17 November 2011

A Fresh Start

Klaus Biesenbach
W House Tour
Photography by Dean Kaufman

Homes Project

I remember first reading the Wmagazine article on MoMA PS1 Director, Klaus Biesenbach, and being totally taken back by, what I first saw as, the brutal minimalism of his home.  How could anybody live like that?  Where were all his things?  What happens to a man to make him want to live like that?  As I read on what at first seemed too cold, too clinical, too empty, soon revealed something truly intimate and personal.  For a man who spends his life surrounded by the visual, by the creative, and by the loud, it must be true relaxation to return to a home where there is no noise.  Where others would see emptiness, he sees calm and freedom.  And in that is something I actually find myself looking for as well.

What struck me most were his last words in the article, "Once I have the time, I will get furniture, I will have chairs. I think it would be nice to have a stove. It just doesn’t seem urgent.”  What is urgent for one person may be nothing but an afterthought for another.  It is what creates such diversity amongst us.  Indeed it is for that reason I suppose that we are all so interested in seeing into other people's homes or wardrobes.  We like seeing something different, something alien, some insight into how other people live.  Although perhaps we look at first for something different, in the end, all we really see are the little things that connect us.  There is always something we share.

I decided to post the images of homes designed by various architects for Muji alongside Biesenbach's home as an example of different takes on minimalism.  Connected by a theme, separated by execution.  In both cases there is something about their simplicity that I find incredibly inspirational.  I like the idea of simple and functional design, if for nothing else than as acting as the bare foundations of a home.  Once you have those foundations, or to put it another way, the necessities, then all other objects are something to be added at your leisure.  But maybe there is a luxury to be found in having only the necessities, especially when those necessary objects are objects of beauty.  The idea of simplicity is beguiling to me for the freedom it seems to bring. 

But then I suppose no matter how simple the canvas is, we all by nature wish to express something upon it, however grand or small in gesture.  A red brush stroke is all the more striking when laid upon a pure white canvas than it is when surrounded by an array of other colours.  I like the idea of having a few individual elements that represent something grander in their totality.  They do not necessarily have to be striking and bold, but rather hold meaning to the individual.  Whilst I would struggle to find myself living for any extended period in the emptiness of Biesenbach's home (although were you to add a decent kitchen, I would be good to go), I could be quite comfortable in one of the Muji homes.  Yet in both cases I would still need to make small personal additions.  I like the idea of being able to refine those additions down to what truly matters to me on a personal level.  A few things of importance are nicer than many things that hold no real meaning to me.

The way I like to think of it is like going on holiday.  You arrive at your hotel room - there is a window, a bed, a television, a cupboard, a desk, a fridge, an en-suite.  The space is equipped with the necessities, but it is missing an individuality.  And so with one bag and one suitcase you unpack a condensed version of your life into this empty vessel.  There is a freedom within the fact that you have only what you need, what you love, what you wanted to bring.  You are, in the travelling process, forced to edit your life down to only what you can quite literally carry with you.  I think it is a magical process, and one I wondered whether you could somehow bring into your everyday life.  Not necessarily to the same severity, but as an approach to material possessions.  It is not about denial, of getting rid of things you love, but rather of editing to exactly those things that you do love.  Of course it is then a matter of assessing what it is that you do find beautiful, you do find meaningful, and you do love. 

I met a genius on the train
about 6 years old,
he sat beside me
and as the train
ran down along the coast
we came to the ocean
and then he looked at me
and said,
it's not pretty.

it was the first time I'd

I Met A Genius, Charles Bukowski
(as Sean Penn would say - "an uncommon thought on a common matter")

More Voltage - The Glitch Mob



  1. Your thoughts on the concept of black and white is always so elegant. The absence of color is truly just the absence of everything yet, by enhancing whatever is placed beside it, can only contain everything as well.

    Seeing a home that is so stark and white has me imagining it as a place to be filled by the person living in it. Those who need nothing more live in an empty home because they need space to project themselves. In contrast, possessions are deemed urgent by those who still have space and energy in their lives for them. But I can't say this is true, especially as a generalization. A home is meant to be a private space, so can we really judge a person based on the appearance of where they live? Privacy often provokes us to express our true selves, so the now I think about what kind of home really gives us the sense of privacy at all. If we fill a home with extensions of ourselves, then we create our own privacy to respond to.

  2. Cool..a genius.

    Such light in the rooms!

    Unfortunatley, I live in a family..have an empty room..fill it up! I could never be a minimalist.

  3. SUP, DUDE. i am currently nottt a minimalist at all, but i expect to gradually become more like that when i move back to a big city and have to deal with a smaller living space. it really is so intriguing!

    p.s. syed, you really should enter my blogger secret santa!! (http://www.blorangedice.com/2011/11/blogger-secret-santa.html)

  4. I wouldn't mind living in any of these spaces!

  5. I used to be a chronic collector of things and displayer of things but as I get older the more I'm de-cluttering my interiors. These rooms appeal to me and I like what Biesenbach said about it not being urgent to buy chairs etc Good for him!

  6. For a couple of years now, I have been trying to declutter my life. Some days, I succeed, other days, I just succumb. The thing is, I feel that clutter corresponds to the emptiness in our lives. The emptier I feel inside, the more I fill my space with "things".

    I envy minimalism. It speaks volumes about the people who stay in houses like these. One day, the only thing I would want to fill my house with, is space. I hope I will be able to attain that state of mind, where stuff does not matter. Your thought on the Hotel space and its lack of our individuality ring so true. I always carry a couple of things that "mark" my space, wherever I go.

    Such a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing.

  7. I would love to live in house number one, with the MUJI furniture, haha. Inspirational text! I just discovered your blog and I already like it! Now I'm gonna read through your old posts!

  8. I loved your blog!

    bloglovin follow you throughout the TBM and here ...
    would be very happy to receive your visit in my fashion blog in Brazil!



  9. Been thinking of you. Hope all is well. I find myself talking about your blog to a lot of people. I guess it's okay to admit, am in awe of your aesthetics and writing.


  10. Lovely entry. Inspiring words. It reminded me of the reason why I love minimalism even though I struggle with my maximalist tendencies.

  11. I would want to live there. Life has evolved hasn't it. Need is not longer based on necessity. I, too, am in no need of a stove. But I have one.

    Your blog strikes a chord.

    A fan now.