OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DESIGN: NEUTRAL MONOCHROME

Updated: May 26


If you are a minimalist, you're probably feeling right now an expansion of your heart just reading this words. Neutral monochrome. It's the antithesis of color, the purest version of minimalism with its very strict scale of earthy tones. It's not a blank canvas, but it feels like one, inviting you to submerge in its neutral relaxing realm. However, before diving in, please make sure you're dressed accordingly.

Imagine meditative-like spaces, habituated by monochromatic-linen-dressed families, blending in peacefully into their surroundings.

Below is the serene living room of kitchen and furniture designers duo @askogeng. Where does the furniture end and the kid starts? This is what I call harmony!

I have to admit, I am a newly monochrome believer. Only thing that stands in my way of practice it fully is, well, life. Because the thing with monochromatic spaces is, they are not as natural as they seem, and their easy going, flowing essence was not curated absentmindedly. The way to this perfection was all but easy.


First of all, at the root of all challenges, kids. They come with toys. Colorful, ugly, cheap plastic toys. I tried to convert to anthroposophy, because wooden toys are way cooler and photographed well, but kids, they come with demands. And with grandparents who buy them more of the first mentioned toys.

Set aside the toys, what about their clothes? How can I stage that perfect envious image in which everyone is in harmony with everything? I can control my wardrobe to match my space color scheme, same with my spouse's (I'm laughing out loud now), but my girls'? I have absolutely no say there. Unless I've chosen pink sparkly theme as my decor, there's a fat chance they'll fit in.

I chose neutral tones for my house. Do you think my girls will ever beg me for earthy, plain, linen garments? I can imagine the unlikely scenario in my head: "No, mommy, why would I ever want that inflammable-glow-in-the-dark tutu dress? I'm a 5-year-old girl, not a lunatic! I rather have a more toned down, natural option. I feel like it suits my serene personality. Yes, I really do. But mommy, why the hysterical laugh?"... You know why.

Below is Simone Østergaard's kid who doesn't have absurd style demands and likes to play with his wooden toys. My daughters also have similar wooden toys. They are hidden under a grotesque pile of barbies.

Let's say we solved that first most challenging obstacle (although we all know we never will). It's hard to commit to a strict predefined color scheme! Sometimes you just stumble upon a rare find, and absolutely have to own it, only problem is, it's not on the monochrome scale. And you made a commitment, remember? It's sacred, just like marriage. And therefor you have to part with it, but you will remember it until the day you die.

Below, a photogenic monochrome mess in Mille Emilie's bathroom, showing how a true commitment to a strict color combination can be implemented even at your lowest point.

Some might take the monochromatic commitment one step ahead and explore multiple possibilities behind closed cabinets/pantries/closets doors.

Below, a pantry of someone who eats monochrome.

Set aside my mocking admiration, one of the many beauties in minimalism,and monochromatic minimalism in particular, is its affordability. Anything can look nice if you follow this natural color/material palette, as long as you make their simplicity an aesthetic statement.

Your house is old and disgusting? Spill abundant of white-ish paint on everything, walls and furniture, make it look like an elaborated decision and you'll be more than fine. Or even better, don't paint at all. Peel it down to the bare plaster, as shown below. At the end, it all about marketing.

Curtains don't have to be a painful financial expense. You can use a plain natural fabric and simple hardware store tension rods, as shown below:

And not to mention all the endless possibilities offered in the form of a drop cloth! It can be used as a curtain, tablecloth, bedspread and practically, anything you desire.

If you hold a monochrome wholeness approach and want to include your bookshelves in it, unlike the color obsessed maximalist that saves money to acquire an impressive color-themed book collection, all you need to do is flip your books backwards, or wrap them in a simple paper or fabric.

Last but definitely not least, John Pawson, the king of minimalism, takes it all to the purest level in his Home Farm as featured in Dezeen. He prefers "very little stuff" and professes to dislike sofas. Can it get more affordable than that?!


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Architecture & Interior Design

© 2020 by Elinor Gefen-Rotstein

Greater Boston Area

Real Design For Real People