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Goodbye minimalism, hello personal authenticity

Cast iron casserole with wooden handle first made by Iitala in 1960. Once celebrated on a Finnish postage stamp. Combining design usability with a traditional cast iron pot, Timo Sarpaneva’s inspiration came from his blacksmith grandfather. (Image from Iitala.)

The recession is closing in on minimalism. Sleek, cool, mono-aesthetics for people who don’t want to actually live in their homes is so last year. Goodbye as well to souless power kitchens where any signs of life are verboten. There are no remnants of actual cooking, with everything cleared up before you can say, “We’ve had a great dinner.”

Minimalism costs a lot. Less is meant to be much, much more and the punters want you to know it, the reverse of what you would hope. Hidden hinges, skirting boards, massive wall to ceiling cupboards, wide floor boards, frameless doors and windows do not come cheaply. It’s a statement of control and the power to impress. I must admit that one wants order if the chaos and clutter become too invasive, but it only takes a single glance at a Russian Oligarch style banker penthouse apartment and I quickly want my clutter back. These swanky pads are destined for people who don’t want homes but swanky hotel rooms, fully owned but barely lived in. If these minimalist interiors were once our aspirational home models, they are no longer.

All of this is not an attack on modernism, but merely a realisation that its true heart lies in a more accommodating and instinctual approach. When you visit Charles and Ray Eames’ Case Study house in the Palisades, you get a full taste of how they lived with found objects adorning walls and tables, a huge low level trolley on which sits a portable jungle – moved around the room according to mood. You can feel how much they loved living there. Minimalism is grand standing for interior designers and frustrated architects who made an alliance with overly rich domestic control freaks. Letting designers impose a strong style statement is only justifiable if it makes people feel comfortable. In these troubled economic times, I suspect we are going to loose our interest in high status interiors and go for simpler, instinctual designs that cater to basics, such as functional well-made furniture, creating the right ambience with access to outdoors, sunlight, natural materials, and things handmade to last. IKEA stuff that looks great but quickly deteriorates seems wasteful and unecological. We will learn to accept that things will wear, and should be worthy of repair. There will still be room for pattern and decoration and texture, but it will be chosen more for provenance and mood and less for fashion.

What could come out of this financial crisis that would be good is support for artisans in all aspects of home renovation, with a concomitant desire for authenticity and less bling, more confident personal expression, the use of found objects, expanding the use of junk shops and repairing things. Careful choice exercised whilst purchasing things will be allied to the end of anti-mess behaviour at home and the minimalist lifestyle.


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