Of all the house styles available, modern design is most aligned with simplicity. The desire for simpler lives leads people to the clean lines and open spaces of modernism. Just look at a modernist’s home: Uncluttered. Open. Spacious. Appealing and relaxing.
Describing such a modernistic house takes fewer words than other styles. Victorians are known for intricately carved wood. A tour of such a house can take hours simply looking at ornamental pieces that have no other function than appearance. Craft and art are on display, and also require money and time to create, install, maintain, and repair. Colonials with columns, farmhouses with a surplus of dormers, log lodges with massive beams or immense river rock hearths purposely distract with details. White picket fences aren’t naturally white and won’t stay that way without effort. Modern homes free up time and money in the long term because concrete and steel aren’t demanding. The emphasis is on how to live in the space, not how the space lets you live. It is a choice: intricate and expensive versus simple and sustainable. Both are expressive. Take your pick of what you want to express.
Modern homes are known for some functional architecture (e.g. exposed conduits and supports) while also having very little clutter. Sometimes that’s because the owner is limiting distractions by owning fewer things. Sometimes that’s because there’s a place for everything and everything has its place. Those places are important. Storage is designed to blend seamlessly. Drawers, cabinets, and closets hold everyday supplies in a variety of innovative shelving solutions. Entire companies like California Closets dominate the real estate that is a walk-in closet. Kitchen pantries can be a maze of sliding shelves that provide access to corners ignored in other designs. Garages and shops are equipped with low-maintenance flooring as well as wall units that organize tools and toys. Ikea is not exactly Baroque.
Mid-Century Moderns broke the habit of living spaces blocked out into small rooms for specific purposes. Historically, the cook was hidden in the kitchen. The dining room was sequestered from the mess where the food was made and the reality of what was involved in cooking it. Formal spaces dominated to the extent of sitting rooms and parlors. With windows dominating the exterior and displaying nature from all sides, it makes sense to knock out the walls. Let the views slide in from every side. Include the cook and the host and the rest of the guests regardless of where they stand. Open spaces also bring the family together, or at least increase the chance that the parents know where the kids are and what the kids are doing. Besides, after a day of sitting in a cubicle and commuting in a metal box, a great open space at home can feel expansive. Space is one of the great affordable luxuries. The best way to maintain its value is to keep it uncluttered and open.
Downsizing, de-cluttering, and minimalism are great abstract terms. Make them more pragmatic. Imagine deciding to host a party on short notice. A house filled with stuff that was left wherever it was last used has to be tidied, dusted, sorted, and shoved into some hidey-hole. Traditional furnishings like wall-to-wall carpeting, ornate upholstery, and intricate lighting means vacuuming, more dusting, and giving the air some time to clear as errant dust motes settle back down. Meanwhile, modern polished hardwood or concrete floors only need to be swept. The fewer the things in the room, the less time it takes to make the place neat. As for dusting the lights – well – spiders seem to manage to make a home everywhere. When guests arrive they have room to roam, and can spend more time with each other than with the distractions around them. Then, when the party’s over, it’s easier to see what to pick up and clean up.
Notice the description above doesn’t require buying a new gadget, downloading an app, or installing more outlets or clearing wi-fi pathways. Decluttering, whether by proper storage or owning few things, is low-tech, inexpensive, and inherently simple – as long as everything has a purpose and a place, and the people practice putting them there.
As we said in a previous post;
“Two prominent advocates for simpler living are the current phenomenon that are Marie Kondo’s “system of simplifying”; and The Minimalists, a couple of people who contend, “Minimalism simply allows you to make these decisions more consciously, more deliberately.” On a more personal level, online communities like the Voluntary Simplicity crowd and the Simple Living Forums help people share and support a simple lifestyle.”
The fewer things we have, the more time we get. Nothing is more irreplaceable and precious than time. Space and time, two luxuries enabled by modern design, minimalism, and decluttering.