When You’re A Cozy Minimalist

layered mantlecanvas// silhouette

I am constantly fighting two extreme decorating styles.

Sometimes I’ll go to Edie’s blog and see all of her beautiful patterns and layers and colors and she puts everything together so well and I tell myself that her house is the very definition of what I want my home to be and that it must be her ability to use her things in harmony that makes a home. And so I start filling up all my surfaces and pulling things out of the basement so I can make this unfinished fixer-upper feel like home.

gallery wallcanvas

Two days later I’m on a minimalist blog and I see cleared off surfaces, I see a wall intentionally left blank–for beauty and sanity’s sake. I see the art of doing more with less and having a few statement pieces that let the house breathe and I suddenly hate all of my junk and want to give it all away. I crave empty space.

 I have a feeling I’ll always love both styles.

And I’ve finally figured out a way to enjoy them both in my small house.

family room

 

I designate some spaces for layers and color and pattern and groupings, and I reserve some spaces for simply nothing.

My Edie-fied, cozy spaces are filled with meaningful beauty, quirky tchotchkies, DIY art and photos those are:

  • The fireplace mantle
  • The gallery wall
  • The niche in the kitchen
  • My bedside table
  • My office

The official, intentionally left cleared off spaces are:

  • The kitchen counters
  • My dresser
  • Our only eating table

cozy minimalist kitchen

My cleared off spaces aren’t always empty–they just don’t have any decor assigned to them. They are the hardest working spaces in our house and half the time are filled with whatever we happen to be working on–from dinner to books to a project. But when they are clear they are ready to serve us.

And the layered, cozy spaces are places in our home that don’t get movable traffic, they aren’t high demand surfaces that have lots of purposes. None of us need to pile our coffee or books or watches on the mantle, so I can get it all layered and pretty without wondering if in two days it will be piled with 100 extra things.

 ***

Update: Since I wrote this post in February, I had such a HUGE response from other Cozy Minimalists–I can’t believe there are so many of us! Cozy Minimalism isn’t about counting your possessions or a particular style, but a mindset that says–whatever style you LOVE, you desire to acheive it with the fewest possible items: simply being intentional and knowing what to use in each space–for some of us, that might mean a few extra pillows, for others that might mean a cleared off coffee table.

I’m thrilled to offer a course (2000 people have already taken it!) where we discuss HOW to decorate a room from the very start to the very finish without making it overly complicated, but still being true to your style. Find out more here about the Cozy Minimalist Course.

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Comments

  1. My daughters and I laughingly say we need 4 or 5 houses so that we can satisfy our various decorating styles:) We too face the dilemma of loving differing styles. When I sit and look around my home I have been discovering constants though, looks that keep showing up again and again. I have decided those constants must be my basic, foundational style with the others being sort of like trendy fads that come and go throughout the various seasons of life. Maybe I’m all wet, but that’s the conclusion I have come to. Thank you for sharing your own decorating style balance. It is nice to know others face the same things, even in home decorating:)

  2. So funny.. I’m just like this. I appreciate so many different styles. I guess I thought I was the only one!

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been trying to figure out how to describe what i love! cozy minimalist! It fits perfectly! Have you noticed if it hits your seasonally? I know it does for me. After the hustle and bustle of Christmas and Thanksgiving I just want clean clear spaces but I want it to be cozy as well. A roaring fire, cozy blankets and throws, stacks of books with clean shelves crisp whites and room to breath! Have a truly wonderful week!

  4. This is the epitome of me. Great post and good to know we arnt alone.

  5. Cool definition. Cozy Minimalist. If pressed to define who I am in this season and what my home looks like, that would do it.

    We don’t have to be either / or. We are who we are.

    I like that.

  6. Nester, those candles on the fire place !!!! Where are they from?! I love candles that melt and morph! Great post!! Thank you for sharing.

  7. I’m kind of a hybrid between the two styles, too. Thanks for validating me and letting me know it’s okay. :)

  8. Yes, this is the story of my life. I can’t make up my mind! And with a cozy little cottage, there aren’t enough rooms to do them each differently!

  9. Love this! My husband and I were chatting about decorating styles the other day and he asked what I liked. I was like “Depends on the day. I either want all my stuff piled up comfy around me…or I want the place empty!” I’ll just have to tell him I’m a cozy minimalist.

  10. I love this space! I love how you achieved a minimalist space by using neutral colors and playing with texture. Such an inspiration, thank you!

    Circus & Bloom

  11. Great verse on the canvas above your mantel! I love cleared off spaces too. I feel like I can breath easier when my kitchen counter and dining room table are clear.

  12. Ah, it’s nice to have someone put into words the circus show that is my mind. I love tchotchkes and fun decor but I am also cleaning-obsessed. I don’t want to spend all of my time dusting and whatnot. My answer to that has been to leave my home free of decor and create a lovely hospital-like ambiance. Is there a happy medium or do I just need to go ahead and find a psychiatrist?

