Here’s a fun fact: the smartphone you are most certainly holding in your hand is inspired by the clean and sleek design ideas of minimalism. Minimalism is, in fact, a design movement that has snowballed into lifestyle choice. However, at its core, minimal interior design was the beginning of this concept.

With our infamous crunch for space, Singaporeans have embraced minimal design quite readily. In fact, interior designers quote it to be one of the most popular and asked for interior design styles in the city. So let’s dig a little deeper to understand what minimal interior design comprises and how it can be used for your HDB renovation. 

What is minimal interior design?

minimal interior design-floating bed
Minimal does not equal cheap!

At its core, minimalism in design is an attempt to live with fewer things to reduce distractions. This kind of design strips down your lifestyle (and by effect your home) to its bare essentials. Whatever you have in your home, be it furniture, appliances etc., you must have some use for these items.

The 90 day rule is the bedrock of minimalist philosophy. It states that if you have not used something for 90 days and don’t intend to use it for the next 90 days, you most probably don’t need this item. Books, collectibles and heirlooms are exempt from this rule.

Don’t confuse the intent of this reductive style of designing your home with frugality. Though the objects in a minimal home might be few, they are often of high value. The purpose of keeping a few numbered items is to be able to focus on the beauty of each item in the space.

A snapshot of the history of minimalism in design

minimal interior design-new national gallery-berlin
New National Gallery, Berlin, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Minimalism is not a new philosophy. In fact, it is heavily influenced by the Japanese zen style. This design style takes in its stride concepts like ‘ma’ that stands for empty space and ‘seijaku’ that stands for stillness. These simplistic principles became influential in the West after World War II. The result was eventually manifested into an American art movement in the 1960s, where it represented a renewed focus on materials. 

How to spot minimal interior design?

minimal interior design-study
Essentials of minimalist design

The most obvious way to spot a style is to follow its underlying principles. Thankfully, minimalism being a style of few elements, has just a couple of basic design principles that make up its core. 

#1: Less is more

The catch words of minimalism, ‘less is more’, tend to be used somewhat loosely these days. The phase was originally coined by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, iconic German architect, and went on to become the bedrock of this style. But what do we mean when we say less is more? The focus of minimal designs is not the furniture, furnishings or accessories (read elements) in a room. The gist of the design philosophy is to curate the things you love and need to create a simple but efficient living experience. 

#2: Reductive design principles

Reductive design essentially means stripping down a piece to its bare essentials. This is particularly relevant to furniture. Minimal furniture is basic and without frills. It would be fair to say that form follows function when it comes to furniture. 

#3: Clean and simple lines

Empty space, in minimal design, is as much of a design element as furniture or accessories. Hence, it favours open layouts that stick to clean and straight lines as well as simple forms. 

What are the elements of minimal interior design?

minimal interior design

#1: Colour Palette

Just like everything else about this style, the colour palette too is basic and neutral. Think whites, nudes, beiges, tan, greys and blacks. 

#2: Patterns

Prints and patterns are conspicuously absent from the scope of design in this style. What we find instead is the use of monochromes. Now there is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding monochromes because most people perceive it to be black and white. But actually it involves using a gradation of tones of the same colour to create a semblance of texture.

#3: Materials

Minimalism revived the interest in use of new and traditional materials so we have sorted the materials used in minimal interior design into the following:

  • Industrial materials like chrome, steel, glass and plastic
  • Traditional materials like organic textiles, stone, wood and ceramics

#4: Textures and Surfaces

With a limited number of colours and no patterns, textures are the last resort to create visual interest. We see a mixture of surfaces that include matte, flat and reflective. These are combined with wooden tones and natural textiles that are used to add warmth to spaces.

#5: Forms

This style favours simple forms that adhere to clean lines. Typically, there is one statement piece in every room that stands out. The rest are complementary elements woven around this centrepiece. 

How can you design your own home using minimal design?

minimal kitchen-parallel kitchen
Clean and basic layout
minimal tv unit-white tv unit
Floating storage cabinets to save floor space

#1: All new HDBs in Singapore now have open living room layouts. However, if you have an older HDB, opt for an open layout. This generally makes the space look larger than it is. 

#2: Stick with a trio of colours per room and play with their tints and shades as required. Use of subtle textures should be prioritised over adding colour. 

#3: Singaporean homes are typically heavy on storage because the space is compact. And while we understand that need, if you want an uncluttered home, we recommend using cleverly concealed options. Under bed or bedside unit storages are very useful in this regard. 

#4: Another option is installing wall-mounted or floating furniture ensures that you have plenty of floor space. Free space around the floor makes the home look open and roomy. 

#5: Last but not least, never buy anything that you don’t absolutely need. Also, don’t hoard things that you don’t need because it leads to clutter. 

If you are in need of inspiration to get minimal interior design right, check out how to choose colours for a Scandinavian home

Send in your thoughts and suggestions at editor.sg@livspace.com.