Minimalism—But Make It Warm

How to Pull Off a Sleek Look That Still Feels Cozy

Originally Appeared on SothebysRealty.com

When you think “minimalism,” chances are, in the literal sense, very little comes to mind. And what you do see may be a sterile picture. While the idea of minimalism in décor certainly has its merits (freedom from clutter, simplicity, a spacious feel), for many the concept—and achieving it—may seem unapproachable. But what if you could evoke a minimalist feel that was also inviting?

“Many people have a misconception that minimalism and starkness are the same thing. That’s not true,” says Ximena Rodriguez, principal and director of interior design at CetraRuddy in New York. “Minimalism and warmth do not have to be contradictory principles. For us, a neutral color palette, materials, and textures are the building blocks of warm minimalism,” she says.

At its core, and when designed well, a minimalist home offers a calming environment and a sense of serenity, Rodriguez says. “A cleaner environment creates more space for your mind to concentrate on positive ideas, goals, or tasks.”

Making it feel warm and welcoming is a matter of thoughtful restraint. As Michael Rath, CEO, owner, and director of design services at Trilogy Partners in Frisco, Colo., says, “The path to simplicity is a careful inventory of what is most important and what is not, and that which is becomes the place, and that which is not has no place.”

Nina Magon sticks to complementary hues and textures to create interesting minimalism
Nina Magon sticks to complementary hues and textures to create interesting minimalism.

 

Carefully Select the Color Palette

While it seems standard practice, minimalist spaces needn’t be stark white. “Color has a big impact on mood, and we’re seeing a movement away from brighter whites and toward warmer neutral tones that offer a soothing effect,” Rodriguez says.

Similarly, architect Elisabeth Post-Marner, principal at Spacesmith in New York, prefers to use quiet colors and textured neutrals, which instill a sense of calm. “Keeping the palette ‘quiet’ allows you to combine different colors,” she says.

Minimalist spaces don’t need to be monochromatic, either. Post-Marner opts for a tonal vibe or uses colors in the same family. For furniture, this might mean using cherry and walnut finishes, which live in the same midbrown family or a range of neutral tones and textures that complement one another.

Rath also goes for neutrals but adds in a burst of color here and there. He looks to calming contrasts as well, such as lighter straight-grained wood finishes with a charcoal gray backdrop.

To maintain a sleek and consistent vibe, and promote a cohesive flow, Nina Magon, of Nina Magon Studio in Houston, uses a trio of hues that are similar in shade and tone and incorporates a range of tonal textures. “To create visual layering that adds warmth and subtle richness, stick to a certain group of complementary hues and bring in a range of different textures and fabrics for visual interest,” Magon says.

Add Dimension

Texture is one of the easiest and most effective ways to make a space feel more inviting. “Mixing texture is essential to creating a warm and interesting space,” says Samantha Gallacher, co-founder of IG Workshop, a Miami-based interior design lab and founder of Art+Loom, a line of handcrafted rugs. Think textiles, such as rugs and window treatments, and layered textures (textured wallpaper, chunkier weaves on furniture), she says.

Rugs in particular add visual interest, dimensionality, warmth, and texture without cluttering a space or taking away from the bare beauty of minimalism, Magon says. Incorporating a few different textures can help keep a space varied and welcoming—especially if the colors are neutral and complementary, Rodriguez says. “This is where materials play a role. For kitchens and bathrooms, there’s interest now in stones that feature unique patterns and colors, such as blue and green tones, which bring a much warmer feel than a standard white marble,” Rodriguez says.

Gallacher brings the color palette to life using a gradation of neutrals throughout a space by way of natural elements such as wood, marble, and concrete. Lighting also comes into play. “Lighting that’s concealed or integrated into millwork, for instance, can be very minimalist, but it can also adjust over the course of the day to match circadian rhythms and have a positive influence on mood,” Rodriguez says.

Rath recommends organics such as wood and leather. “Wood and other organics introduce subtle natural patterns that are interesting to behold. Sheen is relaxed, not shiny, and warmer in appearance. Simpler straight grain woods in cabinetry are the way to go,” he says.

