If you were at the Pecha Kucha evening at the Surface Design Show at Islington Business Design Centre last Wednesday (5th February), then you may have seen me give a presentation on 'How We Work the Minimalist Look' at Ardesia Design.

It was my first time giving a Pecha Kucha style presentation and I have to say it was pretty nerve-wracking, as the timing was vital to the flow of the presentation. For those of you who don't know what it is - it's 20 slides at 20 seconds each, so it's a fast-paced, timed presentation. For my first attempt, I think it was not too bad.

It was a great experience (thanks again to Daniel Hopwood for thinking about me for the presentation) and actually it was very refreshing to talk about our own projects and to see them in a different light. It's not something that we often take the time to do and we all felt as though we were finally appreciating our projects more again.

In case you missed it, you can read the presentation and see the photos here:

Hello, my name is Pia Pelkonen, I graduated in 2011 from Kingston University and I am currently working as an interior designer at Notting Hill based design studio, Ardesia Design. First of all I’d like to introduce the company I work for and the kind of projects that we do and then I’ll get on to talking about my topic, which is how we work the minimalist look in our designs.

Ardesia Design work mostly with private residential clients and provide a bespoke interior design service, from space planning to project coordination. The company was founded in 2010 and back then we also managed a portfolio of properties for clients who were investors. Many of the flats we designed for those clients were refurbished in a clean and simple investment friendly style. 

Our early days refurbishing simply designed investment flats built us a reputation within the interior design market as quite minimalist designers and that’s quite often what brings our customers to us It’s something that we have embraced as part of our identity. However, sometimes there is a risk of a design becoming too plain so we have to think of clever solutions that work for each client.

I’m going to show you some case studies of our previous projects, and how we’ve found a way to add interest into our minimal interiors.  Even if the brief is to keep it simple, we like to consider the shape of the space, the amount of natural light and to use a combination of colours and textures to create focal points in a room, and to create some interest.

This is a flat in Notting Hill we refurbished for a real estate fund, where the brief was to keep the flat simple and minimal. We increased the storage space and also created an interesting focal point by designing some custom joinery with irregular shelving. It was a great way to keep the design simple but to allow the tenants to inject some personality into the space by displaying their own items.

This is in the bedroom of the same Notting Hill flat. As an investor, the client just wanted the flat to be minimal and easy to rent, but we wanted to create something a bit more ‘spectacular’, so we designed a wall of cabinets where the middle doors were actually the doors into the en-suite bathroom, that opened up to reveal a freestanding shower screen panel – it definitely added the wow factor to this flat.

The bathroom in the previous slide was finished in polished plaster, which is what we also used in this bathroom.  Polished plaster is a great material because it has an interesting surface that looks quite dramatic. We also created some niches in the walls that were lit with LED strips. The result was a minimal but atmospheric bathroom, which worked really well in this case as it played on the fact that the bathroom didn’t have windows and added drama.

This bathroom of a project in Switzerland is another example of a client with very minimal tastes, where they wanted to use a natural material. We chose some great limestone tiles with a rough-cut finish to add texture to the room and installed some LED lights behind the mirrored storage cabinet. The natural light worked really well with the limestone to create a simple room with an interesting finish.

A lot of our Clients come to us because they’ve seen our work before and they like the simple, minimal look that we do, so sometimes it’s not so easy to convince our clients to do anything overly ambitious in terms of layout or colours with their own home. In this project, we kept everything nice and simple but fitted a coloured light backsplash in the kitchen so the client could add a bit of colour when they wanted it.

This is the dining room in the same house. The minimal look allowed the beautiful wooden beams in the ceiling to stand out. We had the beams sanded down and lightly washed. Also, the client was an avid art collector so we helped style the house with pieces from his collection. The minimalism of the space makes it very versatile in a way as the artwork is easily changed for an updated look.

Even the smallest spaces in the house don’t have to become boring spaces, such as this entrance to a flat in Notting Hill. We went with the same wall colour as in the living room to tie the spaces together and then fitted bright double spotlights to create an impression of more space. We then added detail by recreating some Victorian style wall mouldings that give the space a bit more character than just an empty hallway.

This is another interesting project in London where the client wasn’t allowed to build new walls in the flat but wanted to create a separation between the living room and the bedroom. We had to get creative here, so we designed a custom bookshelf that incorporated a sliding door on the back. The bookshelf served the dual purpose of acting as storage but also enabled the client to close a door between the two rooms to make the bedroom more private.    

Although we love the Scandinavian look of white walls and minimal colour, we do try and push our clients to go for a lot of interesting texture. This is a bathroom we did in a flat in Soho where the Client chose two materials, wood and marble, which we finished with some lighting behind the mirror. This bathroom shows how minimal for us isn’t always about just using white.

In the bedroom of the Soho flat, we kept the wall colours plain but added interest with the use of a custom, backlit wall panel, finished in the same fabric as the bed headboard. We often find that with clients who aren’t overly keen to use colour or material, we can use lights or lighting effects to create some interest in the design, which is easy to control or switch off if the client wants to go back to basics again.

Achieving the minimal look sometimes works backwards, which was the case with our design for this Chalet, in Gstaad, Switzerland. With the whole building constructed from rough-sawn fir wood, the sheer quantity of wood was quite overwhelming for the minimal look. In the living room, we used lighting as a way of diluting the wood look and creating a horizontal separation within the room.

We also used a lot of natural colours and fabrics in the design to create a warm atmosphere and subtle sense of style. The flooring is extra wide planks from Dinesen and the entire colour palette is very sensitively matched to the wood. We used linen and wool fabrics for the sofa, curtains and throw and the only injection of colour comes from the artwork on the walls and some decorative pillows.

We carried on with this simple style throughout the chalet. In the bedrooms, the all over wooden walls made the rooms feel quite small so to break up the material, we fitted full-wall headboards in wool fabric. We chose one main colour, which was repeated in small details, such as the piping on the bed linen and cushions. In this bedroom we used red for a warm chalet feel.

This is another bedroom in the same chalet where we used lighting and layout as a way of breaking up the wood and giving the space an interesting yet minimal feel. The layout was designed with two entrances into the en-suite bathroom to create an open circulation. The bed was fitted against the middle partition of the room and an LED lit niche cut into the headboard, which was covered in a cashmere fabric. 

This is one of the bathrooms in the chalet, where we used polished plaster again to break up some of the wood. Even the toilet flush plate was customised and filled with polished plaster to match the walls. The colours and textures of the wood against the plaster contrast really nicely together and create an interesting mix of materials, allowing the rest of the design to remain sleek and minimal. 

Through our beginnings in designing simple and functional flats for investors, we’ve developed our own style of minimal design that works for us and our clients - with creative joinery, carefully planned lighting and textured finishes. I hope you have enjoyed seeing some of our projects and the way we create simple and minimal interiors for clients with different needs and objectives. Thank you. :)