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The Insider: How to be minimal without getting clinical

Kate Burt
Sunday 27 February 2011 01:00

When I moved from a place that looked like a Victorian pawn shop to a clean-lined 1960s house, it was the chance to go minimal; calm, considered, classy. The result? Cold, uninteresting and clearly lacking. Where did I go wrong?

Interior define

"Minimalism is simplicity," says George Clarke, architect and Ideal Home Show ambassador. "It is quality not quantity; design stripped to its most fundamental features; maximising your living space so that your home doesn't look cluttered; it is calming."

Opposites attract

Warmth softens sparsity – a sofa full of velvets and fake furs, say, in an industrial setting. "Minimalism's power," says Alan Hughes of the Inchbald School of Design, "is based on juxtaposition: light against shadow, wool against leather, reflective against matte."

Bin there

Clear clutter to a box under the stairs. Six months later, charity-shop anything you haven't missed. And try

Shine a light

"Clever feature lighting – say, low-level in halls or on stairs – can turn a space into an extraordinary piece of architecture," says George Clarke. Visual artist Claire Heafford, of, lights her workshop with salvaged chandeliers (from "They scatter kaleidoscopic patterns across bare walls," she says, "without extra ornamentation."

In store

To enhance a sense of space, Occa-Home's Kate Mooney suggests dual-purpose furniture (such as decorative storage trunks), floor-to-ceiling mirrors and keeping room corners free of clutter.

Loosen up

I like the sentiment Kelly Hoppen expresses in her book Close Up (Quadrille, £14.99): "A room that is over-disciplined is in danger of becoming boring."

Find Kate's blog on affordable interiors at

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