Minimalism: A Growing Trend
‘Less is more’. This phrase, coined by Robert Browning in his poem Andrea del Sarto, was adopted by architect Mies van der Rohe in the 1940s and has since become one of the key principles of minimalist design and architecture, encapsulating the idea that better design can be achieved through simplicity.
So much more than ultra-modern white-box sterility, a skilfully executed minimalist interior will convey a sense of uncluttered elegance and serenity. Editing a space down to its bare essentials requires restraint and discipline, but the payoff is an interior that is balanced and beautiful. Architectural designer John Pawson, celebrated for the minimalist aesthetic of his work, calls it ‘the excitement of empty space.’
Traditional Japanese design and Zen philosophy are obvious influencers of the minimalist aesthetic. Simple, pared-down lines, natural materials, the rejection of clutter and a focus on living ‘authentically’ are all strongly valued. The designs of Japanese minimalist architect Tadao Ando, for example, while thoroughly modern in style, are deeply rooted in Japanese culture and religion. The late 19th-century Arts and Crafts movement, with its guiding principle of ‘truth to materials’, and 1920s Bauhaus (of which Mies van der Rohe was the last director) could also be considered the pioneering predecessors of modern minimalism, which itself emerged during the 1960s.
Minimalist design rejects what it considers unnecessary excess and ornate detailing, instead allowing function to dictate form. It rediscovers the value in common materials such as concrete, steel and plate glass, which are often left exposed in interiors. When there is little else to distract the eye, each carefully selected material or piece of furniture has space to breathe and, as a result, stands out all the more.
Minimalism is well suited to the raw industrial aesthetic, as evidenced in the clean lines of 1508 London’s award-winning Project Elizabeth. The absence of superfluous detailing ensures that the focus falls on the simple palette of high-quality materials, creating the perfect backdrop against which to highlight our client’s art collection.
Pre-cast concrete takes centre stage in the main reception (above). We punctured it with bespoke acrylic lenses that playfully distort and amplify light across the space, creating plenty of visual interest. Weathered steel wall panels add texture and glow with warmth, their patina changing over time.
Pared-down design elements are a hallmark of minimalist style. Frameless windows such as the ones in Project Esra, below, let in an abundance of natural light, helping to make the space feel warm and inviting, and linking the building to the outside world.
Minimalist interiors are characterised by simplicity of form, material, detail and colour. In this understated kitchen in Project Khan, the neutral colour palette and streamlined flat-panel cabinetry keep the visual ‘noise’ to a minimum, resulting in a calm space in which everything has its place.
The minimalist trend is not about deprivation – it’s about achieving beauty with less. The layers are stripped back, leaving a heightened sense of clarity and calm. The focus shifts to the function of a room and the exceptional objects that remain – their shape, colour, texture. It can be a refreshing escape from the chaos and overstimulation of our everyday lives.