Interior designer Lauren Nelson's bedroom is exemplary of a new minimal modernism.
Photo by Aubrie Pick for Rue Mag. Read the full article here.

Do all of these pictures of sparse, white, minimalist places you see online sometimes leave you feeling cold? Us, too. Fortunately, a new form of modernism, integrating minimalism but allowing for more domestic comfort and more color, has been percolating and should be the look by this fall.

In a to-the-trade peek at the fall look, West Elm posits what they call "the new modern." It taps into some of the more salient aspects of the styles making the rounds and drawing attention, and resonates with what we are seeing. Minimalism remains a radical part of it, but in a way that feels more realistic, livable, and warm than its zen-like and Scandinavian incarnations. Embracing imperfections, celebrating eccentricities, and emphasizing objects and colors that make you happy are the guiding principles. 

Modern Geometric Coffee Table with Reclaimed Wood and Brass by Coil + Drift


What is it?

The new minimalism and the new modernism are not yet codified. You can find it somewhere near the crossroads of the urge toward doing more with less, trimming out all those little things that fritter away at our focus, and the movement toward sustainability, earthiness, and works crafted by "makers."

The new modernism applies a bold—dark, even—monochromatic coat of paint to the walls, moldings, and doors, creating a warm and enveloping environment. The emphasis is on small details; given a consistent background palette to work against, they “pop.” In this context, a patterned throw pillow and blanket in pleasing complementary colors or an interesting vase with fresh flowers makes the room. The warp and weft of well-made textiles, the character or patina of an antique, and the grain of a wooden table-top all take on magnified importance. 

Porter Quilt by M. Callahan


OK, the essentials?

  • Warm tones and hues.
  • Emphasis on wood and other organic materials. Agate, crystal, and fresh flowers!
  • Brass, Bronze, Iron, Copper—mixing metals is great!
  • Textural contrast, i.e. jewel and velvet tones with matte flat, exposed thick paper-stock edges.
  • Rugs and quilts and throws, at times even hung on the walls. Warp and weft.
  • Geometric objects added for visual interest.
  • Faceted design and hammered surfaces.
  • What matters to you? Accentuate that.
  • Mid-century modern pieces.
  • Imperfect.
  • Layers.

A warm hue on the wall sets the mood. The couch is understated, white cotton. These two features allow the rest to pop: a carpet of lush jewel tones, a yellow throw pillow, a minimal coffee-table in a surprising and fun color, and a geometric fruit bowl. Lastly, fresh oranges bring the organic, living world into the room.


The good news?

If there’s a room in your home begging for an update, this is pretty easy to accomplish. The hardest part is getting rid of things. (May we recommend the ruthless but refreshing Marie Kondo, who has no doubt crossed your radar already?) Once you’ve done that, you can get a new lighting fixture whose textural intrigue and geometric aesthetic taps into the look’s lifeblood. Throw a coat of paint on the walls; add a couple new throw pillows and a blanket; and wrap it up with a vase you really love, rotated with fresh flowers every week or two.

                           Hudson Valley Lighting Webster                                                       Hudson Valley Lighting Meridian

Can you please wrap it up? I have things to do.

The look isn’t about fronting a hermetically-sealed pristine interior that crumbles at the first contact with life and oxygen. It’s about making a manageable, homey environment, and giving objects you truly love and cherish enough space to shine.

The irony is that much of this “new” look is old—the aesthetic of mid-century modern, brass with an aged look, even ancient rocks and reclaimed wood! In addition, the machined, futuristic look of a few years ago has acceded to a hand-hewn, crafted  appearance (extra points if it actually is!), with wooden and organic textures predominantly featured. Even the metal is a bit retro, with brass making a huge comeback and copper and bronze also visible. But as usual, when a few things that have been around come together in a way they haven't quite before, with one or two unique ingredients, the result is refreshing and something "new" is born!

For more, see our Pinterest board here.
What do you think of "the new modernism?" Can you see yourself living in it?