The most frequent criticism I hear about minimalist homes is that they’re “cold,” “sterile,” or “uninviting.”
Of course, such criticisms usually come from people who aren’t minimalists; and in the end, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about your home but you.
However, sometimes our decluttering efforts can suck the warmth out of our space. We’re so focused on elimination, that we forget about our aesthetic needs—those little visual cues that make us (and our families) feel comfortable in our homes.
Never fear: your living room doesn’t have to look like Pottery Barn to have charm and character. Here are some ways to cozy up your space without adding more stuff:
1. Choose natural materials. When your furnishings and décor are few, natural materials convey a wonderful sense of warmth. For example: a reclaimed wood table, a wool area rug, beeswax candles, linen napkins.
2. Add texture. This is a great way to add visual interest, especially with a monochromatic color scheme. A chunky handknit throw, nubby wool upholstery, or hammered metal bowl are subtle, elegant alternatives to chintz and frills.
3. Decorate with nature. Skip the home décor stores, and decorate with a plant, vase of flowers, cluster of branches, or unusual rocks you’ve gathered on a hike. They’re inexpensive (or free!), and add a beautiful, organic look to your space.
4. Use light as décor. During the day, throw open the curtains or blinds (or consider letting your windows go naked) to maximize natural light. In the evening, a few candles or string of white lights can create a romantic, magical glow.
5. Use color. A coat of paint is the easiest way to liven up a room without adding stuff; even a single wall of color can have a dramatic effect. However, if (like me) you’re a devotee of white walls, you can still benefit from a splash of color—simply choose fun hues for your practical stuff, like pillows, placemats, towels, or upholstery.
6. Choose vintage or recycled materials. Not only are upcycled items more eco-friendly; there’s just something infinitely more charming about stuff with a patina or history.
7. Use glass jars. Longtime readers know I’m a big fan of mason jars. Maybe it’s just me, but I think some of the consumable stuff in our homes—spices, beans, coffee, pasta, cotton balls, bath salts—are pretty enough to serve as décor.
8. Use personal items. Stuff with meaning—like personal photos, artwork, or travel souvenirs—are so much more interesting than store-bought décor. The key is editing: highlight just a few important pieces, to give them the spotlight they deserve.
Remember: adding warmth isn’t about adding stuff. An empty room with weathered wood floors and a single vase of flowers can be absolutely delightful. Rather, it’s about choosing our stuff with care, so that our homes are welcoming havens for our families, our guests, and ourselves. When you come home at the end of a long day, your space should always make you smile.