There’s min­i­mal­ism, and then there’s min­i­mal­ism. The LifeChang­ing Magic of Tidy­ing Up, by Tokyo-based home-or­ga­ni­za­tion guru Marie Kondo, is a best-sell­ing book about the lat­ter. And when Kondo says min­i­mal­ist, she means it. Her book ad­vises peo­ple to keep only what brings them joy. That’s it, noth­ing more.

Her de­sign style and phi­los­o­phy are bare-bones, but they ’re meant to be joy­ful and bring peace to peo­ple’s in­creas­ingly busy lifestyles, some­thing Mon­treal de­signer Kelli Richards un­der­stands.

“The rea­son I like min­i­mal­ism is be­cause I re­ally be­lieve that our lives, and the peo­ple in them, are what should fill a space — not the decor,” said the lead de­signer and owner of Kelli Richards De­signs. “Life is messy and I have enough things; I don’t need more. It’s about sim­pli­fy­ing your life, and feel­ing a sense of calm and clar­ity.

“Most of us go to work — have hec­tic, stress­ful lives — and when we come home, we need to feel a sense of calm.”

Richards, who lived in dif­fer­ent cities in Ja­pan dur­ing her time as a model, not only fell in love with the coun­try’s de­sign style, but also its phi­los­o­phy, which is rooted in Bud­dhism. Her de­signs are mod­ern and min­i­mal­is­tic, but also have an un­der­tone of clas­sic lux­ury.

“There are dif­fer­ent lev­els of min­i­mal­ist de­sign; there are peo­ple who live in tiny houses and own next to noth­ing, but I don’t go to that level,” she said. In­stead, Richards fo­cuses on a clean es­thetic that man­ages to be both warm and sim­ple at the same time.

“You need to find the right bal­ance, be­cause you don’t want it to feel stark — like you’re in a hospi­tal, or some­thing,” she said. “It’s re­ally nice to add some warm tones — with wood, for ex­am­ple — to bal­ance out the space.”

In ad­di­tion to us­ing wood, Richards also rec­om­mends us­ing a shade of white on the walls, in­stead of stark white — or, ob­vi­ously, a bright colour.

“Light wood floor­ing, like oak, is re­ally pop­u­lar right now and it makes a space feel airier, es­pe­cially when they’re wide planks,” she said. “And I’m still a very big fan of vari­a­tions of white on the walls.”

Be­cause of the size of most new con­dos in Mon­treal — around 800 square feet, or so — Richards be­lieves min­i­mal­ism is ac­tu­ally the way to go, de­sign-wise, for most new prop­erty own­ers.

“The more in­tri­cate the de­sign is, the less spa­cious the home feels,” she said. “Stick with light, airy colours and clean lines; it makes a big dif­fer­ence.”

An­other el­e­ment that makes an im­pact in a new home is the ma­te­ri­als that are used, es­pe­cially in a min­i­mal­ist space, said Catlin Stothers, an in­te­rior de­signer, artist and pro­po­nent of com­fort­able min­i­mal­ism.

“Min­i­mal­ism for me is just us­ing re­ally sim­pli­fied, stripped-back ma­te­ri­als; mostly or­ganic forms like glass, con­crete, metal and wood — things that don’t need to have a lot of de­tail to have a pro­found ef­fect,” she said. “Even if you have very lit­tle fur­ni­ture or ac­ces­sories, if you have the right kinds of ma­te­ri­als, like wood and con­crete, you can cre­ate a re­ally dra­matic ef­fect.”

Catlin Stothers De­sign is known for its mod­ern, min­i­mal­is­tic sen­si­bil­ity.

“It’s a ques­tion of es­thet­ics; some peo­ple are just drawn to a re­ally mod­ern look,” Stothers said in de­scrib­ing her style. “The down­side is that some peo­ple feel that it’s go­ing to be cold or un­invit­ing, and that it’s go­ing to feel like a lab, or very ster­ile.”

Like Richards, Stothers be­lieves in a warm min­i­mal­ism, not a cold one. She wants the spa­ces she cre­ates to be places where peo­ple tuck in and watch a movie or lis­ten to music, or en­ter­tain friends and fam­ily. Not per­form an op­er­a­tion.

“Tex­tiles are a great way to make a room more invit­ing and com­fort­able — a throw, a rug, cush­ions, ac­ces­sories,” she said. “What’s great about that is they aren’t per­ma­nent details, so they’re things that you can change over time, with the sea­sons, or as your tastes change over the years.”

In ad­di­tion to tex­tiles, Stothers is also a fan of fea­ture walls, if they’re in the right place.

“If there’s a home that’s re­ally white and re­ally min­i­mal­is­tic, a nice way to add a fo­cal point or make it more cosy is to paint one wall with a nice, warm tone, like greige,” she said. “All-white can be a lit­tle aus­tere, es­pe­cially in a bed­room. Cur­tains can also add a soft­ness, and frame the room a bit.”

Fi­nally, Stothers be­lieves light­ing is the key to strik­ing the right bal­ance be­tween min­i­mal­ism, and min­i­mal­ism.

“It’s the one thing that peo­ple for­get about, or try to save on, and it’s the most im­por­tant. I al­ways say the floors and the light­ing are the ar­chi­tec­tural details that — no mat­ter who lives in your house, and no mat­ter what fur­ni­ture you have — are go­ing to be key.

“You can have great light­ing and one piece of fur­ni­ture, and if it’s well ex­e­cuted, it’s all you need,” Stothers said. “With­out the right light­ing, you’re left with a box with no soul.”

And no­body wants that. Not even Marie Kondo.


Wood beams and wood floor­ing adds some warm tones to bal­ance out the white walls and min­i­mal­ist decor. Tex­tiles, like the bed­ding and the area rug, also make the room look less aus­tere and more invit­ing.

Wood shelv­ing and trim add a bit of warmth to the Zen-like decor of this bath­room, with its free­stand­ing tub and above-counter stone ves­sel sinks, and metal fix­tures. Min­i­mal­ist decor need not mean a cold look.


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