Artwork can also bring a sense of dimension, interest, and texture. “Featuring your favorite artwork, or a few curated accessories displayed in smaller moments, can go a long way toward adding style and warmth,” Rodriguez says. And when well-placed, art adds personality and makes a space feel like home, says Anne Carr of Anne Carr Design in Los Angeles. “While you don’t want to over-accessorize, make sure to incorporate personal touches such as vases, framed photos, and coffee table books,” she says.

Go Green

“Plants bring life and energy, and their rich colors are wonderfully contrasted against a simple neutral palette,” Rath says. They also lend a sense of tranquility and a connection to nature that has proven health benefits like air purification, Rodriguez says. “If your home offers great views of a natural green landscape, you might not need much greenery within your interior spaces. Even so, it only takes a few strategically placed plantings to bring that feeling of nature into your home in a way that contributes to a warm minimalist mood,” she says.

Rodriguez also prefers to incorporate greenery on balconies or other indoor/outdoor spaces. “Landscaping or adding plantings to these areas visually integrates nature into your living space without crowding and cluttering the home,” she says.

Post-Marner loves to incorporate philodendrons, in particular, but with restraint. “When purchasing plants, a minimalist philosophy should be used as well. One five-foot-high philodendron in a living room as opposed to five smaller plants,” she says.

If you don’t have a green thumb, Carr suggests using fresh, rotating arrangements. “They’re a great way to keep things interesting while bringing some life to the room.”

A contemporary home designed by Nina Magon Studio
A contemporary home designed by Nina Magon Studio

Clear Clutter

The first principle of minimalism is a clutter-free space. For that, storage is essential. “It should be everywhere and yet not obvious,” Rath says. “I recommend incorporating flush-mounted surfaces that hide everything with an option to open and grab whenever you may need it.”

“The beauty of minimalist design is the ‘less is more aesthetic,’ so the less clutter that is visible, the better,” Magon says. She suggests hidden storage elements such as benches, ottomans, furniture pieces with drawers, and flush push-to-open millwork.

Getting creative with storage is key to successful minimalist design, Rodriguez says. “We like to find ways to conceal storage within our designs for a room by integrating closets into wall paneling, for instance.”

A dining room with pops of color by Ximena Rodriguez
A dining room with pops of color by Ximena Rodriguez.
A lounge area by New York-based Elisabeth Post-Marner
A lounge area by New York-based Elisabeth Post-Marner.

Three Artists and the Places that Made Them

Reposted from Sotheby’s International Realty’s RESIDE Magazine at sothebysrealty.com .

Art lovers around the world have long been entranced by the icons Paul Cézanne, Salvadore Dalí, and Jackson Pollock. To fully understand and appreciate these masters, it helps to visit the places that nurtured and continue to display their talents. Each locale is a thrill to visit in its own right; add in these stops and you’ll come away with a newfound artistic education covering some of the art world’s biggest names.

Salvador Dalí’s Madrid
While Salvador Dalí was born in 1904 near the French border in Catalonia and spent his formative years there, the titan of Spanish surrealism casts an imposing shadow over Madrid.

In 1922, Dalí moved into the city’s Residencia de Estudiantes (Students’ Residence) and studied at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. Today, both facilities are open to visitors looking to delve deeper into the artist’s background; the Residencia de Estudiantes, one of the oldest cultural centers in Madrid, hosts myriad conferences, panel discussions, concerts, poetry readings, and exhibitions.

The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía allows Dalí fans to mix with Picasso lovers; the museum holds world-class collections from Spain’s two greatest 20th-century masters.

In 1985, the Madrid City Council decided to dedicate a public space to Dalí and commissioned the artist to create a work for the space. The Plaza de Salvador Dalí is dominated by the only urban monument in the world designed by the artist, a hulking granite dolmen (a single-chamber megalithic tomb). Within the 43-foot structure, in which an oval-shaped natural rock was placed on three carved granite pillars, resides a bronze sculpture of an abstract, masculine figure standing on a pedestal of polished black granite.

