Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
— Leonardo Da Vinci

Don't you just love that? I find this to be true over and over again.  My favorite recipes are so simple with few ingredients in the right amounts that its hard to believe such simplicity could deliver so much. This is not a cooking blog but I thought there must have been a mistake in Ina Garten's Lemon Pasta with Roasted Shrimp recipe: the sauce consists of butter and lemons with the right amount of salt and pepper, with roasted shrimp in olive oil added at the end.  Unbelievably simple with outstanding results! In art, I find that the pieces I like best are the ones that are the simplest, only offering what is needed to express the emotion and nothing more to confuse it.  In interior design, it never fails: when in doubt leave it out.  I love layered interiors best, personally, but when something isn't quite working, so often the answer is to simplify, with bold strokes.  For example, sometimes instead of filling a wall with a dozen small picture frames with tables and cabinets pushed up against it, one oversized work of art would be more effective.  I have found that when designing cabinetry, range hoods, guard rails and other architectural elements its best to go for edited and simplified designs rather than overdoing it with the details.  It's just more timeless.  There is definitely an art to achieving this balance, to creating something interesting without overdoing it.

Let's look at some inspiring spaces where my hunch is that editing played a key role in the design process.

Source  Design by Robert Stilin, photographed by William Waldron.

Source Design by Robert Stilin, photographed by William Waldron.

Designer Robert Stilin created an airy and somewhat spare space that is at the same time warm and comfortable.

S ource Living room by Darryl Carter, photographed by Bruce Buck.

Source Living room by Darryl Carter, photographed by Bruce Buck.

Seriously.  Stunning.  (I'm such a design nerd.  I know.)


I could fill this whole post with the work of Darryl Carter (the three above images); simplification is his hallmark.  Somehow I think Da Vinci's quote on simplicity is his mantra.  So sophisticated!  This pared down look is not for everyone, but I definitely appreciate his work.


This space by Bruce Budd looks effortless and minimal while still looking welcoming and warm.  And check out that simple and effective art.

Source  Design by Brad Ford, photographed by John M. Hall.

Source Design by Brad Ford, photographed by John M. Hall.

Can you believe this is a PORCH?  Well, a sunroom, anyway.  I love the texture of the wind chimes that work as art behind the porch swing.


Brad Ford's porch design from 2009's Hampton Designer Showhouse is timeless (as beautiful in 2018), with design elements that are thoughtful but bold and simple.  He used loads and loads of texture in place of contrast and color.

Source  Design by Nate Berkus.

Source Design by Nate Berkus.

We can't talk about minimal design without mentioning Nate Berkus.  Google "Nate Berkus quotes" and you'll find many quotes inspiring editing and keeping only the things that really mean something to you or that make you appreciate the space you live in.

There are methods to creating simple, sophisticated spaces.  They share commonalities.  

  1. With minimalist design, each element brought into the room carries more weight. Each moment really counts, and so the quality really counts. The objects that are brought in take center stage.

  2. This aesthetic uses monochromatic color palettes (tones of one color) and sometimes analogous colors (colors which are side by side on the color wheel).

  3. To achieve this look, rely on texture, shape, and history (antiques) to achieve interest. Objects and furniture with sculptural appeal do double duty as art and functional furniture.

  4. Mix traditional and modern elements. This topic could be a blog post. It could be a book, actually. It's not the easiest thing to do. But to create an interesting space especially when it's monochromatic, mixing traditional and modern elements takes the design to another level.

  5. The key word is EDIT. What you don't bring in is as important as what you do bring in.

Believe me, I know its not easy to actually live in this pared down way.  Clutter happens.  It seems like we must have magical clutter elves that come and fill our homes with unwanted stuff (maybe those elves are our children?).  You can simplify at home with a few tricks:

  1. Use baskets, drawers, and cabinets so stuff is put away. Look around with a careful eye and determine if there are things out that aren't helping you feel relaxed or aren't special to you. We all have less than pretty things that we need in our daily lives: put those things away.

  2. Corral countertop or table clutter in serving trays or pretty containers. Suddenly, the plane doesn't feel so cluttered.

  3. Purge. Get rid of junk mail as it comes in, get rid of (donate) clothes you haven't worn in a year. Take the time to review what you've been holding onto in your home and donate the things that you don't love.

  4. Don't hold onto things out of guilt. It's easy to get sentimental with objects that were gifted to you. But if its simply filling your house and causing visual chaos, its okay to let go.

Finally, don't be afraid to ask for help!  This is what I love to do, so if simplifying your interiors is overwhelming you, you can contact me here and I can help you navigate how to best display and use the things you have that you love while still achieving an uncluttered space you love living in.