Was 2017 The Year Minimalism Died?

Photo: Emily Katz

There's no better feeling than closing the door on a long day. It's safe to say most of us want to craft a home (or at least a studio apartment) that serves as a sanctuary—a place we can go to feel safe, cozy, and free to be ourselves. While this perception of the ideal home's energy has stayed constant through the years, its aesthetic has shifted. Until recently, minimalist, pristine, perfectly manicured interiors have been aspirational. However, this year we're noticing a new trend emerge: the rise of the autobiographical home.

While the underlying principles of minimalism—living with what you need and ditching the rest—will probably never go out of style (as evidenced by the continued popularity of simple living icons like of The Minimalists and Marie Kondo), minimalism as a design philosophy could be losing mass appeal. This mirrors an underlying shift in the wellness world, moving away from perfection and toward real, raw authenticity. Like perfectly primed Instagram photos, these days, impeccable homes can feel like a facade.

Less starkness, more story.

Using your home as an autobiography means filling it with items that speak to your past, present, and future—even if it introduces a little mismatch and clutter here and there.

Design psychologist Toby Israel, Ph.D., author of Some Place Like Home, explains that more than anything, people find fulfillment when they imbue their home with meaning. "There's a difference between people acquiring things because they look good and acquiring things that have meaning and are memorable and important to them in some way. I favor objects that have a positive message and reinforce your sense of home."

When Israel works with clients, she designs a toolbox that helps them audit all aspects of their homes, from the aesthetic and functional to social and emotional. Along the way, she always asks the same question: If your home was burning down, what's the one material object you'd run in to save? "About 75 percent of the time, the answer is the same," she says. "They'd grab some kind of photograph." The growing popularity of gallery walls that encapsulate past experience and vision boards that project a brighter future speak to homes that tell a story and transcend time.

A handmade feel.

Photo: @createaholic

Along with story and personality, we expect the homes of 2018 to feature more craft. Recently, we've watched a crafting revival of sorts, as people step away from their screens in favor of working with their hands. Making art, especially using a repetitive technique like knitting, has emerged as a way to calm anxiety and reach a meditative state.

Reverence for the handmade is everywhere, as workshops that teach flower arranging, natural fabric dying, and macramé continue to pop up around the world.

"When I began teaching in 2013, no one was teaching macramé," says Emily Katz, the buzzy macramé artist behind the upcoming book, Modern Macramé. "There were a few fantastic fiber artists pushing the boundaries of what was cool, but no one was teaching. There are now a huge number of other people teaching in their communities." She thinks that its rise speaks to the fact that people are seeking in-person connections, and while macramé is a simple craft that can be picked up in just a few hours, it adds a world of texture to the home.

Fanny Zedenius, the macramé artist behind Createaholic, first discovered macramé on Instagram. "I fell in love instantly. I Googled techniques and knots to make my very first plant hanger, and ever since then, I have been completely hooked." Today, she shares her work online, and she, too, has written a book on the practice.

Photo: @createaholic

"Macramé has definitely become more popular. More people are drawn to crafting as a much-needed break from stress and anxiety in everyday life and work," Zedenius explains, saying that the end product is just as soothing. "I think macramé makes a space a lot more personal and unique. It will likely provide a sense of calm thanks to the softness of the material and its silencing effect."

Another home craft that has started to gain a cult following is shibori—the Japanese practice of dyeing fabric, usually using rich shades of indigo. Australian shibori artists Pepa Martin and Karen Davis were first drawn to the free-form expression the practice allowed for, which was worlds away from the manufactured, pristine textile work they were taught in design school. "There was room to be more experimental and play with designs. It gave us the freedom to create like when we were kids, which becomes very addicting," says Martin.

They believe that the resurgence of the creative arts runs deep: "The instability of the political climate throughout the world draws people to become closer to things that remind them of a simpler time. There is also a definite interest in quality products with a story over mass-produced materials."

As handmade goods continue to fuel the narratives of our homes, so, too, will spiritual relics. Crystals, herbal bundles, and meditation altars will no longer be relegated to closets but celebrated as centerpieces of a mindful space. With the freshness of the new year on the horizon comes the freedom to get more reflective, creative, and expressive at home. Now that's something to celebrate.

For more design inspo, check out mbg's holistic home tours series.

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