colourful minimalism

this month’s small family homes blogger assignment is “creativity in a small space” and it took me a little longer than usual to figure out how i was going to spin that into a post here. i was full of creativity in our first home — i sort of had to be in order to fit things like clothes in our tiny master bedroom. but we’re nearly three months in to living in a slightly larger home and our new house just doesn’t make the same demands on that part of my brain. (our clothes fit in our closet just fine and we even have a bed frame!)

it feels like it’s time to move more firmly into the present and stop referencing our old home, which was unequivocally small, when i talk about living in a small space and respond to these topics with reference to our current home, which is relatively small. (i stand steadfastly by “relatively small” even though multiple neighbours welcoming us to the street have commented on how grand the house is — with the walk-out basement/garage and unfinished attic, it just looks big from the street. “it’s actually just the main floor,” i say, teeth grinding, hair on the back of my neck standing up. if it wasn’t already clear, i’m having a total identity crisis living in a house that doesn’t force me to use a ladder to retrieve the salad spinner.)

since we bought our new house in march, i’ve been curious/panicked to see how our minimalist lifestyle — forced on us by our previous house but ultimately embraced — would play out in a house that had an excess of kitchen cupboards. would we start to buy things without really thinking through our purchases? would we buy furniture to fill space even though we got along without that item just fine? would we shove odds and ends into one of our many empty kitchen drawers and forget to deal with them? or would we remain just as strict with ourselves and continue to live as minimally as possible despite having a bit of extra room?

with a big sigh of relief, i’m happy to say that it’s been the latter, at least so far. in fact, in addition to avoiding random purchases, we’ve continued to streamline what we own and have sold/donated/thrown away a rather large number of the things that, just three months ago, felt important enough to haul across the country. it’s like, the less stuff we have in the house, the more we can enjoy the house, which is just beautiful (or will be!) as it is, without much art on the walls, tchotchkes on the windowsills or little bottles on the bathroom counter to distract from the stained glass windows and historic trim and oak floors. instead of seeing a blank wall and thinking it looks empty and like it needs something and what can we buy to hang there, we’re just like, damn, that’s a nice wall.

which got me thinking about minimalism as a design choice, which seems to be where we’re at these days, rather than as a practical choice, which was where we were at before. which brings me back to creativity in a small space, which, for those of you who forgot because it was mentioned many many asides ago, is the topic of this month’s blog. i’m learning that creativity is not the property of small space dwellers (e.g., “creative storage solutions for a tiny bathroom!”) because i’m feeling plenty creative in my new home, just in a different way. in my slightly larger home, i’m actually free to focus my efforts on what i like versus what i like best out of the limited options available to me. this won’t be miraculous to most north americans — but finding a beautiful teak platform bed with built-in nightstands in a mid-century shop downtown and being like, “hmm, would i like this massive bed frame to face one of my windows or our closet doors?” is crazy town. three months ago, i would have seen this bed frame (probably for four times the price in toronto) and crawled onto my mattress on the floor and sulked a little bit for knowing that it would not fit in a single room in our house. all this freedom of choice has me itching to define what i really, really like without the limitations imposed by square footage.

credit: flodeau

turns out what i really, really like is minimalism in both its iterations — form and function — but a colourful kind of minimalism. minimalism that doesn’t look stark or austere or unfinished or like no one lives here, especially not a toddler.

for christmas and/or my birthday (both in the same week), i can count on pierre to buy me one hardcover interior design book, something to flip through while wearing some warm socks and holding a cup of coffee or glass of red wine. i’m always excited/curious to see what he’ll get me because these books, of course, are organized around a style/theme — west coast modern, french country, navajo boho — and, when opening the book for the first time, i always wonder if this will be the book, the one that encapsulates my style. because i definitely have a style, i just didn’t have a (totally made up) name for it until recently and have yet to find a book that gets it just right. (design books rallying around minimalism are more of the stark, austere, unfinished variety in my opinion.)

i little creative google searching and digging through my own archive of saved “house inspiration” photos and i’ve come up with “colourful minimalism” to describe what i like and what i’m working towards my house… i don’t know… being, i guess. i’ve inserted a few of my favourite images here to give you all a better sense of what’s inspiring me as i explode with ideas for each and every room of my new house.

