Antiquarian Minimalism



Love going to your local IKEA store? Well guess what, in interiors and architecture, Minimalism did grow to be one of the most influential styles to dominate the 21st century,  but only up until a few years ago! According to Ada Ivanoff minimalism had started taking a new form at the time (2000’s), frequently referred to as ‘Neo-minimalism’/’Neo-Geometric’/’Neo-Geo’. Despite being based on simplicity/restraint, unlike the traditional De Stijl (stark) minimalism this design culture/ideal evolved to include a variety of shapes/curves – much beyond the squares, rectangles, horizontal/vertical lines and colours – not just the primary ones. Even brands such as IKEA have started embracing a philosophy incorporating sensual and visually rich designs instead of a mere focus on practicality/form; embracing floral patterns and colours; promoting ‘home’ as a place of personal sanctuary uniquely reflecting the inhabitants’ personalities.

As if this was not transformation enough, they are also endorsing bright paint colours and tricks to transform raw utilitarian pieces! Click on these links 1 & 2 to see some examples from their online 2018 catalogue. West Elm is another brand which has particularly started to promote layering new modern pieces with other objects at home – existing furniture, art, photos, childhood and travel momentos – embracing personality rather than minimal perfection. Hermann Miller also just opened its first North American retail store (November 2017) in Manhattan promoting a different kind of modernism, much more personal than before, known to have worked like a shot of adrenaline to renew and exhilarate the tired, run-of-the-mill designs.

Undoubtedly then, the years 2011 (specifically!) onwards have outrightly marked a shift towards maximalism:

One could argue (and some have) that the days of minimalism and mid-century modernism are being supplanted by a new ‘maximalism.

After decades of stark, formulaic interiors, design is giving way to maximalism – a luxurious riot of colour and pattern.

Minimalism’s grip on modern design is loosening. The latest fleet of home furnishings launched at Salone del Mobile, the most influential design fair of the year, reflects a maximalist approach.

While minimalist styles seem to have been around forever, the maximalist look is gaining ground. We are seeing a shift away from the sleek modernist style to a more luxurious and excessive look.

More recently, the most exciting breed of minimalism, namely Antiquarian Minimalism seems to be engulfing the current and future trends of the interior design industry. Before going on to explain what this design trend has to offer and presenting exciting visuals depicting the same! 🙂  , I must clarify that in writing this article, my intent has absolutely not been to deride either maximalism or minimalism as style ideals; or choosing sides. Having grown up in an era where minimalism became a global fad, I struggled to identify with either of the two!!

Dont get me wrong here, I do look up to minimalism in many ways – as a philosophy of life, of thinking – that simplicity in reasoning, judgement and cognition. Yes, I believe in decluttering to a certain extent especially when it comes to personal belongings – having more than I need on a daily basis most definitely makes me anxious and I always feel the need to ‘replace’ rather than ‘add onto’ the already present collection, be it clothing, shoes, yet anything that may be typified as a personal accessory. However, when it comes to interiors around me – even though I never had a penchant for the ‘utterly playfully chaotic’, hardcore maximalist interior design schemes (click on the link to see an example) –  I’ve always loved being surrounded by memories, emotions, and objects signifying a meaningful moment in time; each nook and corner emanating a cozy, snug and homey vibe, as if inhabited and lived in since ever; marked by eclecticism and cultural references, albeit most definitely avoiding any form of visual cacophony at the same time; resonating an avante-garde spirit nonetheless. Yes, these kind of interiors could very well take a lifetime of collecting and curating – definitely not a task to be completed overnight.

Now you can well imagine how thrilled I was to learn about this new found interior design trend called antiquarian minimalism – a fusion of maximalism and minimalism in a restrained/elegant way with particularly museum type settings, furniture and décor – and how it helped eradicate that disorientation I had felt for years! My ideal of lagom – not too little, not too much, just the right amount– complete with historical references, memories and personalization; definitely a move away from stark minimalism but also from the ostentatious towards restrained/understated elegance.

Much to my delight, just recently I was asked to work on the design of an upscale luxury boutique hotel incorporating antiquarian minimalism. The fact that it was a boutique hotel (and hence the scale) greatly worked to my advantage and gave plenty of leeway, allowing me to oust standardized options of the likes of ‘fast furniture’ (essentially known to be inexpensive easy-to-assemble designs that are expected to be tossed out in a few seasonshaving gained much popularity mid-1980’s onwards. On the contrary, I started working towards a scheme that echoed a sense of belonging, rarity and exclusivity; of storytelling, nostalgia, antiquing and art in general – employing antiques of the likes of the wooden carved bed frame (with fine bed linen from ‘seventh heaven’), the beauvauis tapestry, over-dyed vintage rugs, and the draped canopy of brass ball chains over the bed (Before you get carried away with your own imagination, pictures are attached below as slideshows!). As one progresses through the entrance lobby, its floors marked by pebbles and stones, natural light shines through reflecting on an almost ethereal ‘outside’ feel. Symmetry is the ‘rhetoric’ in the design scheme for both the lobby and the room; to augment the spatial depth/perspective, the decorative elements are arranged symmetrically on either side of a central axis – perhaps better suited for a hospitality sector project as opposed to a residential one where asymmetric and random order of things could add all the more mystery and interest to the scheme. Also importantly, light layering – where multiple light sources have been placed in the most forensic way at differing heights along with meticulously chosen lampshades/light sources – has been used to create the required ambience accentuating the overall décor.

Design visuals:

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If what you’ve read has gotten you going already by now on this subject then here’s some details of the individual elements of the design scheme.

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Concept sketches:

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In essence, experiential design that is artful, poetic and memorable with the emotion of the audience being at the pulse of designrelying on self and customization rather than renowned brands; where tags would not determine the ostentatious – exclusivity, rarity and emotional connection would. However, employing antiques and museum type settings does have its share of ‘challenges’! There’s always a fine line between the ‘kitschy’ and the curated.

If you are as excited and enthusiastic about looking into this burgeoning trend of antiquarian minimalism by now, you might want to look at works of the likes of:

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Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

















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