Minimalism vs the art of display

The art of display: teak bowls on mid-century modern buffet

I’ve spent the last couple of Saturdays going to vintage shops. This has taught me a lot about the unique skill of visual merchandising, but it also made me think about my conflicted relationship with minimalism.

There are a lot of retro shops where I live, and the best ones, I’ve noticed, have clutter-free minimal displays. They’ll put only one or two items on display in order to make them look their best. It’s actually much harder to take something away from a display than it is to add to more to it. I also noticed that the shops that display their wares in this way tend to charge more for fewer items.

I think you can learn a lot about styling your home by looking at how your favourite shops do it. Here’s some things I picked up:

  • Use repetition: in shape, colour or material. A row of bowls the same shape, or a collection of objects of the same colour can look really effective.
The art of display vintage thrifted homewares

I love this shade of blue

  • Negative space is a positive thing. Choose your best two or three objects and stash the rest in a cupboard.
  • Consider the background. I think white ceramics look good contrasted against teak wood. And so I put my collection of teak bowls against the white wall to emphasise their lovely shapes.

The art of display: white ceramics on a mid-century modern teak display cabinet

  • Change the display regularly. After a few days I stop looking at these shelves. Then I change the display, and then I notice my favourite pieces all over again…

Which is why I could never be a minimalist. In me there is a constant tension between the urge to buy things, and the urge to clear the clutter and chuck it all away! Do you feel the same? The idea of an empty space, free of the problems that all that stuff brings is a tempting one. But I also have a deep appreciation for beautiful handmade things, and well-crafted vintage treasures.

The amazing writers who blog about minimalism have inspired me to downsize my life and live more simply, and I’m so grateful to have discovered this alternative way of living. However, I don’t think these shelves are a display of conspicuous consumption, because most of these things were either gifts from good friends or picked up for a few dollars from junk shops.

I’d love to hear from you:

Are you a minimalist?


6 thoughts on “Minimalism vs the art of display

  1. I’m a wannabe minimalist, still downsizing and looking for good homes for the “stuff”. But I do love vintage things, and appreciate the good ‘vibes’ of things that belonged to people I’ve loved. Your shelves look great.

  2. Thank you! It’s great to have lovely things. It really makes you feel at home. But I guess when you have so many lovely things there comes a point when it gets a bit overwhelming. But trying to find that balance is really difficult isn’t it?

  3. Sadly I will never be a minimalist too many things get in the way. The teapot, cup and saucer look absolutely lovely.

  4. I’m a vintage-lover too, yet like you, clutter makes me uncomfortable. Almost everything I own comes from thrift shops and tag sales, but I am very discerning. To balance between my love of surrounding myself with things I love, and liking a clean environment, I have about three pieces of furniture that have glass fronts where I can display nice treasures but when you look around the rooms, there’s no clutter anywhere. But the best advice I ever got was to have a “prop closet” and rotate your collectilbes whenever you want a change. This has worked really well for me. I have a huge shelving unit in the basement, and I keep lots of things in big tupperware containers. When it’s time for a change, usually seasonally, it’s like bumping into an old friend when I unpack the collectibles. This weekend I’ll swap out all my pastel Ohio Pottery and vases that I’ve used around the house this summer, for some transferware plates that will look great going into the holidays!

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