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Minimalism in Interior Design

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Minimalism in interior design is a relatively new design trend which is gaining popularity all over the world. It aims to create aesthetic, efficient and functional spaces by using the fewest design elements. This study focuses on the design principles of the minimalist style, its origin and the design elements that are used to create it. It also reveals the benefits that we may acquire by using this style in our home’s interiors. The data was collected through research articles, books and internet which has shown that it is the most effective and influential design these days. It has been influenced from Japanese interior design where functionality and necessity are chiefly considered. Simplicity is the key element of its design. It utilizes basic geometric forms, shapes, a few colors and textures, elements without unnecessary ornamentations, simple materials which represent a sense of order and essential quality and creates a space which is not only visually appealing but also requires minimum maintenance. It provides modesty to the house and eliminates the trend of lavish and highly decorative designs of the past. It gives an elegant look to the design because of its simplicity.


‘Minimalism’ is derived from the word minimum in French which means the least or the smallest amount needed for something (Inan, 2014). It is the use of the fewest essentials or elements, in arts, literature or design. In the field of arts, it can be defined as a design or a style in which the simplest and the fewest details are used (Taghilooha, 2011). The word ‘minimalism’ became evident in the twentieth century and has penetrated into many facets of modern life including interior design. The purpose of minimalism in interior design is to create simple, manageable and well organized spaces for maximum comfort, function and aesthetics. This concept was initially influenced by the Japanese design style, especially found in their decorations and can be traced back to the traditional Oriental culture, where everything in the room gets reduced down to the elements of bare necessity. In interior design this style only utilizes the smallest range of materials, colors and very simple shapes and forms. It works on the principle ‘less is more’, the notion that simplicity and clarity lead to good design. This phrase is often associated with the architect and furniture designer Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe (1886-1969), one of the founders of modern architecture and a proponent of simplicity of style. (Genchev, 2013)

Minimalism in interior design is about creating a space which reflects a sense of order, calm and restraint. It seeks to bring out the core of interiors, enhancing their functionality while minimizing the unnecessary details and flourishes. It focuses on trimming the fat of the excessive modern design trends where fancy and elaborate designs are preferred. The fundamental principles of minimalism are sharp lines, solid surfaces, low furniture, and pastel shades, although softer shapes, more colors and textures have appeared recently. However, the main idea of minimalism design is to use simple and natural forms. A room having minimum furniture and details makes it look spacious. It makes the space look larger and more inviting. A fully minimalist room will naturally be clutter-free, which will render a peace of mind as recent researches have shown that having a cluttered home can cause high levels of stress. This design approach brings interior design back to its basics and is a trend that seems timeless and looks appealing. It is becoming popular in interior design because it is effortless and it is especially admired by those who value the combination of simplicity, sophistication, beauty and practicality.


  • To gain an understanding of the concept of minimalism in interior design.
  • To identify the design principles of the minimalist style in interiors.
  • To find out the benefits we can acquire by implementing the minimalist style in our homes.

Purpose of the research

The aim of this research is to understand the new and trending concept of minimalism in interior design. To study the design principles of this style and what benefits we may acquire by implementing this style in our homes. Recent researches have shown that the environment where we live in has an impact our emotional and psychological wellbeing, so implementing these principles of minimalist interior design can actually improve these conditions. The goal of minimalism in interior design is creating spaces which provide a peace of mind; they are aesthetic as well a functional and practical in every aspect of its design.

Research Questions

  1. What is ‘minimalism’ in interior design?
  2. What are the design principles of the minimalist style?
  3. What are the benefits of implementing the minimalist style?


Minimalist design first appeared in 1913 in a composition by a Russian painter Kasimir Malevich of a black circle on white ground. It is known to be one of the greatest 20th century paintings of the abstract movement and has been a source of inspiration for painters for decades. Black Circle (1913) oil on canvas, State Russian Museum, St Petersburg, By Kasimir Malevich. Similarly, the use of simplified visual compositions and the use of primary colors with black and white alone were also found in the De Stijl art movement that began in 1917 and ended in 1931. Theo van Doesburg was the leading figure of this movement who set the foundations of minimalism. This art movement existed only for a short period of time but is considered as the predecessor of minimalism. (Taghilooha, 2011)

Left: Theo van Doesburg, Composition VII (the three graces) 1917 Right: Van Doesburg and Rietveld interior, c.1919, Rijksmuseum, AmsterdamThe traditional Japanese design is also considered as one of the predecessor of minimalism because of the simplicity and clean forms used in their designs. It is a reflection of Japanese culture itself where simplicity has long been prized. Anything that is not essential to the functionality of a thing is not included in its design. (Makvandi, 2017)

Traditional Japanese living room and dining roomA group of artists in New York experimented with geometric shapes and forms which are known as geometric abstraction. Interestingly, this geometric abstraction was already present in the heyday of Islamic art, many centuries before geometric abstraction and the ensuing minimalist design trend ever hit European or American shores. Since the depiction of religious figures was not allowed in Islamic art, Muslim painters had to rely on geometric shapes as a method to associate religion with both art and science which was a big theme in Islamic art. However, when the New York artists began working with geometric abstraction they unknowing laid the groundwork for minimalism. Some prominent American artists of this time include, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Carl Andre, Robert Morris, Frank Stella, Al Held, Robert Ryman, Kenneth Noland.

