The living trend of minimalism: it’s so good for the soul when less is more

Sira Huwiler-Flamm

The desire to live consciously is shaping the lifestyle of an entire generation – the minimalist style is also the order of the day in interior design. Find out what’s behind it and why even a little pomp, glitter and maximalism can be fun.

A woman relaxes with a cup of tea in her minimalistically furnished living room.
© Getty Images

In this article

Minimalism – what does it actually mean?

White walls, bare surfaces, muted colors – this is the common definition of minimalist. Concrete, metal, glass and wood, not much coziness or clutter, but a clear look in terms of color and design. The trend that shapes not only the furnishing style but also the entire lifestyle of many people does not necessarily have to be sterile and boring. It is simply reduced to the essential.

A study commissioned by WWF Switzerland reveals that nine out of ten Swiss people want to consume less, not only to save money, but also to protect the environment, get rid of baggage and have more time instead of more things. The basic idea that underlies these longings is to adopt a more mindful way of living.

A minimalistically furnished living room, with a gray sofa, cushions and blanket. The only splashes of color come from a few green plants.

Muted colors, sparse decoration – anyone who furnishes their house minimalistically follows a clear color concept and restricts themselves to the things they really need or love.

Conscious furnishing

There are currently numerous books, bloggers and influencers devoted to this topic. One of them is Swiss influencer Nicole Montemari. She reaches thousands of readers with her blog (in German) on conscious happiness and social media channels. Around 12,000 people follow her on Facebook and listen to her advice on how to bring more happiness into everyday life with small, conscious things, in the spirit of minimalism.

Her tip for turning your home into a true oasis of happiness: “Trigger positive thoughts” with a conscious choice of furnishings and decorative elements. The power of images is often underestimated, for example: “They trigger emotions in the observer and influence our mood (albeit unconsciously)”, she explains.

So if you need to choose a painting for your living room wall, you should ignore the price and pay no attention to famous artist names, but instead ask yourself: “Does it fit in with my apartment? Does the picture convey a message that is important to me? Does it underline my character and my way of thinking?” as Nicole Montemari writes in her blog. “In short: a picture must make me happy just looking at it.”

A man carefully hangs a watercolor on a wall.

Lovingly selected paintings create a feel-good atmosphere in your own four walls.

The principle of happiness from Japan

Tidying superstar Marie Kondō takes a similar view. She reaches millions of people worldwide with her decluttering and clearing out method KonMari, innumerable guidebooks and the accompanying Netflix documentary series “Tidying up with Marie Kondō”. The main principles are minimalism and conscious ownership. Her method involves taking every single item, room by room, determining how it makes you feel, and finally separating yourself from all the things that you don’t need and that don’t spark true joy.

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The Swiss minimalism pioneer

Swiss minimalist Selim Tolga thinks along similar lines. More than ten years ago, even before the KonMari trend, he began offering his services as a tidying and minimalism coach in the greater Zurich area. Since then he has helped many people to adopt a more minimalist lifestyle and therefore to live more consciously.

“Minimalism is limited to the things you regularly use and love”, Tolga explains. “Items that are rarely used are more likely to be stored in the cellar or attic, so that the living area remains minimalist and light.” Clutter has to go. According to Tolga, anything that has not been used for a year, items that distract us or convey negative feelings and “maybe-I-still-need it” articles can be sold, given away or thrown away without giving you a guilty conscience.

Order and clear structures save time and energy resources when searching, tidying and cleaning. “As a result, minimalists create less distraction and more focus, making life easier and simpler,” says the tidying expert. “Being surrounded only by the really important things also has a positive effect on our minds and thus on our health.”

Countertrend: maximalism

But every trend turns into the opposite at some point. In fashion, miniskirts become maxiskirts and bell-bottoms become skinny jeans. In interior design, the countermovement to minimalism is maximalism – a style that is luxurious, pompous and jarring. The color palette ranges from glittery elements in gold, silver or copper to gemstone shades such as emerald green, sapphire blue and garnet red. Striking tactile materials like velvet and fake fur or embroidered cushions ensure a feel-good atmosphere. And even the decoration is not for purists: extravagant individual items attract attention, while patterns, shapes and contrasting colors are combined, books are stacked in piles and shiny candle holders are arranged together.

In a living room there is a white sofa with colored cushions on it. Various cupboards, lamps and other eye-catching decorative elements can be seen around the sofa.

Whether spectacular vacation souvenirs or gaudy one-off objects, maximalism is all about exceptional eye-catching features.

Minimalism and maximalism in harmony

But even if at first glance the principles of maximalism sound like flamboyance, they have a lot in common with the mindfulness of minimalism. Here, too, the important thing is to deliberately position a few lovingly selected items, rather than to spend money on huge amounts of junk. Vacation souvenirs that really mean a lot to you can be placed in the room alongside your grandma’s antique chest of drawers.

A living room with two sofas in shades of blue and a blue wall. The antique furniture in between creates a cozy atmosphere.

There are no distracting elements here: the sofas and the wall color are coordinated, while the antique furniture creates a cozy atmosphere.

Conclusion: a feel-good location – that is completely individual

All is permitted that pleases. This applies to both minimalism and maximalism: let your own personality flow into your environment. Blogger Nicole Montemari sums up the purpose of your own four walls: “A home is a place where you can reach your full potential and be yourself.”

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