How to create warmth and hominess without a lot of stuff?
February 19, 2012 5:34 PM   Subscribe

How can a minimalist and a less-minimalist set up a homey and comfortable apartment together?

Moving in with the boy next week. Yay! It's been a journey and I am thankful to everyone who has talked me through some previous mefi questions. Now that we are taking this next step, I want to set up a homey-feeling, comfortable home for us. He has said he does not care at all about the decorating and it's totally up to me, but since I know he is very minimalist in style and comfort level, I want to make sure I don't over-do it and that I set up a place that works for both of us.

Before he met me, his sole furnishings consisted of a bed, a couch (which we are replacing with a nicer one my sister in law is giving us), a large television with a stand and several video game consoles, and three framed Star Wars posters. MY belongings consist of a fairly substantial collection of hand-me-down IKEA bookcases, two lamps, a table and chairs, two decorative but not as functional living room chairs, a set of coffee tables, a microwave stand and numerous hand-me-down framed art.

When pushed on where to put things and what we still need or don't need, his statements have been as follows:

1) Overall, he would be happy with a living room consisting of a couch, the television and nothing else. But since he recognizes that 'decorating' matters more to me than him, he will 'accept' whatever I do and that he really doesn't care about it

2) He does think the quantity of framed art needs to be reduced. To him, the height of what he doesn't want would be my mother's place, which has a table in it that was purchased solely to house picture frames and which serves no functional purpose other than this.

3) He believes that carpets and throw pillows and other such decorative but non-functional items just collect dust and irritate his allergies. He will accept one throw rug in the living room if I feel I must, but he doesn't want a lot of other 'stuff' around.

So, any advice for putting a place together that is sufficiently homey to me but suitably minimalist to him? I do have a carpet I want to put by the couches for now, and he shrugged when I told him. But there has to be some colour and warmth in there somehow, doesn't there? How can I create that without just putting *stuff* in there?
posted by JoannaC to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like a) you want a place that looks good, and b) he wants a place that doesn't involve wasted space. I'd feel free to cover the walls with framed stuff. More important than anything else in this situation is making sure that everything has a place, and that there is a good schedule for vacuuming.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:45 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, can you hold off at first and just put the essentials in for now? You can always add as you go.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 5:55 PM on February 19, 2012

Framed art goes on the walls, but nowhere else. Keep the flat, horizontal surfaces clear.

Have lots of storage space where you can put the stuff that he would deem 'clutter' (ye gods, I hate that word), but that you would still like easy access to.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:55 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Add things in as you go. You can also find things like floor lamps or throw blankets become "acceptable" when partner realizes they're nice when it's cold or for a reading light.
posted by raccoon409 at 6:02 PM on February 19, 2012

Designate one wall as the picture wall. Crowd it if need be. Maybe the wall behind the couch so they are not in his visual space too much.

Cushions are good. Cushions with removable covers that are washed weekly are great. How about one cushion on the couch then, if he starts to hog it, add another (with a smirk and a kiss).

Bookcases: can these go in the hall or another room? Pack tightly with books so the fewer bookcases are needed. Nothing else but books to go in them.

Ornaments and knick-knacks that are not materially useful: be a dear and pack these away in storage. Ornaments are the bane of minimalists (according to my fella).

If your shared place has a sterile or plain colour scheme, use the cushion/s, or the artwork to add colour. Maybe one throw rug (washed weekly) but only if it will be used.

I admire minimalists. But I can't be one. However I've learned that I like clear, uncluttered spaces almost as much as my minimalist man. (Why he thinks old sheep skulls and cow horns are not clutter is something I'll never understand...)
posted by Kerasia at 6:31 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

You might be able to satisfy your desire to decorate by doing lots of research on how to do minimalism really really well.

The best thing about minimalism is that you can spend more money, time, and effort sourcing each individual item, because there are very few of them over all. Work out how much you would have spent on a lounge suite, coffee table, knick-knacks, throw pillows, and spend ALL of that on a couch. A kick ass couch to end all couches.

Spend a lot of time on design websites and blogs looking at minimalist homes and seeing what you like. Take your time to pick out even very functional items like the toaster, or dish brush, or teatowels, and make them awesome. Never buy anything that isn't aesthetically pleasing as well as functional as well as just makes you smile for the hell of it.

