10 Steps to a Stylish, Comfortable Home with a Lot Less Stuff

Who's afraid of minimalism?  I think a lot of people are.  In their minds a minimalist home could never be comfortable.  No possible way.  

What it could be is angular.  Abstract.  Colorless.  Empty.  Finicky.  Functional.  Not for families.  Lifeless.

That's how many people view minimalism, and it's not how they want to live.

natural light

It's not how I want to live either, but I love the idea of clean lines and intentionally chosen details.  I want a spacious, streamlined home, but I also want it to be comfortable and welcoming to my family and friends, including two grandsons under the age of six.

If warming and softening a minimalist space seems impossible, relax.  Having less stuff doesn't mean owning nothing.  You can have ease and cheer without sterility.

10 ingredients of a relaxing minimalist home

1.  Warm whites.

Start with your largest canvases:  the walls and ceiling.  Choose a white paint that isn't stark, but creamy and with some depth.  In my house I used Sherwin Williams' Alabaster (a favorite of Joanna Gaines).

2.  Lots of light.

Bring in as much natural light as you can with translucent curtains or none at all, or with blinds or shutters that can be opened to let in daylight.  We're all using LED lights to save energy, but be sure to stay away from the cool, bluish bulbs.  Choose soft white or warm white instead.  Use lamps instead of overhead lighting for more intimacy.  A simple tray of white pillar candles can add a festive glow.

3.  Touches of texture.

Whether you have a table made of rustic reclaimed wood, woven rattan chairs, a nubby linen slipcover, a shiny brass lamp, a tray of spiky succulents, or velvety throw pillows, texture can add warmth and variety without visual clutter.

4.  Welcoming walls.

Choose a large piece of art that you love.  One large item is less busy than multiple small pieces, even if it's full of color and personality.  I like the trend of large, unframed canvases for a truly streamlined look, but there are many other options.  My sister-in-law has a large ornately framed oil portrait of her two daughters which she commissioned about 30 years ago when my nieces were 6 and 3.  This treasure dominates the focal wall of her living room.  It's beautiful and personal, yet minimal.

Alternatively, create a minimalist gallery wall with framed-alike black and white photographs.  Or choose several pieces of art that share a color or theme, such as cityscapes or antique maps.

5.  Open to organic.

Bring the outside in with green plants, a polished geode, or a piece of driftwood you found on vacation.  Press flowers to create your own botanical art, craft a eucalyptus wreath, or simply fill a bowl with fresh fruit or garden vegetables.

6.  Pared-down patterns.

Tweedy, striped, and tone-on-tone textiles add pattern without busyness if you limit the palette to one or two colors or an array of neutrals.  I love trees, so I like to introduce leaf patterns, but in subtle ways.  For example, in my bedroom I have a pair of wood photo frames embossed with a pattern of oak leaves, sheer taupe curtains with dainty embroidered leaves, and a solid-color matelassé bedspread quilted in a pattern of flowers and leaves.

7.  Call on color.

A minimalist room doesn't have to be all black and white.  Warm gray, mocha, or navy make great neutrals.  Add a contrasting color that makes you happy such as sunflower yellow, azalea pink, or leaf green.  Use this color as an accent in one or two places in every room.  You could paint a door or a piece of furniture, upholster a side chair, add throw pillows, or choose tableware, bedding, curtains, or bath towels in your happy hue.

call on color

8.  Add the antique.

Not only is this more eco-friendly than buying new, there's a special charm to something with history and patina.  My husband and I love using my parents' vintage Ethan Allen dresser, and our son-in-law uses a wonderful Mid-century Modern desk passed down from his grandparents.  You might paint your aunt's old wooden chairs your favorite color and use them around your dining table.

9.  Stimulate your senses.

Don't just focus on the look of your home – engage other senses as well.  We've already talked about incorporating a variety of textures, which lets you enjoy the feel of cool cotton sheets or cozy flannel ones, depending on the season.  But don't forget to pay attention to:

  • Scent:  Deodorize garbage cans, the refrigerator, pet beds, and litter boxes.  Clean your house with lemon juice and baking soda.  Diffuse essential oils such as lavender and rosemary.  Bake bread or brownies.  Simmer a pot of water with a sliced orange, several cinnamon sticks, and a tablespoon of whole cloves.
  • Sound:  Open the windows for fresh breezes and birdsong.  Hang a wind chime or add a water fountain.  Turn off the TV and play your favorite music.

10.  Distinctive décor.

The family caricature portrait drawn by a San Francisco street artist, the Murano glass vase you bought on your honeymoon in Venice, or a few of your all-time favorite books are so much more interesting than big box store décor.  Display just a few special items to give them the spotlight they deserve.

Adding comfort isn't necessarily about adding stuff.

When you maximize openness and amplify natural light, embrace natural elements and your favorite colors, curate your ornaments and include relaxing furnishings, it all adds up to comfortable minimalism, a livable style that provides a haven for your family, your guests, and yourself.

If you liked this post, I think you'll love my book, Comfortable Minimalism: Create a Home with Plenty of Style and a Lot Less Stuff, available on Amazon* as an ebook and in paperback.  With Comfortable Minimalism, you can start making your home more beautiful and welcoming right now, even if you have no money to spend.

Learn how to do a home tune-up, how to undecorate, how to make the most of fewer collections, how to fix your areas of biggest complaint, and how to start with a clean slate.  From slight tweaks to a completely new look, Comfortable Minimalism is packed with ideas and projects that will make your home the stylish haven of your dreams.

* This blog is reader-supported.  If you purchase through my links, I may earn a small commission.

Updated June 2023


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