As we always say, it’s more important to have a few quality items than a ton of junk. So when we turn an eye toward revamping our living space, we try to increase the quality of our place … not just add more stuff.
This trend toward minimalism rings especially true in the current economic times. And, in any case, a few style-defining pieces speak much louder than lots of little tchotchkes.
So just how do you achieve a chic minimalist look that is friendly to your lifestyle and your budget?
We turned to internationally renowned interior designer at Dessins, LLC, Penny Drue Baird, one of Architectural Digest’s Top 100 Architect and Designers worldwide and author of the upcoming The New French Interior (Random House, 2011), to guide the way.
“On a practical level, minimalism is appealing because there’s less to take care of,” Baird says. “With less stuff comes the feeling that you can breathe.” No one’s insisting you whitewash your walls or trash that vintage flea market lamp. Instead, take your paring-down project one room at a time with Baird’s three rules for interior décor:
1. Part With It
Editing your possessions is the first and most important way to change your living space, Baird tells us. “Everyone has too much stuff.” But aside from tossing your odds and ends (the benefit of which cannot be overestimated), selective editing is what really counts.
The largest pieces—like a rug, couch, wallpaper or window treatments—set the tone for your whole space. Baird advises choosing solid, calm colors for those large pieces rather than frenetic prints and patterns. “Eliminate the busy-ness,” she says. Even if you’re not in a position to start replacing, you can calm a room down instantly simply by pulling down the drapes, rolling up a loud rug or tossing a pale-colored throw over mom’s floral couch.
2. Move the Couch
To the untrained eye, the perfect floor plan isn’t always obvious—so seek a trained eye. You can gain access to those eyes for free, Baird tells us: “Pottery Barn has some great people on staff. They’re called Design Studio Specialists, and they’ll do complimentary consults.” The specialists will even do site visits: After going over your floor plan and a few photos of your space and other spaces you love, they’ll schedule a time to come to your home and advise you on how to maximize your space.
Try to schedule these visits when you are ready to make some changes. Depending on the level of service you receive, you may want to consider purchasing a few items or accessories--however, you are not obligated to do so.
If you’d rather play with floor plans from the privacy of your own computer, check out the Urban Barn Make Room Planner. The tool tries to encourage you to use Urban Barn’s wares, but you can click on a tab to use generic symbols.
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3. Multiply, Don't Divide
Baird recommends grouping similar objects for a sense of deliberate decoration rather than a left-it-there look. This works for mirrors, vases, magazines and all manners of like objects. For example, try pulling a room together by arranging a group of vases on a windowsill or clustering mirrors on one wall. “But keep it from getting too crowded—no one needs twelve pillows when two nice ones will do.” In other words, don't use the idea of grouping like objects as an excuse to hang on to more belongings than you need.
One last tip Baird insists on? There's a proper order to upgrading: “I always tell people not to start changing the details before establishing the base. Don’t get distracted by end tables if you still don’t have a dining table.”
To help you pinpoint the easiest ways to transform a room, we spoke to Jennifer Connell of Fun House Furnishings. Here’s how she breaks down which features have the greatest visual impact on a space:
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