Does Being a Minimalist Mean I Have to Be a Modernist or Tiny House Owner?

There is that part of me that wants to chant “One of us, one of us” just to make you nervous. Minimalism, however, isn’t about an adoption in a set of codes and morals that feels akin to finding a new religion. Yes, minimalism can change your life and yes, it might feel at times like finding God but I am not your prophet or your pastor. I’m not going to lurk around your house to see if you are keeping the good word that “Thou shalt have fewer than 100 things.”

Still, people have some pretty rigid standards when it comes to how they think minimalists should live their lives. Before we turn the judgement back on those faceless individuals, those mythic monsters under the bed who want to steal all of our stuff and snatch the toys from our children’s hands, let’s take a look at why some people might consider these two avenues in minimalist design.

The Tiny Home

Tiny homes are small (duh) and are typically between 100 and 400 square feet. This is not prescriptive, however. A tiny home can go beyond that but often don’t because the beauty in a house that small is that it is portable and can be toted around on a trailer.

That being said, tiny homes are definitely having a moment in the Minimalist movement. Even in Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, there is a portion devoted to those living Tiny Home life.

What’s Cool About Tiny Homes

  • Tiny homes are an inexpensive way to have a home without paying rent or a mortgage or a higher cost for utilities
  • You learn to live with a lot less because there really isn’t any room for your stuff
  • If you live with someone else, a tiny house will offer an opportunity for you to become closer both physically and emotionally
  • You can pick up and relocate really quickly
  • If you build one, it can be a really cool project that will earn you some handy house skills

What’s Not to Love?

  • They are inexpensive but they still cost to build
  • They are (so far) not an investment that appreciates in value, like a standard house
  • If you live with someone else, there are fewer places to get away from them when they annoy you
  • If you are big on entertaining lots of company, you better have an outdoor space for them to roam
  • Zoning laws make it difficult to put a tiny house on land

Tiny homes are a great option for those who want to be a little bit weird for a while. There’s appeal in the unknown. Dreaming about a life without a mortgage, where you can pay off student debt or save cash for a house, or live the crunchy granola life of a nomad—has real allure for people who feel disgust over mounting debt and having to sell their souls to live the suburban dream.

For me, the suburban-dream sellout, I love the outdoors but I really cherish large, indoor spaces. After getting rid of most of our stuff, we did move but to a house that was almost twice the size of our first one. We haven’t filled up the space, nor do we plan to. To commune with nature, we bought a house by a park and several tree-lined walking paths. To bring the outdoors in, our two-year plan is to replace all the windows with taller and more energy efficient ones. If I or my husband could keep plants alive, we’d bring the outdoors in that way too.

Modernist Design…What’s with all the White Walls?

There is…OH SO MUCH white when you Google “modernist design.”

This house would MAKE THE DAY of a toddler with a set of crayons

Modernist design didn’t begin with the minimalist movement. The Industrial Revolution started our use of iron and other metals in structures and it wasn’t until the Bauhaus movement in the 1920s that what we think of as “modern” really came into being. The idea was that all parts making up the architecture of a home should be useful and minimal and not ornamental. This paring down was especially appealing to people in the 1950s as more houses were being built for the masses while families grew at the advent of the baby boomer generation. There was also an unprecedented reconstruction taking place in Europe after the devastation of WWII that helped with the growth in popularity of minimalist architecture and design.

So, as buildings age and people buy up older properties from the 1950s and ’60s, we now have mid-century modern design coming into play. I think this is because it’s hard to retool a whole house from the 1950s to look like a Victorian. Sometimes you just have to work with what’s available.

There ARE ways to be minimalist without having to go all white. I think of that scene from Fools Rush In where Matt Perry’s character comes home to find that his entire house has been repainted inside and out by his new Mexican-American in-laws. That house looked bomb.

I couldn’t tell you why when you type in “minimalist” in front of architectural styles like “Victorian” or “Craftsman” you still get white walls. If I had to guess, it would be that having one color uniformly for walls, furniture, trim, and doors allows the eye to rest and the brain less stimulated, thereby making the space feel clean and peaceful.

Other Ways to Add Color

Creepy sculpture aside, this is a welcoming space

One cool thing I’ve been seeing in minimalist home design is the use of other materials in breaking up the space. Think brick, iron, steel, cement, copper, and wood. With larger windows (it’s on our design list) you can also change and fill the space pretty dramatically.

The point of minimalist design, for me, is to have few things to clean, tidy, and occupy space. My house needs to be a haven and a welcoming space is one that doesn’t expect much from me.

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