8 WAYS TO SIMPLIFY YOUR DESIGNS (AND YOUR LIFE)
We are slowly emerging, blurry eyed and confused, from an extended era of consumer excess and reckless waste. The age of the bloated, ‘bigger is better’ mentality has passed and we are searching for a new way forward.
It is time to return to simplicity.
The more complex that the world around us becomes, the more we find ourselves craving simplicity from our homes and the objects that we surround ourselves with. Simplicity brings beauty, purity and clarity of thought into our lives, allowing our minds the freedom to relax.
Simplicity can mean different things to different people – from mastering the ancient art of tidying up, to giving away all of your possessions and moving to a tiny house in the forest.
Whatever your preference, we all want to create well designed homes that are welcoming, comfortable and reflect our own personalities and aesthetics. Heres how to do it:
1. BUILD NO MORE THAN IS NECESSARY
Your house should be large enough to be comfortable but not so large that you have to spend thousands of dollars furnishing rooms that you will rarely use.
Be realistic about what you actually need from a home and ruthlessly focus on the spaces that are most important to you and your family, the spaces where you spend the most time and which give you the most pleasure. Reject the rest.
Build what you need, rather than what others tell you that you should have.
Ive mentioned before the many ways a smaller house will make you happier. A smaller house is more affordable, less stressful and easier to clean – giving you the time, energy and freedom to live your life the way you want to.
“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoinè De Saint-Exupéry
2. CONNECT TO PLACE
Once the forms of our buildings were driven by the local climate, temperature and rainfall. They were constructed from the materials to hand, utilising skills and knowledge that had been passed down through generations. Our houses were designed in direct response to site, climate, cultural and historical traditions.
Sadly, in the modern world, many of these skills and traditions have now been lost. Our designs are limited only by the size of our bank balance and the extent of our imagination. The ravages of weather and the complexities of topography are less relevant than ever in the face of new building technologies and materials.
As a result, our homes have less meaning and fail to invoke the same sense of belonging and ‘homeliness’ that they once did.
We need to reconnect.
3. MAKE ROOM FOR PEOPLE
Speak to any minimalist and they will tell you: the whole idea of living simply is to do more living. It is about placing more value on relationships and experiences than on objects and possessions.
For me, this equates to retaining a few, quality things that I love and use often (including furniture items) rather than a stack of cheap stuff that is just there to fill the rooms up. I prefer to focus on the essentials, something which is just as important for the design of the house itself.
Lets be honest though, there is some stuff you just can’t part with.. and thats OK. Nobody expects you to live like a monk.
Allow for lots of storage in your home, so that you can hide the visual clutter away, and try to keep the floors and work surfaces clear. The fewer visual distractions there are, the more calming and serene your home will become.
” He is richest who is content with the least…” – Socrates
4. REJECT EXCESS
Good design is always dependent on the simplest solution, regardless of style.
Just because a design is simple, it doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Simple isn’t ‘plain’, stark, empty or unadorned. Simple designs can be elegant, charming and full of character.
The key to successfully simple design it not to strive to impress anyone but yourself.
Use subtle, subdued colours and materials on the walls and floors, with a piece of artwork or a single, unique object to bring a splash of colour and interest to the room. Go for solid colours over complex patterns with bare windows (so that you can fully appreciate the view out) or simple window coverings.
Simplicity is about editing down to the bare essentials, removing that which is not completely vital, until what remains in singular, important and powerful.
5. SAY A LOT WITH LITTLE
Simplicity in design requires restraint.
It is about knowing what it is that you want to say, the meaning behind your ideas, and then having the ability to edit out the extraneous detail. Some buildings shout at you and slap you in the face, while others gently whisper in your ear. Which would you prefer?
Stick to simple geometry. No funky shapes.
Choose fewer materials and only those that are necessary for the function and purpose of your design. Allow the inherent character of natural materials, like timber and stone, to speak for themselves.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci
6. WELCOME NATURE
There is nothing more simple or beautiful than nature itself.
Working with the forces of nature, rather than battling against them, and bringing nature into your home will have a profound effect on your enjoyment of the space.
Your design should be driven by the site. Let the sunlight in and use it to heat and light your home. Locate and utilise cooling summer breezes and protect against harsh winter winds.
Make both visual and physical connections with the outside world. This will not only make your home feel more spacious and psychologically more satisfying, but you will feel a far greater connection to the ‘place’ in which you live.
7. BUILD TO LAST
We live in a disposable, throw-away, consumerist society. A time of fleeting fashions and planned obsolescence. Everything is temporary and nothing is built to last.
It can make us feel like we are constantly in motion, always searching for the next big idea or the newest product or innovation. We are never still or grounded. It can be stressful and exhausting.
Simple design values craft and material. It is about creating something that will out-live you, something that will stand the test of time. Your house needs to be both durable enough to withstand what life throws at it, yet flexible enough to adapt to our changing needs.
We need to value quality over quantity, build less but build better.
“Get rid of anything that isn’t absolutely essential” – Jonathan Ive
8. BE RATIONAL AND EFFICIENT
Simplicity is not necessarily the opposite of complexity, but rather the removal of distraction.
It is about creating a clear focus and the distillation of ideas, materials and form to their most essential.
Simplifying design requires you to strip away these distractions, removing everything that does not have a purpose or reason for being there. Aesthetics are important but they should never take preference over practicality and usefulness.
This relates equally to the size of the building and the amount of energy it uses. As we adapt to a less resource intensive way of living, it is vital to make the best use of every sqm of space in your home.
Simplicity is essentially about making choices, rather than trying to have everything. It requires us to choose one good thing over many average ones, to identify what is truly important and to focus on just that.
Though the result may look effortless, the process is far from it. Simplicity requires considerable thought and some difficult decisions, but you will be both happier and healthier as a result.
Have you simplified your life or are you struggling under the wight of your possessions? I’d love to hear your story in the comments box below.