artflats berlin
our air b&b in berlin (2013) — upon landing at pearson, fighting a nasty cold, i immediately got rid of our boxspring in an effort to turn our bedroom into a cozy, colourful nook more like this one.
credit: interior magasinet via apartment therapy
credit: interior magasinet via apartment therapy


so, white walls and one large, colourful piece of art, anyone? i’m obsessed.

how would you describe your style? (real or made up names or just long, rambling descriptions welcome.) how does it play out creatively in your home?

for more thoughts on creativity in spaces, small or otherwise, hop on over to indie mama health, a life shift, fourth and west, family pedals, the streamlined life, tiny ass camper or and justice pirate.

22 thoughts on “colourful minimalism

  1. I was trying to figure out this very thing this past spring. I finally put together a pinterest board that I named “peace, space, freedom” and then pinned any interior pictures that struck my fancy (I just added your picture with the butterflies on the wall : ). Found out that I like lots of white and space with splashes of color, texture and nature. I’m now working on putting that in place in our new rental. I’ve been taking it slow by necessity (time limitations) but now I’m finding that that has been a good thing. I’m still dreaming through how, exactly, I want things to look and be.
    Thanks for the blog post. Helped remind me of what it was I wanted things to look like!

    1. yes! i started saving photos when i was planning my daughter’s nursery in our old house and, after i had dozens saved up, noticed the ones i liked best all had white walls, sheepskin rugs, and an eames rocker. it’s so helpful to grab anything you’re attracted to and then figure out what they have in common. good luck with your space! have the fun is in the planning.

  2. Love your style and your totally made up name for it! Relating a lot to what you have said. We have been thinking/talking about a “part-time home” that doesn’t have wheels more and more lately and it excites me to be able to decorate it (we don’t get to do too much of that in our tiny, tiny space) but also makes me nervous about filling it up with stuff, choosing to be a “minimalist” out of choice and not necessity for our lifestyle.

    1. it is totally doable! i find two things really help: 1) sleeping on a purchase for a number of nights/weeks (e.g., if it’s not toilet paper and just something you want like a new rug you can probably continue to live without it for a while) before deciding whether to buy it and 2) always checking in with your partner about whether it’s really needed/wanted or if it’s something he/she thinks the whole family will enjoy. my husband totally dashed my idea for a jungle gym in the yard (we have lots of parks nearby), but supported the purchase of a hammock.

  3. Oh I LOVE this colorful minimalism. I redid our little RV this way and called it more minimalist bohemian. I love the pop of color against the white backdrop. I’m excited to see what you do in your new home!

    1. minimalist bohemian totally works! i have a book called bohemian modern that i felt sort of encapsulated the look i was going for… but the spaces were still too large and cluttered to really be “it”. gotta get that minimalism angle in there somehow!

  4. Great blog. Thanks for sharing your determination to stay the minimalist course while still being expressive. I did a quick re-check of my Pinterest board “For the Home” (created long before we lived in a tiny flat) and I think for now I’ll call my tendencies “Practical Beauty”. I’m drawn to a style that makes sense (is sometimes clever) but is not austere. There must be beauty there, whether it’s colour, forms, or personal connection.

  5. I have fallen hard for the Nordic/Scandinavian look!! Lighter wood floors wouldn’t work in our home unless we did redid all of them & the trim, which is not going to happen. But, our attic space has lighter floors and I’m planning on giving it a ski chalet vibe with sheepskin rugs and rustic pine furniture (even though its my hubby’s man cave). If I lived in a different style house, I would do Nordic all the way. I follow many scandi accounts on Instagram. I just love the clean lines, lots of natural light, light woods etc. Totally doing Nordic style decorating this xmas, which means really scaled back & natural looking.

    1. I do believe you have to design for your house to some extent so kudos for realizing what will and won’t work in your space. We’re in a 1913 west coast bungalow and even if I loved a super modern look, it just wouldn’t fly here, for example. LOL your hubby’s man cave sounds awesome… just sneak a little sheepskin in there, hey?! And Nordic Christmas decor is so beautiful, right down to the wooden Christmas trees (something I totally considered for our first home, which really didn’t have space for a tree).

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