Visitors looking to tap into Dalí’s mind can stop by the Westin Palace Madrid, a historic property that was commissioned by King Alfonso XIII in 1912. Back when it was known as the Hotel Palace, Dalí enjoyed jazz nights with friends and preferred to stay in the suites overlooking the iconic Fuente de Neptuno (Neptune Fountain); the artist was notorious for making elaborate demands of the staff. Today, visitors to the hotel, which sits in the shadow of one of the world’s most famous art museums, the Museo del Prado, can enjoy a cocktail in the 1912 Museo Bar. (A case next to the bar holds a piece of hotel stationery bearing a note and poem penned by Federico García Lorca, and embellished with doodles by Dalí.)

Salvador DalÍ, reportedly enjoyed jazz nights while staying at what is now the Westin Palace Madrid
Salvador DalÍ, reportedly enjoyed jazz nights while staying at what is now the Westin Palace Madrid.
Salvador DalÍ, reportedly enjoyed jazz nights while staying at what is now the Westin Palace Madrid.
Salvador DalÍ, reportedly enjoyed jazz nights while staying at what is now the Westin Palace Madrid

Paul Cézanne’s Southern France

Perhaps no artist is more associated with the South of France than Paul Cézanne. The postimpressionist master, who spent much of his life in his native Aix-en-Provence, was one of the most influential 19th-century painters. (Both Matisse and Picasso reputedly said he was “the father of us all.”)

Cézanne was passionate about Aix-en-Provence—he was famously quoted as saying: “When you’re born there, it’s hopeless, nothing else is good enough”—and present-day visitors can walk in Cézanne’s footsteps. A well-marked pedestrian route allows visitors to discover the landmarks of Cézanne’s early years, including his childhood homes and schools, the addresses of his family and acquaintances, and other notable spots that shaped him.

To see one of the key places in Cézanne’s life, take a guided tour of his family’s manor house, the Bastide du Jas de Bouffan, where the artist established an atelier in the attic and often painted in the garden, looking out to the Montagne Sainte-Victoire mountain ridge from different vantage points. For the last few years of his life, Cézanne painted in his studio in Les Lauves, around an hour from Aix, and after his death it became memorialized as Atelier Paul Cézanne. Visitors can peruse models, furniture, and equipment as the artist left them in his studio.

Cézanne devotees head to the east of Aix to explore the labyrinthian Bibémus quarries. In 1897, the artist rented a cabin there and produced works based on the deserted landscapes; paintings like “The Red Rock” went on to inspire the cubist style.

Active types can take a hike up Montagne Sainte-Victoire, known by some as “Cézanne’s mountain,” which was the subject of more than 60 works by the artist. After a two-hour jaunt up the mountain, which is recognizable for its white limestone cliffs, visitors enjoy gorgeous panoramic views of the region and out to the Mediterranean Sea.

Paul Cézanne, painted the Sainte-Victoire mountain ridge in southern France.
Paul Cézanne, painted the Sainte-Victoire mountain ridge in southern France
Paul Cézanne, painted the Sainte-Victoire mountain ridge in southern France
Paul Cézanne, painted the Sainte-Victoire mountain ridge in southern France.

Jackson Pollock’s Hamptons
Some 60-plus years after his death, Jackson Pollock, the pre-eminent figure of abstract expressionism, continues to captivate. His wall-size drip-and-pour painting One: Number 31 has been bringing crowds to the $450 million expansion of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and his large-format works entrance audiences around the world.

Pollock acolytes commonly make pilgrimages to the Hamptons on Long Island, home to the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, a National Historic Landmark open from May through October (guided tours by reservation only). The house, built in 1879, is typical of the area’s 19th-century farmers’ and fishermen’s homes.

Pollock—who lived there with his wife, artist Lee Krasner—converted a barn into a studio. There, without heat or artificial light, he perfected his distinctive “drip” technique of using paint, in which he laid the canvas on the floor and walked around it, applying paint from all sides. The energy in the studio is palpable, especially whenever visitors spot the floorboards, which still bear original drips from Pollock’s very own brushes, sticks, and basting syringes.

A visit to Pollock’s Hamptons comes full circle at Green River Cemetery. After Pollock was buried there in 1956 (Krasner was laid to rest by his side in 1984), the cemetery became famous as a final resting place for notable artists and writers, with numerous headstones that resemble works of art.

Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, bought their home, now a National Historic Landmark, with help from art patron Peggy Guggenheim
Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, bought their home, now a National Historic Landmark, with help from art patron