January 26, 2017

Minimalist Design Is The Next Big Thing

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  • Design

Minimalist design is a rising trend in 2017, largely due to the success of an innocuous book about cleaning up and organizing. Although her book, the life-changing magic of tidying up, was published in 2011, Marie Kondo’s influence is just now gaining mainstream appeal. Without going into too much detail, Kondo asserts that a cluttered space is a reflection of a clouded mind. It is through cleaning and tidying up that one can reduce tension and stress and eventually achieve inner harmony. This concept is an integral component of minimalist architecture, particularly around residential design. The ostensible simplicity of minimalist architectures belies the complexity of preparation and thought that went into the design – making sure that everything in its right place.

Minimalist architecture can take a number of forms but we will focus on two here – open floor plans and flex rooms. Although the former is about expansion and the latter is about compartmentalization, they are both two sides of the same coin: highly functional and purpose built design. Design that pares down superfluous elements and reflects only the essence of an object or a space. Let’s look at each in turn.

It is relatively easy to conceptualize an open floor plan – take a room and simply remove the walls. However, their appeal is not quite as readily apparent. Conventional thought suggests that walls help to define the function of a room, but removing the walls actually helps maximize the use of space – especially for homes with limited square footage. Removing these partitions integrates the communal usable area and allows a space to feel more expansive. The use of natural light via skylights or floor-ceiling windows also breaks down the barrier between indoor/outdoor and creates a more intimate bond with the outside world. The most accessible example of an open floor plan is the kitchen+dining+living room space, marked only by load bearing walls or support beams.

Flex rooms, on the other hand, are necessarily different from open floor plans because they are more dynamic spaces that can be easily reconfigured for multi-purpose use. The key to a minimalist flex room is in its complexity hidden beneath the surface. As an example, a living room can become a hallway, a spare bedroom, or even a wine cellar using sliding or recessed walls. These hidden partitions redefine an area without complicating its design. Flex rooms are a bit harder to easily conceptualize so below are a couple examples:

In this case, rectractable glass partitions help to compartmentalize this patio or open the living room to the outdoors.
In this case, you can literally extend the dining room into the natural world by lifting the external glass wall to create a skylight as well as a ceiling.

It is important to note that one can embrace minimalist design without completely abandoning their lifestyle and retreating into a tiny house in the woods. Minimalism realigns the focal point of a room to the space between things, rather than the things themselves. It is a matter of perspective – both open floor plans and flex rooms are interactive and allow one to create a space that reflects the way they live, rather than adapt their life to an existing configuration. It goes beyond simplicity: each component of this design is deliberate and essential, having a unique purpose and function. What ideas do you have to reconfigure and maximize the space you have? Let us know in the comments!

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