Over the past couple of decades or so the business of designing any interior space, whether that be home, office, retail or hospitality has revolved around a campaign of “less is more” which loosely translated becomes minimalism in the purest sense. Answering to the excesses of the 1980’s and 90’s, decades that everyone would prefer to forget, or at the very least, ignore, come the unpleasant, but still vivid images of big hair, padded shoulders, sex on the beach cocktails and the term “Greed is Good”. For those willing to remember these trends, the concept of minimalism seemed the only logical answer and a knee-jerk reaction to overly obsessive and materialistic living.
The minimalism of our newish millennium is similar in many ways to the arts and crafts movement of the late 19th century to the early 1920’s. It was born of a desire to reject industrialization and the overzealous gaudiness of the late Victorian era. Cheaper quality mass produced goods, especially those which fell into the category of personal or decorative adornment, were perceived as vulgar and so a movement embracing a simpler way of living was born.
Our minimalism, the one of recent years, has offered the same level of calming effect to those who openly embraced it. Decluttering was the task of the day. Ridding oneself of gluttonous excess and in doing so cleansing the mind, body, and spirit of everything that held within it the power to confuse, overwhelm and even offend. So, we accepted it. We simplified, eliminated, put it curbside, recycled it, tossed it all out and dressed the whole remaining thing in white, beige or grey, because even color, any kind of color was overly distracting.
It was a healing process, a back to basics concept. Like crisp white linens on a newly made bed. Purity and simplicity, and it worked for a while, but like all things, within time and space and life itself, it is now over. Out of fashion, overdone, boring and it’s time that we began to evolve into the sophisticated beings that we were meant to be.
From a perspective of design, decor and the very essence of creating a liveable and joyous personal space, what does this mean? What do we do next? How should we be living?
Historically, it is said that the pendulum swings both ways and once it travels to the extreme in one direction than more than likely it will swing back to the other. Does this then mean that we are about to revisit the excesses of the 1980’s and 90’s decades? Are we once again ready for polished brass hardware and fixtures? French country? Swags and jabots on the windows? or, (heaven forbid), the Southwest look?
Not necessarily. Although there are a few design cues that are classic enough that they survived the 80’s and 90’s, like splashes of colour in abstract art, the shabbiness of Parisian apartment chic and the modernist bent of the Milanese flat, there is a new phenomenon which is influencing us and has made a strong and positive impact on the way we will decorate our homes and other public spaces. Collecting special and personal objects, be they avant-garde sculpture, antique books, or pottery from some primitive and foreign island on the other side of the globe, will be in vogue. But each item should have a story, one that defines and describes who we are, where we have been, and where we are headed. Not simple clutter or even mindless accessorizing, but a simple series of monuments built by each one of us and one that describes the fruits of an exclusive existence. In fact, this collecting of special mementos tells a story of who we are. Our quirks, our feelings and the individualistic challenges of our daily lives. The pendulum, therefore, continues its act of ceaselessly swinging but instead of simply moving left or right the movement can be up, down, forward and sideways. Not at all back to the place it was at the end of the twentieth century.
This phenomenon, the swing, if you like, can be summed up in one word. Globalization. A marvel of the Internet, air travel to new international destinations and an overwhelming search for a peaceful Zenlike existence. In a nutshell…experimentation as we’ve never savored it before.
Globalization has made exotic travelers of us all. Whether we have set foot in any of these places or not. Our desire for everything from food and wine to objects of personal adornment and, of course, the things we collect and decorate our homes with will have an innovative flavor, like nothing we’ve ever experienced. Mysterious, exceptional even glamorous in a striking new way. In fact, these special details, these artifacts, are bits and pieces which could only be hand selected by a seasoned Bohemian. A compelling individual who is on a never-ending quest for the perfect articles which hold meaning in this new global village. So, the new trend revolves mostly around our awareness, our new realities and the desire to be fascinated and fascinating with stories to tell and memories to share.
This is the new lush minimalism. The era agnostic, globally intentioned and yes colorful practice of collecting, arranging and expressing our uniqueness and individuality with less of an idea of matching everything and more of an idea of expressing who we are, what we know and even more importantly…what we want to know. It means throwing caution to the wind and opening our minds to the vast but authentic world of foreign culture, design, art, cuisine and of course, color. Picture a series of objects in your home that seems to have been hand-selected from exotic locations in another faraway destination of the world. Textiles from a simple market in Peru or handcrafted pottery from a street vendor in Madagascar.
Subsequent articles, appearing here will examine the notion of a kind of new lush minimalism, the essence of green living and its true and varied meanings and applications. And what about the all-important concept of blurring the lines between culture, language, nationality, the various definitions of beauty and glamour from all continents and people. All of it happening before our eyes and lavishly focused on the marvel of a rapidly evolving globe.
Where does it begin and end? How do we understand it? Incorporate it into our own lives without becoming overwhelmed with dogmatic actions, flawed decisions, and unappealing details?
How do we stay focused on what the true meaning is as we go about our lives feathering a nest in a way that reflects who we are and what we love? The art and act of creating a haven which is not only beautiful to behold but calms our souls and our senses.
In putting this article together, I collected some photos of the original minimalist look of the early part of our 21st century and contrasted it with the excesses of the late twentieth century and then where we are going today. The difference is stark and noticeable. Our pendulum has swung between tiresome and overdone, to sterile and unloved and now to seductive, international and sophisticated. Our spaces, just like all other elements that appeal to our senses, will always reflect how we are continuing to evolve as a society and as individuals.
Our discussion in the following weeks and months will be to explore and savor this enchanting modern design and decor concept and all its glittering details. It’s an intelligent discussion on the new visual reality, how to understand it, incorporate it effectively into your life and most importantly how to create a sanctuary, a personal place of protection which at once calms and stimulates the senses.
It’s a new world. A most exciting place to be.