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Less Is More...Boring?

It has become a cliché to lament the rise of minimalism. Like a mountain stream, it has trickled from the lofty corporate milieu down to the sea of consumer culture. Complimenting the cultural ascendance of other millennial neuroses, this bland, cop-out aesthetic has conquered interior design. 

For those governed by the laws of mimetic desire, minimalism is a long-awaited relief. It spares the faint-hearted from the horrors of individuality, providing a blanket of milky conformity. This interior insecurity was captured in the recent headline “Robert Downey Jr.'s 'quiet minimalist' living room is exactly the trend we need in 2024, say experts.” Note the snivelling appeal to elite authority. It is your house — furnish it as you please! From the sparkling pink ‘huns’ to the earthy hipsters, I maintain that any style looks good if you execute it with commitment and confidence. 

For the inventive mainstream, minimalism has been a disaster. Punchy statement pieces have been replaced by flat-packed furniture. Nowadays, high-street chains are overrun with relentlessly modest movables more suited to a monastery than a secular home. Everything just screams ‘I have no personality’. While I enjoy its river-like layout and delicious meatballs, Ikea must take its share of responsibility here. It has played a pivotal role in venerating the utterly boring mid-century model style. 

This aesthetic meltdown reflects the rise of neo-feudalism. In today’s hyper-mobile world, most modern professionals don’t own anything at all. The new middle classes live in isolated grey cubes, possessing a handful of portable possessions. This vision of life is articulated in that awful mantra ‘You’ll own nothing and you’ll be happy’. As home ownership wilts and supply chains bulge, our belongings are changing to keep pace. Furniture is stripped down and barren — suited to as many markets and spaces as possible. Minimalism tricks us into supporting this decline.

While this argument might seem a little kooky, it is grounded in observable reality. Trends in interior design mirror economic ones. After the roll-out of the Right-To-Buy scheme, the nation’s creative powers flourished. Pastels, frills, and florals dominated domestic decor. This period even witnessed the stupefying arrival of the carpeted bathroom! These proudly tacky creations were symptomatic of personality and prosperity. As the mass sale of council houses generated a short-term economic boom, the home became a castle. 

Although minimalism feebly attempts to affiliate itself with Buddhism, it is a distinctly post-modern projection — a spiritual sickness fixated on a perverse form of accumulation. No wonder it perfectly aligns with the aesthetic mores of Patrick Bateman. Picture his clean NYC bachelor pad, adorned with upscale features carefully constructed to give the illusion of high status. Don’t get him started on business cards! “Look at that subtle off-white colouring; the tasteful thickness of it. Oh my God, it even has a watermark…” By placing an undue value on a few carefully curated objects, minimalism sacralises rather than rejects materialism. 

Abandoning jubbly clutter in favour of this cold monstrosity, we have cast our pearls before swine. Minimalism’s intrinsic evilness is made manifest through the proliferation of spirit-crushing renovation videos. Here, delightful period finds are stripped back into dull grey slabs. The quaint Tudor kitchen is gutted in favour of the popular sci-fi butcher’s worktop. With a totalitarian disregard for art and history, priceless antiques are censored under monochromatic paint. 

As we hurtle towards techno-futurism, this vapid style demonstrates our growing disconnect from the physical realm. Why bother with furnishings when your life is played out online, defined by your subscriptions and search history? Minimalism’s aversion to hodgepodge complements the dawn of a parallel virtual world and the hollowing out of reality. 

Mercifully, there’s already a pushback against this stomach-churning development. Gen Z, for all its faults, is resurrecting colour and engaging with crafts. So-called ‘bohemian peasants’, liberated by their online jobs, are reconnecting with a more traditional lifestyle. While a generation of bratty filmmakers demonised suburban living, these pedestrian homes were far more expressive than today’s soulless studios. Given a choice between the campy ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ sign and the horrible ennui of a minimalist apartment, I’ll take the ‘Live Laugh, Love’ sign every time. 

Illustration by: Lauren McAndrew

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