Cosy minimalism… It sounds like a contradiction in terms, right?!
If a cosy home feels comfortable and lived in, then by contrast a minimalist home is stripped back to the bare necessities… to the point where it may even feel stark or cold. So how is it possible to mix these two seemingly opposing design styles?
I have made many changes in my home over the last couple of years to simplify my life and become more intentional. And the main thing for me has been embracing a more minimalist aesthetic – decluttering, reducing waste, and being more considered with my home purchases. But in doing so, I’ve never wanted to compromise on style or for my living space to feel clinical.
In my experience, cosy minimalism is absolutely possible! If you’re fed up with the neverending cycle of tidying up a messy house, that immediately feels cluttered seconds after you’ve cleaned, and which contributes more to your stress and anxiety rather than soothes it – I’m here to show you that there is another way.
Using the below design principles and styling tips, you can easily inject warmth and personality into an intentionally-crafted space. So whether you’re an interior design junkie or you have no idea where to begin, I hope that after reading this article you feel inspired to try out your own cosy minimalist look. And, more importantly, maintain it on a daily basis!
Why Should You Embrace Cosy Minimalism?
Cosy minimalism is a perfect balance of form and function, but it also has plenty of benefits that go beyond the Insta-worthy photos.
Your home is a reflection of your inner world – intentional design boosts your psychological well-being in ways which go beyond simply fixing your home. Ancient Eastern tradition has known for centuries the importance of achieving harmony with your surrounding environment (aka ‘feng shui’). Transforming the energy in your home to one of calm and clarity can, in turn, shift your internal energy.
It feels like your own personal spa experience – what is so wonderful about a cosy minimalist home? Well, it’s nice stepping back into your own personal spa experience when you walk through the door every day. A clutter-free space full of soft textures and calming scents can give you that same luxury hotel experience in the comfort of your own home. Bliss!
Cosy minimalist decor is timeless – Rather than keeping up with fad trends that quickly fall out of fashion or you simply grow tired of (mustard, grey and geometric prints, anyone?), homely minimalist decor is based around a neutral colour palette which will never go out of style. This means that you can make fewer, more considered purchases, which have the added planet and budget-friendly advantages of lasting you for many years to come.
A minimal home is easier to keep clean – Wow, this final point cannot be overstated. Do you know why cleaning feels like such a chore? Because you have so much stuff that needs moving out of the way before you can even begin! Bare kitchen countertops, for instance, are instantly visually calming. But you will also keep on top of your cleaning schedule much better when the worktop is easy to access.
Cosy Minimalist Home Design Principles
Before we get into specific styling tips, you can’t go too far wrong curating your minimalist cosy look if you always have these 5 design principles in the back of your mind.
Design Principle #1: Think about the end-use of your spaces
It’s so easy to get carried away buying home accessories on a whim and obsessing over the finishing touches (IKEA, I’m looking at you!), when what you should really be focusing on is the function of the specific rooms in your home. Design your spaces intentionally so that you can hack your environmental cues. This way you can spend time doing the things that are important to you and that align with your values.
For example, when I first moved into my home, my natural instinct was to prioritise the second bedroom for guests. However, this meant that I would either need to work permanently at the dining table or else find some unused nook to shoehorn a desk into.
After further thought, I realised that the amount of time I’d have guests staying didn’t warrant a permanent double bed, and my second bedroom would be much better served as an office space. A multifunctional day bed that also serves as comfortable seating is a better choice for me to really get the most value from this room.
Design Principle #2: Invest in high-quality pieces
My second design principle is to buy less but invest in unique items that are made from high-quality materials. Not only does this mean you’ll have some gorgeous bespoke pieces that mean something to you, but the added bonus of buying better is that you generally only have to buy once.
When you stop frittering money away on throws and bedding (ahem, two of my particular weaknesses…), it’s amazing how much you can save and put towards larger statement pieces that form the framework of your room, e.g. a hand-carved coffee table or a solid wood bed frame.
Design Principle #3: Purchase ethically
Moving on nicely from the last point – when you purchase less, you are also putting less stress on the environment. Fast interior decor is going the same way as fast fashion, with the rise of many cheap and cheerful stores offering homewares at virtually disposable prices. This means that you can update your interior decor for Spring before switching to a new trend for the latest season.
However, this only results in waste, landfill, and an endless cycle of mindless consumerism, leaving you anxious to keep up with the Jones’s.
