There are so many styles to inspire our spaces. Interior stylist, designer, writer and founder of designsetter.de Valerie Schöneich talks about what ambience means to her. She strives to achieve a low-key, minimalist interior with a maximum of hygge. Her interior elements harmonise to produce a clear, simple, pared-down aesthetic. You too can focus on the essential, resist excess decoration, and still create cosy, fun interiors.
Interiors have impact
Design clearly impacts on our quality of life. Most of us spend most of the time indoors, so the surroundings are fundamental to our wellbeing. As a designer, I focus on creating a calm, light-touch ambience. The first question I ask for each styling project is “What experience do we want to create?”. This forms the foundation on which we build with colours, materials, furniture and decor.
My style and influences
Everyone’s looking for their own interpretation of existing styles, a means of self-expression and a way of getting comfortable. It’s more than just following a certain trend or design formula: it’s about reinterpreting elements that underpin our own creativity.
My own personal style references the new Nordic and Bauhaus styles. I think these are closely related, since they both focus on aesthetics alongside functionality. I’m a minimalist, but mine is a ‘warm minimalism’ – I believe in paring down spaces so each element serves a clear purpose. Such spaces contain furniture and objects with a functional or emotional value. When I create an ambience, I often draw on classic aspects of my two favourite styles.
While Bauhaus is a byword for aesthetic functionality, the new Nordic style draws on a soft-edged, minimalist way of life. It’s about celebrating the simple things in life, making the ordinary extraordinary. Seeing everyday objects on sale as design items shows me where this lifestyle crosses over with philosophy. Nordic designers celebrate ordinary items, and focus on making the most of what is available.
Minimalism and simplicity are words we use to describe an authentic, honest way of life. When we want to feel in touch with our true selves, that’s the philosophy we turn to. That’s the true meaning of ‘feeling comfortable’.
How to have harmony
There are many ways to create a harmonious interior in a physical space. This is an individual choice, based on the sort of experience you want. For me, the ambience needs to make me feel grounded and inspired. I can achieve this using simple, clear, minimalist design aesthetics; by being calm, focusing on the essential, and resisting excess decoration which drowns details. Because when we create interiors that don’t dominate us, we have room to be ourselves. This lifts a weight off our shoulders, leaving space for creativity. We needn’t look far afield to design an interior – we needn’t rely on expensive decor objects or trends. It’s perfectly possible to achieve a warm, minimalist home using colours, materials, textures and objects that have sentimental value.
Colour means mood
We all know that the colours we see affect our mood and even our thinking. Despite the widespread belief that minimalist interiors must be all-white or monochrome, there are many clever ways to create harmony using colour. One trick is to choose a single main colour that makes us feel good, then play with it, layering in its various shades. I love the warm, soothing properties of grey. In our home grey forms the main backdrop, with each wall in a different shade. This lets us create a certain depth in our interior space.
Your core colour can offset any starker elements. In my example, the black, white and brass stand out well against the grey.
Minimalist need not mean static or dull. We can add colourful elements and materials, or rearrange the furniture and decor to suit the mood and the seasons. The key is to choose a basic background colour and build on it. I love adding a strong, bright element in the winter months, perhaps in yellow, orange or electric blue, to provide light and energy on a cold, overcast day.
Mixing up textures and materials
To add an extra dimension and still keep it minimal, you could use richly textured accessories. Natural materials like linen, marble, handmade ceramics, chunky woollens and pale pine are perfect for this. Simple decor pleasures can come in the form of a favourite vase, chopping board or teapot.
Light up your life
Light is a major design element: it presents various opportunities for creating atmosphere. Just notice the beautiful play of light and shadow in your home on a sunny day. On darker days, you can use candles or dimmed LED lights as a source of warmth.
Surround yourself with souvenirs
Minimalist interiors do not have to be stripped bare. Surrounding yourself with items of sentimental value helps you create an individual style and make you feel at home. I love collecting and have a shelf of small, interestingly shaped objects: beauty comes in all shapes and sizes! This is also a perfect way to bring your own creativity into play within a low-key interior. As elsewhere, the key is to find the right balance between all design elements.
So as you can see, there are lots of fun, creative ways to bring warmth and hygge into minimalist surroundings. Bear in mind that each aspect of our interior contributes to the experience: with a subtle touch, we can enjoy the simple pleasures in life.