Fashions change but style is permanent. Two icons, Coco Chanel and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, were convinced of this having identified simplicity as the quintessence of style, elegance and authenticity – values that never fall out of fashion but are always contemporary. In the same years that the French designer was telling women to look in the mirror and remove an accessory before leaving the house, the famous German designer was arguing that ‘less is more’, i.e. that design needed to become less ostentatious and concentrate on its main goal: improving people’s lives by making complicated things simpler. Today we can describe this as the art of simplexity.
Minimalism has always been a must for the design addicted because it strives to uncover the real essence and value of things, the authentic and the original, in order to instil our living spaces with balance and calmness. It is a style for the soul. Today, it is a new concept of ‘chic’ that prioritises quality of life, providing intelligent and practical solutions, creating order and rationality, emphasising the truly valuable and eliminating the superfluous.
Combining the harmony and simplicity of form with the concrete values of functionality and longevity. This was the goal of the great Le Corbusier, when, in 1929, with the collaboration of Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret, he designed the LC3, Grand Modèle, a series of very spacious sofas and armchairs specifically created for the female figure. In fact, these seats with a linear profile are the fruit of in-depth studies on the human body, particularly the different form and structure of the male and female bodies, the goal being to ensure maximum comfort. It is no coincidence that they became iconic models of modern rationalism and have now been re-released by Cassina, which underlines their innovative power in all its authenticity in the “Cassina I Maestri” collection.
The same intentions can be seen in the understated and minimalist design of the Pebble armchair, created to guarantee relaxation and comfort at the end of a frenetic day. Designers Osko and Deichmann designed it for the Blå Station brand, taking their inspiration from the fascinating shapes of rocks and stones, natural elements whose forms, size, strength and immutability represent balance and authenticity. The seat, composed of two large cushions upholstered in fabric or leather and held together by a slender steel structure, is a piece of furniture that inspires harmony while recharging the batteries of its users.
Innovation, quality and flexibility are the keywords that encapsulate the Thonet no. 14, today called 214, one of the world’s best loved chairs. Over 150 years after its creation no other design comes close: the Thonet 214, with over 50 million pieces sold, is still one of the most desired and imitated items of furniture in history. What is so special about this chair, redesigned on several occasions? The story of its success began with the invention of a completely revolutionary technique, the steam-bending of solid wood. It continued with the creation of an effective combination of sinuous and elegant forms and smooth, clean surfaces. It is a chair that stood out for its minimalist aesthetics, functionality and great comfort; a mix of the classic and the modern, originality and simplicity, that has seduced generations of design lovers.
In her manual “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, Japanese Marie Kondo talks about the major influence that the efficient organisation of space has on people’s lives: it increases their self-confidence, frees the mind and emphasises things of value. A tidy house in which we only surround ourselves with essential items instils serenity. This, perhaps, was the aim of Charles and Ray Eames when they created the Hang-It-All coat hanger in 1953. Remarkably simple, practical and fun, it brings a playfulness and minimal-pop feel to the room in which it inhabits. Instead of the usual hooks, its brightly-coloured wooden balls are ideal for attracting the attention of children (and forgetful adults), encouraging them to hang up all their clothes and accessories.
The distance between the spheres is uniform and this is why Hang-It-All can be utilised intelligently, meeting all of our daily requirements.
Simple objects that carry out important functions: this could be the pay-off of the Micro Furniture collection created by Diplomat Design in 1999. Multifunctional, slender and decidedly minimalist side tables designed to meet personal requirements or for entertaining in contemporary living spaces. Made distinctive by their reduced dimensions, they are ideal for a piping-hot cup of coffee and the newspaper at breakfast time or for a couple of glasses and a bottle of red wine uncorked for a pre-dinner drink with friends. These pieces are the perfect solution for meeting our day-to-day needs and emergencies. Conceived of as small and sometimes invisible “helpers”, they form part of our daily microphysical world. They combine their reduced size with an important functional value and constitute practical and intelligent devices that give us a helping hand in our domestic lives.
The same concept and the same practical requirements are also the basis for an object whose minimalism nonetheless manages to include a “wow factor". Matali Crasset is a designer that believes in the inspirational power of small things. This is why she has developed an ingenious and elegant solution for those who love having their friends and relatives over, even if space is at a premium: When Jim Comes To Paris, a guestroom…in a bag! The designer taps into a latent requirement of the young urban generations and designs a roll-up bed with built-in alarm clock and reading light. Functional but also attractive: a “miniscule” art object that organises the home, giving it new energy.
The common denominator shared by all these icons, making them timeless symbols of style, is their understated design that discretely adds a touch of the extraordinary to the most ordinary of objects. The aim is to dot the domestic environment with objects that tell little stories but, at the same time, also have an important impact on the quality of our living spaces and day-to-day rituals. Designs that allow us to form an interactive and emotional bond with the objects. This is the magic of simplicity.