A Minimalist Decorates
Some trinkets multiply. One figurine becomes a set. One photograph becomes a gallery wall. People collect cameras, globes, vintage signs, ironstone pitchers, old tools, dolls – almost anything.
Even if you put together a collection over many years, and pay only a few dollars for each item at a thrift store or tag sale, you still need shelves and curios to house it all, and you'll be dusting it forever.
In traditional Japanese homes, décor is kept to a minimum. Usually just one or two items are displayed in a small alcove called a tokonoma.
The tokonoma often holds a calligraphic scroll or painting, along with a bonsai, an orchid, or a simple flower arrangement. The items are appropriate to the season, like spring blossoms or fall foliage, and express an appreciation for both art and nature.
You don't have to create a Japanese interior with tatami mats, translucent shoji screens, and square low-slung furniture to put the concept of a tokonoma into practice. You don't need a special alcove, since a table or mantel shelf will do.
My style is not Japanese, but I have a coffee table in my living room. On it, I sometimes display a pitcher holding roses or agapanthus from our garden, or a branch from a tree. Other times I use a platter to hold a candle and some pinecones collected on a walk through the park, or shells and sea glass picked up at the beach, or some of my husband's mineral specimens.
On the wall over the couch I've hung a large painting that I love.
Except for a framed photo of our grandsons on the bookshelf, and a couple of green plants, that's the extent of our living room décor.
As a minimalist, I'm drawn to the tokonoma concept for several reasons:
- It puts a spotlight on one or two special items, letting them shine rather than compete for attention in a crowd of knickknacks.
- It discourages over-accumulation of decorative objects.
- It provides an easy opportunity to celebrate the beauties of nature and the changing seasons.
- It allows for a little change and a fresh look on a regular basis.
- It's personal rather than mass-produced and factory-made.
Could you limit yourself to just one collection? Could you let a single item be the focus of a wall, tabletop, or mantel?
What would you put in a tokonoma?