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Home Interior Design Styles: What is Minimalist Design?

A focus on clean lines and embracing negative space

By RaShea Drake
August 21, 2019

*We interviewed interior designers and other home professionals to create a series about interior styles and designs. When you’ve finished with minimalist, you may be interested in modern or contemporary.

A Brief History

Minimalist style kitchen

Minimalist interior design is based on the minimalist art movement, focusing on creating harmony through symmetry and open spaces. Starting in the late 1950s, it gained popularity throughout the 1960s. It would be easy to fill our homes with more possessions given the cheap cost of goods. However, there is a growing trend to throw out the fluff and keep only what is necessary and what’s useful. A return to simplicity with a minimalist home.

The Definition of Minimalist Interior Styles

Think of a minimalist home as your private art gallery. Large open areas swathed in neutral hues with a few furnishings placed thoughtfully throughout. Each piece has its designated area to be admired, but the look isn’t cluttered. Each furnishing has room to breathe. Through thoughtful consideration of color, space, and light, minimalist living achieves a soothing atmosphere. The goal is for pieces to be functional but also complementary.

We made a graphic of the characteristics of minimalist interiors below. Feel free to save it to your Pinterest board or your device so you can easily refer back to it later.


"Minimalist interiors provide a great balance between aesthetic appeal, concealed storage, enhanced functionality and a subtle, yet peaceful, color palette that really allows the architectural elements of the space speak for themselves." – Wendy Gonzalez, Owner, Modern Ornament

  • Negative space, or white space, is a key element to minimalism. It brings more attention to pieces in the room.
  • Pieces should serve multiple purposes such as beautiful, comfortable, and useful.
  • Make use of natural light as well as beautiful yet simple lighting fixtures. Use simple window treatments such as classic drapes.
  • Rooms appear larger with a minimalist design, making it perfect for small spaces.

Color Palette:

“White is the color most often found in homes decorated in minimalistic style due to how it lends itself to the feel of open space. It forms the basis for the walls, floors, and furniture within the home. Colors that also work well are neutrals, light greys, and pastels. When adding a brighter color, stay with the addition of one color as an accent.” – Marty Basher, Home Design/Improvement Expert, Modular Closets

  • A good rule of thumb is to keep the color scheme to three shades for a cohesive look with no distractions.
  • Main colors are typically whites, neutrals, grays, or blacks.
  • Accent colors are usually warmer or cooler complements of the main color.
  • Wood can also count as one of your accent colors. The grain instantly adds a natural sophistication to the area, particularly if you can use the same wood in a couple of different elements.


“Focus on three things: functional, geometric, and sparse. Minimalism is all about functional design so less is more for the minimalist.” – Mike Falahee, Owner and CEO, Marygrove Awning Co.

  • Ornamentation should be kept to a minimum. A few select pieces will have a greater impact than extra pieces would.
  • Fixtures and décor should fall within the same color palette as the rest of the room.
  • Furnishings, storage, and textiles should all be constructed from high quality materials to ensure.

Are Minimalism, Modern, and Contemporary the Same?

Minimalist interior design characteristics

While minimalism, modern, and contemporary share some characteristics between them, each is a definitive style. Contemporary blends multiple designs together, including some elements of modern and minimalist as well as traditional. However, it’s mainly defined by what’s in style at any given time. Contemporary has more flexibility in materials, palette, and décor than modern or minimalism.

Modern shares the same principle of form over function, but minimalism takes this principle further than modern does. Modern embraces more materials and even a bit more color than minimalism does. The intents between the two designs are also different. Modern’s goal is to create clean, pleasing lines and textures. Minimalism’s goal is to instill a feeling of relaxation. Minimalism does this by focusing more on plays between light and shadow, variances in texture, and a harmonized color palette.

How to Create the Minimalist Look in Your Home

Oyster Shell Cabinets
9 Light Pendant
Nickel Bar Pull
Marquis White Cabinets
Taupe Cement Tile
Bronze Bar Pull
Bronze Wall Sconce
Stone Vinyl
Pull-Down Kitchen Faucet


By taking away visual distractions and focusing on simplicity in color and décor, minimalist interior styles promote an atmosphere of relaxation and tranquility. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the interior design series at the Vevano Home blog.