(Catch up on Part 1)
It’s not necessary to label yourself as a minimalist or a maximalist. What you can do instead is work through your most important design goals and desires. This process will reveal your vision to you. A lot of creation involves cutting the excess baggage. And, surprisingly, the process for creating a minimalist design shares most of its DNA with the process for creating a maximalist design.
Both involve stripping away what isn’t necessary, identifying what is, and curating your vision. In both cases you will edit as you go, though in the minimalist aesthetic it will be more overt, and in the maximalist it involves finding ways to combine a greater number of elements harmoniously.
In finding your design voice within the spectrum of minimalism and maximalism, you need to determine what’s important to you. That’s why this blog sometimes focuses on psychology, especially the psychology of hidden desire (that which we conceal even from ourselves). Before designing, you must identify your priorities and values. Get rid of the things that don’t bring you love and happiness. They may be getting in the way of those that do. If you are holding onto something you love (a piece of furniture or artwork, for example), but it’s sitting in storage, then it’s being wasted. The flip side of the coin would be holding on to – and even displaying – something you don’t like out of obligation or because it was a gift.
When I wrote about designing your home office, I discussed the importance of purging unnecessary or redundant things. Rather than buying storage containers and label makers to manage your clutter, you could instead recycle and donate the excess. However you do it, purging is an important start to any design goal. Think of it as the demolition phase of a construction project. It doesn’t have to be that dramatic or messy, but the goal is to clear a path for rebuilding in a way that isn’t mired in the old setup.
Once you’ve removed what doesn’t need to be there, you can build up what does. You can explore style and color to form a vision for yourself. You will begin to have a group of components — furniture, fixtures, art, accessories — that speak to you clearly, showing you what you come up with when you give yourself a chance to explore. And you may find out that you enjoy bright colors and detailing far more than you realized. Or you may discover that most of the things you had assumed you wanted aren’t nearly as crucial as you had believed, and that you feel a tremendous sense of relief when you reduce detail.
As I said above, both minimal and maximal design styles involve editing. You have to get real with yourself about what needs to be there, versus what you simply like. I like a lot of my friends’ homes, but I can’t bring all those styles and concepts into my home. Some things were meant for me to appreciate as a third party observer, and others feel directly relevant to me personally.
Editing involves determination and decisiveness. It often means throwing out ideas that we like, but that don’t totally make sense in this particular context. And it’s not necessary to stuff every great idea you have into each project. Some of it can be saved for future projects. Sometimes you have to be stern with yourself when editing. Typically, I like to do this at the start of the day, or when I have high energy. Be aware that you might need a little extra focus and determination when you take on the challenge of editing your project. Everything you choose to include in your design doesn’t need to be functional, but it does need to feel necessary.
Maximalism and Minimalism are about balance, and finding that perfect rhythm in your surroundings. The average person probably doesn’t exist on either end of the spectrum, but enjoys aspects of both. What looks clean and edited to one person can seem cold or boring to another. Whereas, including bright colors and a sense of fullness to a room can be reassuring and cozy for some but feel like excess to others. Your best barometer is to trust how you feel in a space, and put your energy toward honoring that.
If you can take the time to find those visual and spatial elements that support you on a deep level, then you will land in the right place, and it will be perfect for you, regardless if it’s bright and colorful, airy and muted, or any variation in between.