  13. I love how you can make room for both! Isn’t it awful how we feel the need for “all or nothing?” I want to remember this!

  14. amen, sister. this is my personal struggle to a tee! i love edie’s cozy spots and strive to create my own… but thrive in a minimalist setting and must have spaces clear of decor. thanks for putting it to words!

  15. When we moved into our present home my sister reminded me that “Every room needs some blank wall so the eye can rest”. It’s not an absolute, but sometimes you really need it depending on what else is vying for attention. I’m with you on the island. If I’m not cooking, it needs to be free and clear.

  16. Thank you so much for sharing! This is exactly how I feel. After moving several times in the last two years, I’m now trying to figure out what my style is and start really creating spaces I enjoy.

  17. I really love this whole idea! Just this weekend, I decided that our extra table was going to be left completely clear with no decorative items because the kids are always doing some project or other on it and my decorations were continually getting shoved to the side anyway. I’m relatively new to your blog and am loving it! After I took down all our Christmas decorations, I got out a box of wonderful African items I collected while growing up there (carvings, paintings, etc) that I’d been storing for 8 years since we moved into this home. I’d felt like I had to have the perfect place to put them all and they’d just stayed in the box. But after reading your blog, I got them all out, and put them around the house. They’re not in “perfect” places, but having them all out has made me so incredibly happy and I told my husband that I just love our home now! Thank you for encouraging us that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful!!

  18. Thank you for this post! I’ve always been more of a cluttered, cozy decorator. Recently we moved across the country. I’m also reading Finding Spiritual Whitespace and in the need of uncluttering life. My sister has fantastic style and has helped me pare down my decor in the new place. She’s encouraged blank walls (unthinkable for me before) and a “less is more” approach to decorating. I love what we’ve done here and Hubby and I feel so at home already. The term “Cozy Minimalist” fits it–perhaps more cozy than minimalist but definitely less cluttered than ever before. By the way, I LOVED The Nesting Place.

  19. Great article! I also feel like I wear many hats when it comes to decorating styles but that’s ok! I love the antiques I have in my house but I also love a more minimalist palette and design. Farmhouse style reminds me a lot of this combination.

  20. Girl, I loooooved this! I recently parted with an owl vase I just HAD to have after seeing it on Edie’s porch because quirky & I don’t dance well together. Edie has a rhythm I enjoying watching but don’t own myself. I decided this Sunday to tame the stuff and focus on the feel. I told the hubster I was quieting our house so that its not the vibrant focus but that our actual LIVING is the vibrant part. I am so distracted by “decorating” – it is “good”, is it “right”, does it match, do people think the right things about me, etc. My heart finally said enough is enough. I may owe you royalties for how many times I quoted your ideas (quieting, stuff manager, etc.) and if I’d had “cozy minimalist” I would have used that too! Now off to wash the white paint from the brushes as the first thing I did was paint some walls!

  21. Joy Carrera says:

    I’ve always been a bit intrigued that you have mentioned your minimalism interest and yet have a whole blog on house decorating. I was never sure how to reconcile the two things. As a missionary, I recently went through a large move (again) and was challenged to embrace minimalism not just by necessity but as a choice. But I also dream of cozy rooms and design that makes home feel like well, just that, home, even if we are far from family or other familiar things. I want others to feel at home as well as in my home since we open our doors to nationals, singles, and other ex-pat families. Thanks for your book and encouragement for those of us without permanent “houses” to make what we have beautiful even if it will never match a magazine photo shoot.

  22. Melissa C. says:

    I think your home should be full of everything you and your family love…with tons of personal style. That’s what makes it YOUR home, not your mother in laws or how other people think it should be ;)I love yours and Edies blogs and thank you for all of the inspiration along the way. It’s helped me get through some dark days of personal loss and to want to be a better me/mommy.I’m totally off topic now, but I love the imperfections that make my home beautiful. If a home is too minimalist, it’s too sterile and not very memorable. I want my kids to remember their home growing up and how it was full of all the things we loved!

  23. I am also torn between the two styles. I love the zen calm of a minimalist style, but I have so many sentimental tchotchkes and books…s so many books!

  24. I have different moods, sometimes I need cozy and others I need a cleared wide open space, just depending on what I am doing at the time. We added a master bedroom onto our house 3 years ago, I still only have one wall with a large picture on it. I just liked the feel when I walked in, open, clean and simple. That’s relaxing to me.
    Thanks for an inspiring post!

  25. This is nuts, but I have been struggling with exactly the same thing. I don’t know why I didn’t hit on the idea you did –these areas will be clear and calm–these areas will be expressive and layered. I am going to think about this and play a bit. Thanks, Nester!

