I am not a minimalist.
I don’t value empty rooms. I don’t like clutter, either. I like a cozy, spacious, bright, cheerful home.
I do not care for the modern fad affair with white walls, white floors, white everything, black shutters, pretentious unused kitchens and empty coffee tables before people-less couches filled with offgassing plastic poly foam.
Give me craftsmanship. Troublemaking delight in detail. Knick knacks, each one telling a story of meaning. Colors, bright and silly. White is a color, it carries its own delight. Textures. Plaster and paint over paint, layers of beauty. Beautiful antique oak, tiger oak, quartersawn, or walnut or maple, golden hues of history, quality as strong today as when it was built. Merry chaos—when I pass a red house with wide windows decorated with children’s drawings taped above the sills…well you can feel the merry chaos emanating forth.
I don’t value perfect. VSCO Instagram favorite restaurants are white on white on white and white on white on white and white on white on white, and that’s beautiful, but I also want gold on whiskey on brass, or red orange on blue on green on white, or red bricks set against paneled walls set against a tin ceiling, ornate.
Those who seek to escape the past are missing a limb. Those who dwell only in the past are missing a limb. I like to have one foot in the best traditions of yore, reminding us to slow down, that Ikea construction and plywood and formaldehyde-soaked OSB particle board crap is, yeah, crap.
Give me antique, it’s inherently re-use. Give me fair-trade, its dollars spent investing in a kinder world with social equality. You know, kindness! Give me organic, it’s pesticide-poison free. The Amazon I love is the forests, creating air for all of us to breathe, not Bezos’ automatized click-happy greed. Give me treehouses and books and wingbacked armchairs and Stickley and slippers and Persian rugs made of wool and natural dyes the old-way. Give me craigslist finds and etsy finds and yard sales finds. Keep your mall shopping and Target and Amazon and Walmart, I’ll find it cheaper and stronger and beautifuller, with a story in it. Give me beauty and commonwealth in architecture with columns, attics, Hogwarts-worthy hidden delights around every corner, booknooks and dignity.
For generations, ever generation passed its learning on to the next generation. Then modernism came and rejected all of that craft, all of that detail, a rejection of all of the past for an arrogant, hollow idea of what now might look like. I remember my grandma said that in the 50s and 60s there was a fervor for new, for forward-looking, for rejecting Victorian everything as fussy and musty and…embarrassing. And forward-looking is exciting! But history is rich, and those who do not know their history remain, as the quote goes, forever a child.
And so: now without then is no more now than now without tomorrow.
But, just as white on white on white is one flavor that if not overdone may taste sweet, so too modernism has many beautiful examples of craft. Just don’t take away all of history, the other colors of the rainbow, and leave me only one.
Minimalism is fine for you and you and you but for me it’s a clean but cozily cluttered red rugged eclectic chaos. Create weird stuff. Support your local potters and artists. Write a book, buy a plant instead of flowers, worship terra cotta and weeds that aren’t weeds.
Gemütlichkeit. Hygge. Silly. Creative. Upcycled.
A juniper tree, fallen, becomes the bathroom sink. Glass bricks over stained glass light up the ceiling and the room below. A children’s truck, repurposed as a lamp. A horsehair armchair, bought for 25 bucks as the Wildlife-benefiting thrift shop. Red old rugs, with felt beneath. Plants. Lots of plants. Barnwood-framed vintage Babar-en-Francais prints and FDR campaign poster. A clawfoot bathtub that used to belong to a Denver hotel. White and black marble, recycled from old marble. A floor made out of old granite countertops instead of Home Depot-beige tiles. Skylights. Exposed brick. Douglas fir flooring, heartwood. Real beadboard, not the plywood crap. Bamboo flooring, left over from another project. A farmhouse kitchen sink, saved from the trash heap, its new legs made out of an old bedframe. Legs of kitchen countertops made out of cedar trees, felled by an icestorm. An old ripple-glassed door, two missing panes replaced by stained glass. Give me breathing handsome yet gentle tweed; keep your poly sweat-stinking “high-tech” fiber. This ain’t about old vs. new—it’s about what’s better in function, and better for us and our exhausted planet.
Multitasking on your phone, scrolling through Instagram and Facebook–it’s fast, busy, but it is slow in its failure to give us a world we all want to live in.
F*ck Modern Minimalism Cheap Prefab Ikeaish Crap.
Long live Antiques!
PS: there’s a reason people love Hogwarts—cozy, curvy, up and down, imaginative, full of framed pictures and red persian rugs and joy.