Simplicity in Design

Simplicity isn’t simplistic.

In fact, simplicity in design, is very complex. It is stripped down, clean lined, exposed, deconstructed. The planning of it requires us to work backwards – to know exactly where the end point is, so that we know where the starting point has to be. There can be no “ish” in designing simplicity. No detailed mouldings to cover gaps or deficiencies, because there ARE none to cover.

Have you ever watched the videos, in which clean-faced girls look into the camera before they skillfully apply eye shadow, concealer, contour, bronzer and you think, “Meh, how good can this really get?” Then, at the end of the video, you’re looking at the most beautiful face that you’ve ever seen! Make-up can highlight, distract and virtually change the appearance of a face – like mouldings do to a room.

Simplicity in design, is like creating a face so lovely and complete, that no makeup is necessary at all.

I’m far from experienced in the art of simplicity. I think that it’s a lesson learned over a lifetime, rather than in a classroom. Here are some do’s and don’ts that I’ve used in my own home, in hopes of attaining simplicity in design.

DON’T fill in the blanks. Blank spaces are as important in a room, as they are in a sentence. They let us know where one thought ends and another begins. They allow our eye to rest between vignettes and appreciate each grouping as an individual.

DO add contrast. It could be a contrast in colour, materials, styles or all of them.  Adding contrast to a room is like adding harmony to a song.

DON’T group items of the same shape and size. The mind will read it as clutter, unless there is a hierarchy of size or shape.

DO overdose on texture. It is how we introduce warmth and layers into the space. Without it, the room will fall flat and be oh so booooring.

DON’T overwhelm the space with colour. Choose a dark and light neutral as the general palette and one pop colour to repeat around the room in small doses. We are more likely going to notice a vase of pink tulips surrounded by neutrals, than we are to notice the flowers if the walls are painted pink. I often say to my clients, “let’s highlight the words on a page that we want to see, instead of highlight the entire page, except for those words.”

DO include nature. Always.  Plants breathe life into a room.  Rocks, driftwood, boughs, moss, water all connect us to nature in a way that nothing else can.  It’s brings authenticity to a room and makes us feel grounded.  Nature is the home of simplicity.

DON’T use leftovers. Too often I see furniture sitting in a room, just because the client didn’t know where else to put it. Editing your furniture is key in achieving simplicity within a room.  I try to avoid the temptation of using living spaces as storage space.

DO add pattern. Pattern is interest. Interest holds the eye and adds depth and movement to a room.