Room Recipe: Warm Minimalist

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Kelly O'Reilly

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Published on May 18, 2021

For those craving the clean lines and peaceful elegance of minimalism but need a space they can live in, the niche category of warm minimalism is about to become your best friend. 

We talked to Havenly designer Melissa Wagner to walk us through the style and give us the room recipe—because warm minimalism in no way means minimal effort.

“Warm minimalism is a carefully curated space with deliberate design decisions,” says Melissa. “It’s a riff off of Wabi Sabi and considers form—sometimes over function—to create an artistic space that is just as livable as it is a statement.” 

While Wabi Sabi is a centuries-old Japanese philosophy with specific principles of imperfection and impermanence, warm minimalism is a broader translation that lets that vibe shine through with a little more leeway. And while it hasn’t totally blown up outside the interior design world yet, Melissa sees great potential for it going mainstream. “Depending on how it’s executed, warm minimalism can be considered unattainable, but that just isn’t the case,” she says. “As more people bend toward the style, retailers respond by providing more options to execute the look in an affordable way.” 

With all that in mind, let’s get the recipe.

Neutral and Natural Color Palette

“This is where the ‘warm’ comes from,” says Melissa. And it’s a color palette that’s very much on-trend right now. Think whites, ivories, and sandy tones. “Bright colors are nil except for greenery from the foraged branches of your backyard or florals from the market,” says Melissa.

Furniture Philosophy

“A lot of warm minimalism spaces are asymmetrical but balanced, and feature one-of-a-kind statement pieces,” says Melissa. Materials, again, are natural—think wood, marble, rattan, and natural fabrics.

Form First

Form is crucial to pulling off the warm minimalism look, and comes to life in curvilinear backs on sofas and chairs, sculptures, unique tables, artistic sconces, oversized minimalist art on canvas, rustic pottery, and delicate greenery and plants. “Because warm minimalism defaults to more open spaces, the pieces that are there create a moment of their own,” says Melissa. 

Simple Textiles

You’re not going to see an excess of pattern in a warm minimalist space—textiles are simple, natural, easy, and neutral. “From drapery, table linens, and rugs to sofas, throw blankets, and pillows, everything is pretty raw and full of texture by nature,” says Melissa. That means no synthetics, but rather linens, cottons, and wools as staples for executing the style. 

Layered Lighting

Lighting is a deliberate component to making everything in a room shine with warm minimalism, so you’ll typically see it layered with picture lights to feature custom artwork, sconces flanking a headboard, chandeliers in the living room and table lamps in the foyer—”every room is given the opportunity to be lit in a dozen different configurations,” says Melissa. She also points out a tiny but intentional detail of this style: bulbs aren’t typically exposed, so no glass globes or lantern styles. You’ll want to find lighting that’s more ambient and diffused.

Does warm minimalism sound like your vibe? Take our style quiz and let our Havenly designers turn your space into something soothing and special.

Words by Kelly O’Reilly