When you do make a home purchase, make sure it’s considered and don’t be afraid to spend a bit more with ethical companies or smaller sellers that you feel good about supporting.
Design Principle #4: If in doubt, less is more
We’ve all been primed to think that we need to constantly purchase more to feel fulfilled and happy. However, whilst this may result in a short-term pleasurable dopamine hit, what it tends to lead to in the long term is clutter and dissatisfaction.
Learning to be content with what you have is a humbling lesson in self-discipline, but it also helps you to feel more fulfilled and satisfied overall.
Whilst some curated accessories can be the perfect finishing touch to any room, don’t add for the sake of it.
Design Principle #5: Pull furniture inwards
Finally, don’t be afraid of positioning your furniture more boldly. Here in the UK, we all seem to have a habit of pushing our furniture right to the very edges of rooms (as though this is the only possible solution).
Think about visual symmetry and zoning your spaces. For example, sofas can be used to cleverly divide a more open-plan room. Plus, pulling your furniture inwards slightly can actually create the visual illusion of space – it feels more purposeful and makes social areas instantly more intimate.
10 Cosy Minimalist Home Styling Tips
Now that you’ve got your guiding principles in mind, let’s get to the fun part! Follow these 10 styling tips to fall in love with your home again in no time.
1. Keep to a minimalist neutral colour palette
Strong colour schemes and bold patterns can be visually arresting, but think about the overall mood you want to create. It’s got to be something that feels good every day and that you won’t tire of. It’s easy to see the similarities with creating a capsule wardrobe – not only is a neutral colour palette incredibly versatile, but it will also transcend trends and seasons. In short, it’s something you’ll always feel good in.
Don’t feel like you have to shy away from colour, but for a minimalist cosy vibe, try to incorporate more natural hues that bring the outdoors in. For example, I’ll always be a fan of earthy tones and olive greens, which feel warm and add dimension.
2. Layer different textures
As you can see in the cosy minimalist living room above, the key to decorating in this style is to use plenty of different natural textures. Don’t be afraid to layer a large low-pile rug with a smaller high-pile one, for instance. Use tactile materials when it comes to throw pillows, baskets, and foliage. This layered technique exudes warmth and comfort whilst still maintaining an effortlessly minimal finish.
3. Soften angular lines
A room can quickly feel sterile if you don’t take care to add in some soft furnishings. Drape a throw over the back of your sofa but don’t worry about it being perfectly placed – this helps to establish a lived-in, cosy look.
It’s also a good idea in a room with lots of straight-line furniture to incorporate some curves and ‘imperfect’ pieces. An oversized arc floor lamp, an asymmetric blob mirror, or an abstract-shaped coffee table are all great ways to balance out and soften a minimalist room full of harsh edges.
4. Opt for natural wood finishes
If you’re wondering why your space never quite feels cohesive, then check the trim of your furniture and accessories – are you mixing chrome with dark wood, brass and silver? Whilst some different materials can complement each other, having too much of a mix can make a space feel jarring and disjointed.
Reduce decision fatigue by knowing what kind of material finish you’re going for. I’d always recommend that a light-wood look manages to feel clean, fresh and rustic at the same time.
5. Add a living touch with greenery
The secret to creating a relaxing minimalist home? Foliage!
Similar to softening angular lines, plants bring a dynamic quality to your interior, adding depth and dimension to what can otherwise feel like a stark room.
Mix it up with statement standing pots, desktop ferns, trailing greenery hung in macrame, or even some lovely, low-maintenance dried pampas grass.
If you’re interested in how plants can transform your space and even contribute to your mental and physical well-being, then do check out my post on indoor plant styling tips.
6. Play with lighting
First and foremost, you’ll want to ensure you’re letting in as much natural light as possible. If you have some nice big windows – fantastic! If not, then make the most of the light you do have by using minimal window dressings (opt for voile or very light fabric where possible). You can also add mirrors to bounce light around and give a room the optical illusion of more space.
Next, don’t forget about your evening lighting. A traditional ceiling light in the middle of the room is the worst for creating a stark and uninviting mood (why is this the norm in most houses?!). Instead, opt for soft-focus lighting – think side lamps, hidden strip lights, or even a string of fairy lights in your bedroom.
7. Curate your accessories
A misconception about minimalism is that you have to declutter all of your small items – but this is a very extreme form of minimalism! Personally, I think that a well-placed accessory is a lovely thing – you just want to make sure you don’t go overboard and that everything has its place.