Then the lack of "things" in your house means you spend more time looking at each item that is present, and you will cherish each item and smile whenever your gaze falls on it.
posted by lollusc at 6:46 PM on February 19, 2012 [8 favorites]

Wherever possible, get things that have built-in storage behind opaque doors or in closed boxes. So, no shelves, or open bins. Get bookcases with doors on them (or buy doors for your IKEA bookcases), find a storage ottoman for blankets and pillows, find a tv stand that will keep all the electronics and maybe even the tv itself nicely put away. If everything "extraneous" has a place it belongs when not in use, your live-in minimalist will be able to make himself comfortable by tidying up and closing some doors. This also has the benefit of keeping stuff-expansion down, because you can more easily tell when you are running out of room.

Does he actually care about color? Or maybe it's just patterns? If he doesn't have an opinion on the matter, stick to solid colors and choose your favorite two or so, and then pretty much keep to them. So if you like green, you could probably get away with a big comfortable green chair and a solid green ottoman and even painting a wall green, but no sage brocade curtains or wallpaper with leaves on it.

As for your framed art, put it up slowly. Maybe even occasionally rotate it so you can keep the walls more freed up than you otherwise might, but you also don't get bored of what you've got hung at any particular time. You can put decorative knick knacks and standing picture frames on bookshelves with doors on them, so if you want to come in and open the doors you can and he can come in and close them when he wants.
posted by Mizu at 6:55 PM on February 19, 2012

Designate one wall as the picture wall. Crowd it if need be. Maybe the wall behind the couch so they are not in his visual space too much

this is a really good idea
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:03 PM on February 19, 2012

Look at the pictures in catalogs that sell minimalist furniture... usually they're not totally devoid of adornment. They usually have a couple token knick-knacks that appear to have been casually left around, that 'tie the place together'. You could say they add an element of Sprezzatura. The problem then is figuring out what few items should be chosen for this role.
Designate one wall as the picture wall. Crowd it if need be. Maybe the wall behind the couch so they are not in his visual space too much
I think you'd have to be careful with this. Too large of a disparity between that wall and the others, and it would just draw attention to the divergent decorating ideas involved instead of blending them together. I think a few pieces of art throughout your home could be unobtrusive.

For example, one or two items of art per wall, chosen with a lot of thought. No overly elaborate decorative frames. If you have more art than places to put it up, rotate what you have up, and keep the rest in storage.

If you want to show a lot of family photos, instead of showing them all at once, you could use a LCD picture frame that goes through a slideshow.
posted by Hither at 9:49 PM on February 19, 2012

If you can paint and hang simple curtains, that will add a lot to the homey feeling without adding too much stuff.

I'm a minimalist, but Mr Metarkest, an artist, is not. He has allergies, I don't. Keeping a clean, uncluttered place is important.

Whe we moved in to our current apartment, it was already painted a nice off-white wth white ceilings and trim, but the kitchen was a ghastly blue. We painted it to almost match the rest of the apartment.

As for the curtains, we have simple, machine-washable tab-top curtains on all the windows. They do a lot to warm up the place, are easy to maintain, and are very portable. We did buy interesting rods to hang the curtains from, but nothing flashy. Target had a nice variety last we checked, and although most of the tab-top curtains we have seen say dry clean only, we throw them in the wash nonetheless.

Good luck with your merged home!
posted by metarkest at 7:05 AM on February 20, 2012

Keep the flat, horizontal surfaces clear.

As a minimalist living with a tablescaper, this. A thousand times this.

Also, is there a large difference in height between you and the beau? When my girl and I merged stuff and spaces, I initially let her have her way, and felt constantly cramped, because she had hung things to her eye level, and all the surfaces in the house were set up for her height. Keeping that in mind helped a lot when we re-arranged. Same thing for walk paths. Having not to weave between things really helped (specifically a coffee table).

While the picture wall may work for your specific minimalist, it doesn't for me. Having it all clustered together and having the rest of the walls barer is unbalancing.
posted by nulledge at 7:13 AM on February 20, 2012

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