Minimalism sucks and we desperately need to move on

As a representative of young millennials in this country, it is my duty to talk about the crimes our generation is committing to our houses. What’s even worse is the style we created is now plaguing the country: the scourge of minimalism.

Minimalism is the style you’ve seen in every “fancy white movie couple’s” city apartment. Think Keanu Reeve’s house in John Wick or the apartment from 50 Shades of Grey. Filmmakers love to use this as a visual shorthand to let the audience know that character has a lot of money and enough style to have their house feel like a hospital room.

If you’re unfamiliar with what constitutes modern minimalism the main tenets are:

  • Cold surfaces with hard right angles
  • White and/or black color palettes with a wood or cork accent (at most)
  • Few art pieces and appliances and the ones permitted to stay usually fit the overly restrictive theme

It’s the obsession with hard edges and resistance to color that leaves these rooms cold and uninviting in most spaces. Minimalist houses are clinical and have you reaching for a sweater despite the temperature inside.

So, who’s fault is it

The roots of minimalism start in earnest with the Bauhaus school in Germany in the 1910’s – 1930’s. There’s enough about that short-lived movement to fill a book (and believe me people have), but for our purposes just know they prioritized function and used materials that mimicked mass-produced furniture.

And since original ideas come around once every 30 years, we are in the throes of the Bauhaus revival. These stupid millennial house flippers decided that every house should “explore the bones of aesthetics” where function trumps flair without exception. It started as a noble effort to create more open space in the depressingly cramped apartments my generation is confined to. Since then, it’s lost all its flavor.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of beautiful houses and rooms that prioritize function. I’ve started to call the style of these spaces “essentialist.” You might be asking “isn’t that kind of the same thing as minimalism?” to which I respond what’re you, the word police? We’re having fun here.

Essentialism™ takes the tenets of minimalism, but uses colors and different textures to give the space some much needed character and warmth. As much as I’m against the “tiny house” and “van life” movements, they are the champions of this style and will cement it as the logical end of the minimalism epidemic.

In small rooms, only essential objects have the space to exist so instead of purposefully limiting your space for the aesthetic, essentialist rooms pick interesting and unique objects that give the entire room a feeling of intention. Rather than having a black Mr. Coffee because it matches your countertops, essentialists will replace it with a cadmium red French Press that they’ll use forever.

Essentialism™ takes the tenets of minimalism, but uses colors and different textures to give the space some much needed character and warmth

-inspiration of our time, Devin McCue

I love that style, it’s the one I currently enjoy in my own home and it will stick around, but I think it’s time for a change.

What’s next?

As a country, we should reject the bullshit American brand minimalism and go full bore in the opposite direction. That means all those copy+paste suburban neighborhoods finally axe those dark granite counter tops. No more of those yuppie psych-ward kitchens in movies. And we’ll finally kill this “van-life” and “tiny home” movement that is basically flaunting privilege in the face of people experiencing homelessness.

The logical antithesis to minimalism is maximalism. Loud, brash surroundings the overwhelm the senses and good judgement. Think Frank N Furter’s house from Rocky Horror or those floor-to-ceiling mirrors from the 1980’s.

But if this was the easy answer, we would’ve done it by now. Instead, let’s take the lessons we learned from essentialism to temper maximalism and make the space more livable. We’ll be loud and extremely personal where we can while minimizing the number of objects.

Keep lots of eccentricities that serve a purpose when necessary while allowing for extreme creativity everywhere else. Take inspiration from places like:

  • Dakota Johnson’s carpeted kitchen that makes no sense, but is somehow beautiful and olive green
  • All these creative 70’s style cross-wall paintings on tiktok
  • Weird, in-home libraries that the reader character loves in tv shows
Dakota Johnson’s kitchen she can never make pasta sauce in

This only counts if we can do it at scale though. A movement is only as strong as mass-production allows. There are plenty of examples of this type of mass housing created in a stylish and sustainable way:

But, as with every style, the best examples will be at the individual-level where we create it in our own homes. A theme doesn’t need to be consistent across a house and can (and should) be segmented by room.

Embrace opulence

So, take the future of housing in your own hands. Buy weird shit at yard sales, clean them up, and stick them in your house. Paint your furniture and rooms whatever fucking color you want. Fill your house with a million plants or stuff your shelves with fun knickknacks that each have a story rather than a function.

I’m trying to get this going in my own home and I’ve started with a signature wall piece: a landline phone that has never made a call has been hung up in every room I’ve lived in. It carries a story and always starts a conversation, plus it looks tacky without being distracting.

Fill the walls with art and campy picture frames, fill your bookshelf with weird books and read most of them, there’s no need to waste a space that won’t ever serve a practical purpose.

Deadspace is the enemy of style. We should embrace the tacky and throw minimalism’s tired concept in the composting bins.

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