If you’re struggling, try to stick to the rule of three. Basically, when you group things in a trio it is more appealing to the eye. The same generally applies to odd numbers, but three seems to be the magic formula! But remember, more accessories can easily feel cluttered, so only showcase the things you really love.
8. Hang statement wall art
Another way to add layers of visual interest is to go statement with your wall art. Try to choose pieces that have meaning to you, and experiment with arranging different-sized pieces in a gallery wall (see the stunning example above).
9. Expose your floorboards (& supersize your rugs!)
If you have character-filled old floorboards hidden beneath your carpet, then happy days! Sanding these down and adding some texture with rugs is going to add instant cosiness to your space. Alternatively, lay some quality LVT or laminate for a similar look.
Now, there’s nothing worse than a little rug surrounded by a sea of carpet in the middle of a room. In general, people always seem to opt for rugs that are too small for their space. It’s best practice to sit at least your front sofa legs on top of a rug, so go up a size based on your first instinct, and chances are you’ll have it spot on. Your feet will also thank you for it with a hard floor!
10. Scent your home with calming fragrances
It’s easy to prioritise visuals with your design style, but don’t forget that there are other tactile senses that you can tap into! Smell is an often neglected yet powerful way to enter into a feeling or emotion you want to evoke. An electronic diffuser or natural soy candle will create a calming sanctuary where you can relax and recharge.
Small Habits to Maintain a Minimalist Space
Now that you know how to create your comfy minimalist sanctuary, here comes the dreaded part – how to keep it looking this good, all the time.
Before you start constructing an all-singing, all-dancing new cleaning schedule – don’t overcomplicate things with an unrealistic routine you can’t commit to. Instead, adopting these small daily habits is going to be much less stressful and go a long way to maintaining a clutter-free home.
Habit #1: Stop buying stuff you don’t need
I’ve spoken about it at length here, but try to become more self-aware and don’t put yourself in situations where you’re tempted to mindlessly spend on impulse purchases you’ll soon tire of. Decluttering becomes a vicious cycle when you’re bringing new things into your home just as quickly as you’re getting rid of things.
Habit #2: Make sure that everything has a home
Rather than instinctively dumping your bag and keys on the side when you get home from work, make an effort to ensure everything you own has a place where it lives when not being used. As an example, it’s a bit of extra work but I always put my toaster away when I’ve finished using it.
Habit #3: If it takes less than two minutes, do it now
I can’t take credit for this one – it comes from productivity consultant David Allen. The problem with deciding to skip tiny 1-2 minutes tasks throughout the day is that it has a snowball effect. Spotting an empty cup of tea and deciding not to take it downstairs, for instance, may make your life easier in the short term. But when coupled with many other small jobs that haven’t been completed throughout the day, it becomes a much bigger job than if you’d just done it there and then.
Remember that you’re always going to have to do whatever task it is you’re putting off at some point down the line. So give your future self something to be thankful for! If you make an effort not to let the little things slide, you’ll be more motivated when your space is consistently tidy.
Habit #4: Never go to bed with a dirty sink
This habit was a game-changer for me! It may sound deceptively simple, but I find that the consistent nightly routine of ensuring my kitchen sink and surfaces are completely cleared down before bed is incredibly mentally cleansing (and helps with my morning routine, too). An untidy kitchen quickly leads to lax standards in other rooms, so get into the habit of turning on your dishwasher at night and unloading it first thing each morning.
Habit #5: Make your bed first thing every morning
My final recommendation may be something you do already, but it’s a small win first thing in the morning. Making your bed as soon as you get up transforms your bedroom and immediately makes you take pride in your surroundings – something which sets the tone for the rest of the day. Plus, is there anything better than getting back into a freshly made bed after a long day? I think not!
Cosy Minimalism: Simplicity That Is Both Functional & Beautiful
The truth of the matter is that you don’t have to be an interior designer to create a home you’re in love with! By keeping it simple and not over-complicating things, you can bring a sense of intentionality into your environment. This will serve as the perfect backdrop to inspire you in all areas of your life.
It is no surprise to me that ‘relaxed minimalism’ is on the rise. Your immediate surroundings are an extension of your energy field, and your environmental cues play a part in shaping the kind of life you live, so it’s worth taking the time to set yourself up for success!
I hope that this guide has given you some inspiration – you may also want to take a look at this lovely book on the subject for more interior ideas. I’d love to see your home transformation pics and hear about the habits that work for you in keeping a happy minimalist home!