  26. Ditto to what you said. Right now, I’m this close (holds thumb and forefinger close together) to doing a broad de-clutter of all my stuff and then getting it all organized. So I can breath and the cozy it up all over again with things that “spark Joy”.. Sound familiar?

  27. You hit the nail on the head! I have been struggling with this same dilemma. I love cozy but clutter makes me feel overwhelmed. Still working on the balancing act.

  28. I don’t exactly know where to put this…nothing to do with current post, but one you wrote about a year ago…How To Have A Happy Home. I am in the process of cleaning my mother’s home almost 3 years after she when home to Jesus. I remembered this post after an especially hard moment about the stuff. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Especially “No Stuff to get in their way. and Hold Pink Balloons and paint your toenails blue. I actually have blue nail polish. Thank you.

  29. This is EXACTLY why we should be next door neighbors. We could work puzzles together on your cleared off spaces and make soup in my colorful kitchen with 17 pots ALWAYS on the stove.
    Adore you, forever and always.
    xoxo

  30. I can’t thank you enough for posting this! I’ve always thought there was something wrong with me! I couldn’t just pick a style and go with it. Decorating or dressing myself. lol. Amazing how this clears things up for me. Now, to just pick which areas I like for each style.

  31. Yes! I am totally unable to commit to any one design taste. And I agree, there are areas in my house where there are clusters and layers and there are other spaces that I just want to see left open and white and calm feeling. :) Thanks for helping me feel like that’s totally normal!

  32. Love how you define the mixing of two styles…I think I’m the same.

    http://www.lee-lee-land.com

  33. ok that does it! you are officially my design spirit animal…I knew I liked you but now I sort of feel like we are like besties….sorry to impose like that but it’s true. I am the COMPLETE same when it comes to surfaces. I love the clean counter or that my eyes can breathe when I see the top of my dresser nice and cleaned off. BUT I do love a clustering of pretty things, or sentiments…how do you feel about stuff on the fridgerator? is it a place for 400 magnets and coupons and randoms or does it need to be “edited”? thats a place of contention for me….

  34. Nice wall decoration, love your style.

  35. Hi there. I am new to the blog world as a blogger, but I just wanted to say I really love your blog and I want to thank you for all your beautiful ideas. Your book is on my wish list. I love to decorate, and as a follower of Jesus, I want to always make sure I have the right balance. Decorating brings me so much joy, and I don’t want it to ever become an idol. My goal is to make my guests and family feel loved and welcomed by my love for all things home. Thanks for being a great model on how to do what you love while honoring God.

    Blessings,
    Natalie
    http://www.oohlalamaison.com/

  36. I was just on FB and feeling jealous of friend’s homes. I was just thinking, “I love so many different styles… and I feel like I am failing at mastering any of them in my home!” I click over to your site and… you made me feel so much less frustrated and alone. Great post, and thanks for always keeping it beautiful but real.

  37. Oh. My. Goodness! That is so me! …… Whew!, I thought I had some kind of rare, warped decorating disorder. ;-) I’m also an ordered-messy. Mostly ordered, but the reforming -perfectionist side of me can certainly relax with some messes (contained ones of course ~ lol)

  38. I feel the exact same way…I go back and forth. Whenever I walk into a minimalist house free of clutter and with things very deliberately placed, I always feel so at peace and think to myself, I’ve got to make some serious edits. But at the same time, I fall in love with beautiful objects and love to be surrounded by rich layers and color. I love how you have come up with your own balance. It is something I am playing with all the time.

  39. This is exactly how I feel!!!! My parents never really had nice & new furniture because they didn’t have money for that stuff so most items were given to us. When I got a job in high school I craved a matching bedroom set & made that happen. Then when I first moved out I craved matching everything else. We live in a small place around 500 sq ft. so it can look cramped very quickly. As I’ve gotten older & my style has changed I still love pretty things, but I’m trying to work on a minimalistic approach as well. I feel the same way about your designated spaces; my bookcases in the living room have useful storage on the bottom & pretty things on the top along with stuff hanging on the walls, but I like my couch tables cleared with only the lamp & try to keep the kitchen counters & our bedroom dresser as clean as possible.

  40. Sometimes things come into your life at just the right time, and me finding this post was one of them! I have been struggling with my love of decorating and my desire to live a minimalist life. After Christmas, I packed every decoration up in my house because I wanted to see what minimalist life would look like. And I love it, it’s so simple, but I miss the quirky beauty of my decor. Your post helped me think about spaces in my home that can serve my need to decorate and other spaces that can serve my minimalist lifestyle. Thank you!

  41. YES! Thank you! I was just telling my husband the other her day I wished I could find examples of minimalist houses that look like ours – that is, minimal but also cozy. And here you are! Thanks for the inspiration :)

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