Long has there been this banter between reasonable people over whether it is better to live a life without excess or one of excess. Arguably this “disagreement” if you will has manifested itself most prominently in the arena of interior design.
Minimalists covet pristine white surfaces, furniture and décor that exude peace and calm, extending in more enthusiastic cases to just the absolute basics to ensure you get your “Ohm” on, the epiphany being that you don’t actually need all that much to achieve happiness. Take the philosopher and Cynic, Diogenes, who might have taken things a bit far, but owned nothing but a barrel – which was his house – a stick, a cloak and a bread bag, and claimed he was truly happy with all external events rendered unimportant.
Maximalists, on the other hand, celebrate “more is more”, with their idea of beauty and ultimate happiness bestowed in a busy medley of colours, patterns and generally a whole heap of chandeliers, paintings, statues, mirrors and cushions placed together in one space, it being absolutely out of the question to rid yourself of “unnecessary” things. Again this might be taking things a bit far but for interior designer and self-proclaimed maximalist Brett Leemkuil, “the height of misery” is to have just one light bulb in the ceiling. “And that’s it. It’s like, that’s the best you can do?” he asks. I don’t know about you, but I have a feeling there might be a few of us in that bracket that are feeling bad.
Ultimately, it is a matter of taste and preference, though perhaps there is a middle road for living “authentically”? Fortunately there is a name for everything (but a cure for nothing if Charles F. Glassman is anyone to go by). How about the new vibe that was reportedly trending for 2020 – the Minimalist-Maximalist look? As confusing as it might sound, it can be achieved by living with less furniture and décor but selecting pieces that prioritise good design – simple, strong luxe forms – and layering, not cluttering rooms with them. A statement piece here and there for impact, and a carefully curated selection of clean, bold accenting. Not too sterile and not too opulent – there you have it.
If neither of the two “M” words work for you in any shape, form or combination, how about this – Essentialism? An old chestnut but relatively recently popularised by Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less who defines essentialism as “The art of discerning between external noise and internal voice.” A little more metaphysical and not a dictated style but summed up as what makes us feel our best, inspires us and keeps us healthy in clarifying our most important values and priorities, and living with only what is essential to meet our goals. McKeown would ask of us: “Is this the very most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources right now?” Arguably not purchasing an additional chandelier for the bathroom?
Which might bring us back to how things used to be as opposed to eking out a physical expression of your subconscious for your lounge. Those old (not obsolete) folk who lived in simpler times – and this is key – did not have the choice of more. Apparently, this was just normal living, just common-sense, simple living.