Less But Better: Design Principles to Live By

“Less But Better” isn’t a philosophy that sits very well right now for most Americans.  Target has ever changing, always stylish displays filled with affordable things.  World Market, TJMaxx Home Goods, Wayfair, Overstock – you name it, you can find something stylish, very affordable and usually cheaply made.  I’m guilty of it.  I recently bought a fairly large rug for under $300.00.  You and I know a rug at that price won’t last and I will need to replace it in 3-5 years.  Why did I do it?  I wanted a rug immediately and that’s what I felt comfortable spending at that moment.  A wiser move would have been for me to live without one and save for a well made rug that would last for as long as I wanted it around.  But, I’m not wise about some things and I’m guilty of wanting instant design gratification.

With this idea in mind, here’s a short interview with Anna-Carin McNamara, a Sydney designer, whose work is built on the principles of Simplicity, Functionality and Sustainability.  Despite my recent rug purchase (Hi Wayfair!), I would like to be guided more by these principles and less by the consumer sickness for the new that I think is harming us and our environment.

walnut nook
This is a beautiful walnut nook. Built-ins can help anchor a space and they will last for generations. (Photo Source)

On “Less is Better”:  “I think this could be exemplified when it comes to buying replicas as opposed to originals. I try to influence my clients to buy less, for instance buy less but better chairs, do without or use old chairs or bring in from other rooms as needed until they can afford to buy more. An original piece you have saved up for will inevitable feel more valuable and never be put out on the curb for rubbish collection. They will become heirlooms and bring joy to generations.”

pale wood ranch house
I love the pale woods in this room and the unusual scale of the built-in. (Photo Source)

“Less but better applies not only to furniture and items but also in relation to space – do we really need more space? More bathrooms? More home cinema rooms? What will bring most joy? Spending where it brings most happiness and increases our quality of life not because its expected and de rigour. Less space better planned…” – Anna-Carin McNamara from Est Living

I am a big believer in buying or building smaller homes.  I think it can bring a family closer together, it’s environmentally responsible, and it’s wise economically.  I will get off that high horse though and admit that I am especially fond of complaining about my own small home, in particular, the silly small bathroom we all have to share on the main floor.

white kitchen pale wood
The cool background looks great styled with the pale wood table and chairs and bright accessories. (Photo Source)
all wood built ins midcentury style
The cabinetry is beautiful here and reminds me of a mid-century ranch project I’m working on in Denver now. (Photo Source)

I believe that investing in quality cabinetry is worth every penny. Cheap cabinets get torn out and thrown in the landfill.   I see it over and over in projects that I’m brought in on.  Quality cabinets last through trend cycles and end up getting painted and updated through the years.  There’s no reason why well-made built-in cabinets can’t last generations.

pale wood planking banquette
I love the pale wood planking on the banquette. (Photo Source)

“Indifference towards people and the reality in which they live is actually the one and only cardinal sin in design”
Dieter Rams







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