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The New Minimalism is Warm Minimalism - And We're On Board!

Interiors

We all remember the bare, black, white and grey interiors ‘Scandi style’ brought into our homes and Pinterest boards. And while in recent years we’ve seen this stark style replaced with its antithesis; exuberant ‘retro eclectic‘ and nostalgic ‘grand millennial‘, a new form of minimalism is now ready to be embraced.

This is Warm Minimalism. It follows all the principles of traditional minimalism but borrows decorating cues from Japanese and Belgian interiors to add more layers, texture and just the right decorative flourishes to make beige anything but boring.

Our resident interior design expert Lauren Li shows us how it’s done.

7th July, 2022

The brick structure of the building is celebrated inside as well, making the connection to the outside even stronger. Design – Edition Office. Photo – Ben Hosking

The ceiling gives the space generous volume. The clients hoped the home would capture passing time and the qualities of changing seasons including light, colour, and texture. Artwork ‘The Kingdom’ by Grant Nimmo, care of Daine Singer Gallery. Design – Edition Office. Photo – Ben Hosking

Brick, timber and concrete are combined for an elegant effect. Design – Edition Office. Photo – Ben Hosking

When one simple material is used in a way that is anything makes the space look anything but simple. Customised timber joinery by Carpentry by Stu. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

A carefully considered skylight washes light across the walls. Noguchi Akari table lamp. Afra and Tobia Scarpa ‘Soriana’ sofa in original orange boule. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

There is no denying that soulful feeling you get in a space that is clad entirely in wood. Built-in sofa designed by Adriana Hanna. Custom coffee table from Zachary FrankelTwentytwentyone Hotaru Buoy Pendant Light by Barber Osgerby from Space Furniture. Photo – Sean Fennessy.

Materials were chosen for their modesty, tactility, and ability to change over time, such as oiled timber, raw concrete, galvanised steel, and bagged brick with a subtle pink pigment. Design – Architecture Architecture.  Photo – Tom Ross.

The house is filled with elegant nooks that display a cross-section of materials. Design – Architecture Architecture.  Photo – Tom Ross.

Natural materials come together; linen, stone, timber, leather and wool to create a serene, peaceful space. Design – Fiona Lynch. Photo – Dave Kulesza

Textured walls bring variety and interest without the use of patterns and colour. Design – Fiona Lynch. Photo – Dave Kulesza

The combination of characterful bricks and concrete on the exterior against white linen curtains and a timber ceiling inside gives the home so much warmth. Design – Retallack Thompson. Photo by Clinton Weaver.

The material palette is simple; timber, tiles and concrete, yet it’s full of character. Design – Retallack Thompson. Photo by Ben Hosking.

Lauren Li
Thursday 7th July 2022

Minimalism, I feel you but I have some questions. When we’re in a pristine space that is clean and open, we just feel lighter; our thoughts are clear and we feel free from all the ‘stuff’ that can weigh us down.

Light and shadow is emphasized against pure white surfaces. Each object in the space is intentional and purposeful. To live in an entirely white home without much furniture or art is seen to be aspirational, even for those that could buy absolutely everything. Kim Kardashian’s mansion designed by Axel Vervoordt is proof of that!

But… here is where I get stuck. Minimalist spaces only work when the architecture is amazing. If you live in a somewhat ‘regular’ home then removing all of the things and painting everything white can leave you feeling a bit empty inside. Kim’s ‘minimal monestary’ was also called a ‘rich mental asylum’ (!) so we want to meet somewhere in the middle.

We still want our spaces to feel clean, but at the same time we want comfort. So, what’s a minimalist style that isn’t cold? It’s called Warm Minimalism and I’m SO on board.

Warm Minimalism follows the minimalist principles; a focus on clean lines, pared-back forms and a reduced colour palette. We appreciate that less is more, but instead of taking everything out of the space, we appreciate that thoughtful objects and artwork actually add a deeper meaning to enhance the space. Here are some key characteristics:

Warm Material Combinations

Unlike strict minimalism design where the materials are limited to white plaster walls against perhaps only two other materials, Warm Minimalism is about layering a considered combination of textiles and finishes.

Different stone finishes come together, alongside timber and brick to create visual interest, and because the materials are natural, they work together. There is something deeply comforting about being in a space that is clad entirely in timber or walking barefoot on raw stone floors. 

In place of bright white painted plaster, whites lean towards soft beiges or venetian plaster finishes are applied to add a warm textured backdrop to the space.

Layering

You have permission to put comfort first. And yes, that means that you can have a (tasteful) assortment of cushions on your sofa (finally!). You can even indulge in a throw blanket and enjoy displaying artwork and some books on your shelf.

But before you get too carried away, you don’t need to have ALL of your books on display. Curate and edit it down. Decorate with natural materials such as wool, linen, leather and handmade ceramics. A paper shade in the form of a pendant light or table lamp adds a lightness and will glow beautifully in the evenings. Avoid using applied colour or patterns, the natural materials will do that for you.

Filter the Light

I know that we’re taught to always create north-facing windows so that we can bring as much natural light into a space as possible. And yes, we want our living spaces to feel bright most of the time, but sometimes we don’t. In Australia the light can be too bright and adding a sheer curtain is a game-changer. Nothing adds warmth to a space quite like a gorgeous swathe of linen across a few walls. 

Look up!

Don’t forget to think about the ceiling. Timber beams or cladding add instant warmth and architectural interest to a space. Thoughtfully places skylights wash light across a surface to add atmosphere.

Belgian Connection

Right in the middle between the sometimes austere, serious Scandinavians and the exuberant, expressive Italians lies the perfect combination of the two, the Belgians. They are the experts in Warm Minimalsim, their spaces are textured and not cluttered. Furniture is comfortable and yet considered. The spaces are elegant yet welcoming. Architects such as Vincent Van Duysen, AM Designs, NS Architects and Axel Vervoordt are renowned for this look. 

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net