Untitled, 1960 painting by Robert Ryman, New York Figure 5 An early Robert Morris installation at New York’s Green Gallery, 1964Donald Judd’s and Dan Flavin’s contributions to minimalism can be seen in their works from this early era, especially Judd’s showings at the Green Gallery in New York, where three of his sculptures were on display, and Flavin’s fluorescent light, which is a stark embodiment of minimalism. (Templeton, 2013) Figure 6 Dan Flavin’s The Diagonal of May 25, 1963 This type of art at that time was given many different names such as ABC Art, Literalism, Primary Structures, Specific Objects, Reductive Art, but the term ‘minimalism’ first appeared in the middle of 1960s of the 20th century when a British philosopher, Robert Wollheim, wrote an essay in 1965 in Arts magazine assessing the rise of a new kind of art stating objects with “minimal art-content” which eventually gave minimalism its name.In architecture and interior design a German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) is known to be a key figure of minimalism due to the simplicity, clarity and clean forms shown in his work. He is also one of the fathers of modern architecture, the city skylines from New York to Beijing own much to his work.

One of his trademark approaches was the inclusion of lots of open space. His design principles are still in use today not only in architecture but in design as well. He has made major contributions to minimalism. He is also the author of the “Less Is More” motto, which is one of the main principles of minimalism. (Taghilooha, 2011)3. Elements of Minimalist Interior DesignColorColor is a basic element for everything related to Art. It is one of the primary characters of design and the most dominating element of interior design. It can change the perception of a space (Pile, 1997). The aim of minimalism in interior design is to create a space that is as simple as possible and to eliminate all ornamentations. The only element that cannot be eliminated is color and that is because of the purity and simplicity that color holds. (Taghilooha, 2011)The use of the right color in any design space is important but not only is the hue considered its shade is an important factor. Different colors used in a space can affect the environment and can either over stimulate or under stimulate it. Any color can be used in minimalist interior design the only thing to think through is, how much of it is used and where it is used. Neutral colors such as black, white, grey and beige are mostly used in a minimalist design; they can also be used as a backdrop with accents of bright colors but should be limited to one bright color. The idea is to work with fewer colors.

Neutral colored rooms with used with bright colorsLight colors are airy and, as a general rule, they make rooms feel larger and brighter so they are an excellent choice for minimalist interiors as they fulfill its purpose in every aspect. Dark colors are sophisticated and warm and they make a room feel intimate. White is the defining choice in minimalist interior design, forming the basis for furniture, floor, and walls but it can be altered with other neutral colors. The basis should not have any bright colors or dark colors. Neutral color schemeHowever, a case study was carried out in 2011 on the use of color in minimalist spaces in different regions; the study concluded that the most preferred color scheme for Minimalist interior space is achromatic color scheme whereas Analogous and Complementary color schemes are the other comparably less preferred color schemes. (Taghilooha, 2011)

Achromatic color schemeSpaceMinimalism in interior design aims to create spaces that are not only aesthetically appealing but also efficient, comfortable and functional. These spaces are principally open and as organized as operating rooms in hospitals. Such spaces are created by the use of simple forms, open floor plans, modest storage areas and using more of natural daylight in a room. The floor plans are typically comprised of simple geometries of space; they strictly follow functionality and are purposefully arranged. Some layouts have more area and are more open, which allows furniture and spaces to breathe.

Open floor plan with a larger shows another example of an open floor plan with a larger area. It is a simple rectilinear floor plan with room sizes adequate for basic needs; the furniture is well placed with plenty of breathing room around it. There is an organized storage space along the hallway, with very little wasted space.Making a room look spacious is the key aspect of minimalist design. Small houses and apartments can also look spacious by cleverly mixing white space with clear lines, smart setups, and an uncluttered layout. Only a few pieces of furniture and decoration are kept which are essential. Every item has a specific purpose. While decorative elements are still a part of minimalist design, the main focus is on having practical items that have their place for a particular reason. The key is to leave spaces between the objects placed which creates a feeling of spaciousness and emptiness and makes the space seem much bigger than it actually is.

Minimalism in a small Apartment layout Some minimalist house plans also lack redundant space. There are no extra spaces such as formal sitting rooms, dining rooms, libraries, dens, or walk-in closets. Spaces are adaptable and flexible for multiple purposes. Space can also be saved by choosing the right architectural elements for the house such as using a spiral stair instead of L-shaped or U-shaped ones. The goal is not to create small and compact spaces but it is to create simple, clean spaces that evoke a sense of order and tranquility regardless of the size. In small houses and apartments the number of walls can also be reduced by dividing the space into sections using bookcases, low cabinets or partitions. It is a necessity to have more storage space in order to keep the space organized and clutter free. A good minimalist design ensures that every item has its rightful place and fits perfectly together. Space between larger items in each room should allow for each passage for walking around, giving the rooms a flow of energy that resonates throughout the entire house. Balance, proportion and harmony are very important to pay attention to in such a design. When space doesn’t have a lot of actual items in it, care must be taken with its basic design rules like balance, proportion and harmony without wasting any space.

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