How Minimalism is Killing Creativity
By Autumn Cockroft
Minimalism is a style that can be typically associated with clean lines, white walls, and no clutter. It is becoming increasingly popular as people admire minimalism’s roots in simplicity and sustainability. The benefits of this lifestyle are undeniable, but at what point does simplicity become mundane?
The concept of minimalism has been seen across many cultures since the beginning of time. Japanese culture, for example, is centered around achieving balance through simplicity. The first examples of minimalist design can be dated back to the 1920s and are associated with the Bauhaus School’s philosophy: finding a balance between beauty and function. The actual term minimalism did not surface until the late 60s when it was used by critics to describe simple music and art in America. This calm, sleek aesthetic became extremely popular in the 1980s on all creative forefronts—fashion, painting, writing, and more. It quickly grew popularity within the interior design and architecture industries and has since been at the forefront of trends.
In rejection to the minimalist movement in the 60s, the 70s came back with a maximalist approach. Maximalism is exactly the opposite of minimalism: approaching design with a “more is more” mindset. It includes saturated, bold colors, layered patterning, and rich textures. Maximalist interiors are surrounded by art and mementos that inspire the occupants. Contrary to the no-clutter policy of minimalism, maximalist interiors are surrounded by art and mementos that mean something to the occupants. Famous maximalist textile designer said it best, “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. Critics describe maximalist interiors as similar to “grandma’s house”.
There are a few defining characteristics of minimalist design. The big idea behind minimalism is that “less is more”. A minimalist building is stripped down to its functionality while using as few materials as possible. The structural elements of the building are the focus of the design, and there is no unnecessary ornamentation. Minimalism is made of simple forms and clean, sleek lines, and a neutral color palette. As functionality is key, there will be little furniture and no clutter. It is visually simple.
Though minimalism is widely known as a design style or an aesthetic, it goes deeper than that—it is a lifestyle. Functionality is the root of everything. Once you find what inspires you, you get rid of the rest. The rest is merely a distraction. Overconsumption is at an all-time high and minimalism combats that. Theoretically, minimalism reject status symbols. On the contrary, some argue that this type of lifestyle is elitist and unattainable. The psychological benefits of this lifestyle are undeniable, but when taken out of context, this design style’s lack of detail becomes cold.
Park benches and fences that were once decorated with lace-like metal work and floral motifs have been stripped down to their simplest, rectangular form. Similarly, modern doorknobs, doorbells, and cabinet hardware lack the charm they once had. Inspired by Mamie Eisenhower’s love for pink, pastel bathroom appliances could be found in every home in the 1930s. Now, to see anything but a white or ivory toilet would be unusual. Think of the classic 1950s diner: neon signs, checkered floors, and bright colors—full of life. These environments are not common anymore, they do not encompass the sleek, urban aesthetic. Minimalism has become standard in public spaces. Cathedrals turned into skyscrapers. Is it clean and sleek or is it dull and repetitive? Perhaps an attempt to achieve this extreme level of modernity and simplicity resulted in a lack of character and personality. Human eyes still need entertainment.
Every year, interior designers debate whether minimalism or maximalism will be the hot style of the year. All in all, interior design is about making decisions that allow the end user to feel safe and comfortable. The reality is that both styles can achieve that—what works for one person may not work for another. The important part is balance. It could be beneficial to have a calm, neutral bedroom to relax in at night. However, that does not mean decoration must be omitted from design for people’s well-being. Little details such as unique hardware on cabinets and decorated lamp posts are what give the world character. In the pursuit of escaping chaos, we cannot sacrifice human expression and character.