ten tips for embracing minimalism

Sunlit living room with comfortable grey sofa and wood table.

Minimalism is defined as a design or style in which rooms are paired down to just the essentials, so your furniture and accessories deliver maximum impact.

Although minimalism is an exercise in restraint, those who have embraced the philosophy will tell you that instead of being limiting, it's actually very freeing. Because it allows you to focus more on the things that matter, and less on the things that don’t, minimalism can help you live a much more intentional life.

To get you started, here are 10 of our best tips for creating and living in a minimalist space:  

1. Be comfortable living with empty space.
If it truly drives you crazy to see a blank space, don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Most of us have an inherent need to fill empty spaces but try this—instead of focusing on what’s not there, focus on what is. Maybe it’s the crisp horizontal lines where the floor meets the baseboard and the baseboard meets the wall, or maybe it’s the freedom of fewer things to dust.

Just keep in mind that in minimalism the empty spaces in a room have just as much importance as the furniture and artwork. This means resisting the urge to fill every bit of wall or floor, and giving your objects room to "breathe" and interact with the empty spaces.

2. Draw focus to a focal point.
One of the bonuses of going minimalist is how easy it is to create a focal point in a room. With all of the “extras” stripped away, focus can be easily directed to an architectural feature like a fireplace or a beautiful window, a favourite artwork, or a stunning accessory. Most often, though, it’s the furniture that becomes the focal point in the room.

With less drawing the eye away from the furniture, the more prominence it takes on. If you are replacing items to go with your new look, now is the time to invest in high-quality pieces that fit the minimalist esthetic (more about that later) and are worthy of the added attention. And, yes, minimalist furniture CAN be comfortable, just look at the Baneway sofa above!

3. Keep the things you love.
One of the common misconceptions of minimalism is you must avoid decorative objects altogether. The truth is, you can still have decorative items, just less of them. Be brave, roll up your sleeves and edit, edit, edit, allowing only the essentials to remain on display. It’ll be tough at first, but so worth it when you see those items take on a new importance.

A good thing to keep in mind when doing your editing: the items that make it through should be meaningful, beautiful, or useful. (That’s not to say a power drill belongs on your coffee table, but you get the gist.) If you absolutely love everything, consider rotating your decorative objects, either seasonally or whenever you decide you need a change. TIP: If after a while you notice some objects aren’t coming out of storage, it might be time to sell or give them away.

4. Follow the one in, one out rule.
Keeping your curated minimalist look from becoming maximalist takes a certain level of vigilance, especially when you have all that S P A C E. So, when temptation strikes to add new pieces, think of the “one in, one out” rule.

Whether it’s a chair, a painting, or a coffee cup, each time you bring something new into your home, let go of an existing item from the same category. Not only will this help you keep a handle on how many things you have in the room, it will help you shop more intentionally.

5. Control the clutter.
Controlling clutter is one of the biggest challenges in a minimalist space and it requires constant attention. That means making sure there’s a place for everything and everything is kept in its place. At first it might seem like you’re always picking up after yourself, but then it becomes second nature to do a quick pass before you exit a room.

In keeping with the minimalist theme, the best storage is hidden storage—baskets of mail and magazines are fooling no one. If you can, organize your drawers, cabinets, closets, and built-ins in a way that maximizes the space, but keeps everything accessible so you can quickly put things away and easily find them again when you need them.

6. Choose items that multitask.
When paring down a room, look for opportunities to introduce pieces that multitask. That is to say, single items that do the job of two or three. A storage bed, for example, can eliminate the need for a dresser or linen cabinet, while a storage ottoman or bench can help keep table tops and surfaces clean by holding some of the items that you edited in the previous step (but couldn’t bear to throw out).

Samsung's The Frame TV is another one of our favourite multitaskers, standing in as a beautiful piece of art when it’s off and providing crystal clear picture and sound when it’s on. Plus, with an almost-infinite number of works to display, you can keep changing your art without adding new pieces to your walls.

7. Limit the embellishments.
Minimalism is all about clean lines and, to steal a phrase from Mirriam-Webster, “devoid of needless frippery.” In other words, keep it simple, sweetheart. Depending on the room you’re in, that could mean different things. In a kitchen, sleek, flat surfaces are a must; in a living room, you can still have graceful curves and comfy upholstered pieces, however, the overall look should be unfussy.

Once you start to experiment with a minimalist space, even drawer handles can be a distraction. Instead, look for furniture and cabinetry free of handles and visible hinges, like the Manhattan dresser above, or with streamlined hardware.

You can also apply this to existing furniture or furniture that you love, but doesn’t quite fit the minimalist mold. Let’s say you have a dresser that is almost-perfect—nice clean lines and no embellishments other than a set of ornate handles—you can switch out the fancy handles for something very simple and close to the colour of the piece. White or chrome on white, or black on black, for example.

8. Play with textures.
When it comes to keeping a minimalist room interesting, one of your best secret weapons is texture, especially if you are sticking to a monochromatic or neutral colour palette.

There are so many ways to introduce texture into a space, including fabrics (curtains, upholstery, and toss pillows), furniture finishes, rugs, plants and accessories, and even walls and flooring. We usually think of texture as something raised or rough, but remember, smooth is a texture, too!

9. Don’t shy away from pattern.
Minimalists often struggle with adding pattern to their rooms, but sometimes textures can only go so far. Whether it’s fabric, wallpaper, tilework or flooring, bringing in a subtle pattern or two can instantly bring personality and life to a space and make it seem more complete. TIP: If you feel like your finished space is missing something, it could be pattern. Try adding an interesting throw or pillow and see if that helps.

Pattern can also be introduced through your artwork, either in the artwork itself, or by hanging a series of prints or photographs together in a grid. Anytime you repeat shapes in one area you are creating—you guessed it—a pattern.

10. Light it up.
Abundant, natural light is the best choice for a minimalist space, so go ahead and let the sun shine in. If privacy is a concern, look for simple, semi-sheer shades that let in as much light as possible while obscuring strangers’ view into the house. If its not a concern during the day, go bare (if you dare)! Sleek, floor length drapes, simply hung on a track or rod, are also a great option for a minimalist space, on their own or layered with a shade to control privacy and light.

At night, unobtrusive indirect light is a great way to illuminate your minimalist space. Recessed spotlights, LED strip lighting, and light columns are all good ways to light the space and highlight linear features in the room. Be sure to add sleek fixtures to provide task lighting wherever you need it—over the dining table and in a work/reading areas, for example—and look for furniture that has its own built-in lighting, such as a headboard with LED-lit cubbies, to eliminate the need for additional lamps in the room.

Bonus tip: Start small.
One of the nice things about minimalism is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all philosophy and can look very different for everyone. It doesn’t even have to be a drastic change at first. We recommend starting with a small decluttering project and, when you’re ready to move on, work up to a full room makeover. Or makeunder, as the case may be.
Have we inspired you to embrace minimalism? Use the hashtag #DufresneStyle on Instagram and TikTok to show us the evolution of your minimalist space.