BY MARTHA WILKIE | Everyone loves a rainbow, but when it comes to paint, pale walls are decidedly on trend today. And with the popularity of decluttering, the less “stuff” you have in a home, the better. The High Priestess of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo, insists every object in your home ought to “spark joy.” If it doesn’t? Away with it! Why is everything today so minimal?
In the ’80s, shelter magazines like Architectural Digest showed some minimalist designs. But a more popular style used rich colors, antique furniture, vividly patterned textiles (remember chintz?) and a great deal of art, books, sculpture and interesting objets d’art. In certain English circles, people who had to buy new furniture (as opposed to inheriting it) were snobbishly pitied.
Collectors spent fortunes at auction houses buying antiques. Today, those exact same pieces are referred to as “brown furniture” and the market has dropped considerably. Most younger people don’t want Grandma’s china cabinet, they’d rather shop at IKEA.
Most newly designed spaces today are spare, modern and bright. Take a look at Airbnb’s most desirable rentals — their “Plus” offerings — all professionally styled and photographed. Around the world, you see beautiful enticing homes that (for the most part) begin to look oddly alike: extremely bright, with white or neutral walls, sleek modern furniture, dramatic overhead-lighting fixtures, pops of color and maybe the odd vintage accent here and there. From Istanbul to Manhattan to Berlin, you see the same look over and over.
My theory is that viewing interiors on smartphones — especially on Instagram — is changing the way we decorate our homes. Instagram photos are square and you must use a phone. (You can view, but not upload photos on a laptop). Gorgeous, colorful spaces filled with art and antiques can look cluttered and unappealing when viewed in a tiny square. A room with wood paneling might look dark and unwelcoming, rather than cozy and warm.
Do you like bright minimal homes or do you prefer color, texture, interesting tchotchkes and, yes, vintage “brown furniture”? Here are four listings showing different styles. To each her own!
A two-bedroom, three-bath condo in Lenox Hill checks all the trendy design boxes: exuberant overhead-lighting fixture, pops of color on a neutral background, scant art, sleek furniture. The dining room chairs are so minimal, they’re practically invisible. Corner bedroom has lovely windows on two sides. But the price isn’t minimal: $3.3 million.
This East Midtown studio rental would really pop on Instagram or Airbnb. It’s in a new building, with incredible amenities, including a sky-lit pool, spa, squash court, full-sized basketball court and landscaped outdoor space with grills. The apartment has high-end appliances, floor-to-ceiling windows and a washer and dryer. The rent is $3,415.
A more traditional classic prewar can be found in East Midtown in the Campanile, a 1927 building where Greta Garbo once lived. An immense (33-foot-9-inch-by-20-foot) living room has panoramic river views, and a cozy, paneled room features a wood-burning fireplace — one of two. Located on the 14th floor of a co-op, it’s filled with traditional architectural detail. Some might find it a bit old-fashioned, but others will feel right at home. With two bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths, you can have it all for some serious Garbo greenbacks: $6.25 million.
And, finally, there’s a nice mix of antique and modern in an 1858 townhouse on Gramercy Park — with a key to the park, some New Yorkers’ dream. Offering a glorious view, French doors and a 21-foot-long, slim terrace overlook the park. A one-bedroom with two baths, it sports a chef’s kitchen to satisfy a professional chef. If dishing out $4.75 million is minimal for you, it’s all yours.