Simplicity Can Equal Elegance—with the Right Design

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Consumption used to be a disease that killed you. Now it’s a way of life. Find the perfect house and fill it with as much stuff as you can afford. “Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest,” wrote Chuck Palahniuk in Fight Club, “and the things you used to own, now they own you.”

So you get rid of your stuff. You pare your life down to the bare essentials. You become a minimalist. Is a happier life at the end of the cleanse? As a society we seem unsure. It’s an aesthetic that can sometimes seem lifeless, boring—or worse. When you think of Patrick Bateman’s sterile, white-as-teeth apartment in American Psycho, you’re not picturing the home of a happy and well-adjusted man. In the film adaptation, Bateman’s condo is full of furniture designed by the pioneering modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, one of the fathers of minimalism. Mies took a phrase from Robert Browning’s 1855 poem about the Italian painter Andrea Del Sarto and made it into a design for life: “Less is more.”

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