cooking, and saving money for a rainy day or emergency fund. In other words, minimalist style is defined by keeping things simple, owning much less than we have ever owned, using everything we own, and embracing the light, air and open spaces around us.


Bungalow kitchen and dining area with blue contrast wall hardwood floor kitchen


Getting Started

While all of that sounds very clear, it doesn't answer the question of just how to begin to transition your current style to one that is more minimal. The best path would be:


Begin with just one room - Declare this one the clutter free zone of your home, and avoid the sense of being overwhelmed that has stopped many other potential minimalists in their tracks. Instead of looking at your whole home, just take apart one room. Purge closets, discard the bric-a-brac that has been gathering dust, and consider if items would be better served in another area of the home.


Contemporary purple and lilla living room


Consider furniture - While still in that first room, begin looking at the furniture. Do you have anything you really dislike or don’t use? If so, sacrifice those items that are unneeded. The goal, ultimately, is to open up the floor space, and ensure the most natural light reaches you inside. Aim to clear off the surfaces too as the visual clutter can often feel like mental clutter.


Minimalist living room with modern sofa and shelves


Readjust - Once you have gotten rid of all of the unnecessary things, consider the more important issues such as the colors, the window treatments, and the upholstery or bedding. Is it in a hue or palette that brings you a sense of calm and peace? Is it helping to keep your mind as minimally cluttered as the space? 


Once you have tackled all of these steps inside of the room, you can now start to apply some of your personal style. By this point, the room has become more of a blank canvas on which you can project the subtler elements of your decorating and/or lifestyle.


The Color Rules

One powerful rule that minimalists use, and some without even knowing it, is the ratio for perfectly balanced color. This is a rule that relies on 60/30/10 ratios. The 60% is the dominant color in the room, and most minimalists rely on white, off-white, or neutral grays or tans for this part of the formula. Then the 30% is a complementary hue such as the flooring, some of the furnishings and moldings. After that, the ten percent is where the action comes in with bursts of color.


Modern interior


As an illustration of this, a minimalist bedroom may have pale walls and ceilings that are coordinated with the same hue on the bedding. This might mean white walls and trim with white bedding. The floors may be a contrasting darker wood with the bed frame and even some moldings in that same darker wooden hue. The rest of the room may have a small burst of color with one or two brightly colored pillows, a potted plant, and a subtle piece of wall décor.




Go ahead and tackle one room at a time, always using the rules outlined above. You will soon see that your home is uncluttered, lighter, and more relaxing than ever.

Images used with permission, courtesy of and

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