The new minimalism in home living

After imm cologne 2015 heralded the arrival of “German Gemütlichkeit” and officially allowed cosiness to re-enter our homes without being uncool, trend watchers have spotted the rise of a new variation on comfort, this time from Scandinavia – and it could have the makings of a classic.

What is it that makes Scandinavian interior design today so unbelievably attractive for many people? Are the furniture brands from Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland that regularly gather in Cologne simply so irresistible? Or is it that “Scandi style” exudes optimism with its laid-back feel and fresh colours, and evokes images of a simple life surrounded by birch trees in the land of Pippi Longstocking? We are gladly exchanging our high-gloss ambiance – the product of hard-fought negotiations about our work/life balance –and replacing it with solid-wood furniture and felt slippers. Digitally controlled lighting is making way for simple candle holders. Our windows now double as vertical gardens, and the designer couch is topped with an unassuming woollen throw. Now the moment for relaxation has come.

The Scandinavian exhibitors at imm cologne really are the leaders when it comes to expressing their very own new sense of style and presenting products that reflect it. They interpret the traditional with a touch of cheek. The once typically bright designs in primary colours now find themselves in the company of refined grey tones and muted pastel colours – this is the recipe for a laid-back mix of the urban and rustic, chic and minimalist.

Scandinavian design is now on-trend like never before, and new fashionable interior labels are providing fresh momentum. These young brands have rapidly achieved cult status. Foremost among them are names such as Muuto, &Tradition, Frost, Softline and Woud from Denmark. And the highly coveted label whose furniture bears the instruction “PLEASE WAIT to be SEATED” is no longer an insider tip either. Design House Stockholm and String from Sweden are bringing Nordic simplicity into the home, while from Finland Artek offers classic furniture, and Woodnotes provides textiles.

In search of “lagom” – the perfect balance
The new style is simple and works with minimalist forms without being cool. It is decorative without losing itself in details. This balanced contemporary mix calls for the right frame. Furniture that forms a line with the architecture and does not create an imposing volume is ideal here. It brings a sense of visual calm to the home. Its primary role is not to be noticeable and to provide all the required functions – storage space or a place to put objects, whether that’s for a music centre, flowers, a laptop or whatever else you may need. Then carefully selected furniture and objects – a beautiful cupboard, a picture, armchair or a sculptural lamp – are shown off to their best advantage. It is about reduction, leaving out and order – but without forgetting the practical and day-to-day. On closer inspection, behind the clean lines and simplicity you will often find a multitude of details in the design that make the products by the new cult labels so special.

An uncluttered look with taste in abundance
But how do you achieve a minimalist interior style? What are the criteria that need to be considered? Here the residents’ personal needs come first. Where do I need lots of clarity, and where do I need less of it? Some prefer an uncluttered look in the bathroom, others in the bedroom. In the living room, minimalist interior design can quickly appear cool and imposing instead of warm and inviting if the wrong materials are chosen. This impression can be easily countered with an anachronistic touch as today it’s not just that anything goes, but rather that mix and match is the very hallmark of a connoisseur who knows just what is “in”. Plain and patterned, modern and flea market work very well together today. But these kinds of highlights are to be used very sparingly. This is what makes the “new minimalism”. Swedish has a word for this attitude towards life. “Lagom” (pronounced lah-gom) literally means “just the right amount”. When applied to furnishing homes and other spaces, it describes the perfect midpoint between two poles. But it doesn’t just apply to interior design, but to a self-defined lifestyle.

“We can see what challenges daily life poses us when we look at our children. Usually they’re only able to switch off in the evening after some time has passed. Only then can they appreciate the quiet as something soothing. We need spaces where stimulation is reduced in order to cope with life today and its information overload. And for many people, this space is their home. An aesthetically balanced, ordered environment that is not constantly calling to be tidied up, cleaned, for you to work on it, helps here. Closed storage spaces and clean lines are ideal for this,” says Cologne-based design journalist and trend watcher Frank A. Reinhardt.

Minimalism and comfort can work together
Minimalism and comfort don’t have to be a contradiction in terms by any means, and this is something that traditional home lifestyles in Scandinavia and Japan demonstrate. They rely on a combination of clean lines with warmer tones, and materials such as wood and textiles with a cosy feel. Softly rounded shapes are very much “permitted” in minimalism, if you want to put it like that. After all, who says that a minimalist table can only have angular edges and legs? In truth, minimalist only means that a form should have nothing superfluous and perhaps also that the materials should be chosen so that their density is at a minimum, which creates clarity and lightness in the ideal scenario.

Those who work with wood and warm tones – and there are warm whites and greys, too – and do not destroy the impression of lightness with heaps of unnecessary decoration, limiting themselves instead to a few things that are then able to truly shine, can create a home that is both minimalist and comfortable to live in. Lighting then does the rest. Stunning effects can be achieved today with concealed light sources integrated behind the skirting board, cornice or ceiling. A wall painted in warm tones and indirectly illuminated with dimmable spot lighting easily beats any conventional lamp when it comes to creating comfort. But the essential ingredient is a personal sense of style. This is ultimately what brings this perfectly liveable piece of minimalist interior design to life. Comfort can never be achieved without it.