Minimalism? Or drowning in a sea of gluten...

Written by Emma McFarland


Posted on May 28 2019

Beige. Brown. Sage. Rust. Cream. A little scroll through Instagram feeds focused on minimalism, sustainability and consumer ethics would have you convinced that the current movement toward subversive consumerism has a definite color palette. And that color palette is muted and earthy. For me, it’s also starting to feel a little stale. Don’t get me wrong… I love (like LOVE) bread; there is profound beauty and respite in the clean calm of soft, natural hues. I just feel ready for something different, something more.  Perhaps it’s time to harvest our fruits and vegetables.

2018 felt like a big year for me; I turned 30 and started to re-evaluate all the big stuff in my life: my career, my values, and my identity. Becoming aware of the havoc wreaked by fast fashion felt like a watershed moment. Changing my mindset about fashion and re-evaluating my shopping practices enlightened me to the tangible ways that I could make cultural and environmental difference in my closet and in my home. Change not only felt possible, real and impactful, but also rewarding.

I started to eliminate plastics from my kitchen and my wardrobe (looking at you polyester, nylon, and acrylic); I started to incorporate zero-waste tips and tricks that I learned from fellow Instagrammers; and I focused on shopping small, sustainably, and locally. Like so many others, I also devoured The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Thanks to the elegant simplicity of Kondo’s perspective, I not only started to unleash the potential of my own power as a decision-making individual, but I also began to consciously invite joy into my life.

Minimalism resonated with so many of the positive changes I was beginning to enact. It provided the framework through which I could rebel against capitalist consumerism (and the patriarchy at large, if I’m being frank); it enlarged my confidence in my capacity to set and accomplish goals, big and small; it helped me achieve a sense of peace, fulfillment, and gratitude in this journey we call life.

Minimalism and I felt perfectly matched… except in one regard: aesthetics. I love wild mixtures of patterns and colors. I want my home to feel like a cozy nest peppered with wackadoo tchotchkes. Rather than have a couple of house plants, I want to cultivate a jungle (Did I mention that leopard print and my pink shag rug are some of my favorite things?!). They say that the two founding principles of art are simplification and exaggeration… and this seems to be the point at which minimalism and I split ways, it turning toward the former, I running headlong toward the latter.

Anyone who has been paying attention to the minimalist trend can tell you what it looks like to be a minimalist: you have a bright home full of whites, creams, and beiges, wicker furniture and macrame, and, perhaps, the occasional indulgence in something rustic (for example, a leather pouf or baskets galore). If you’re really wild you have a single pop of color, something in the realm of mustard or a robin’s egg blue. Your closet is a capsule of simple, boxy-cut linen garments; your kitchen is full of bamboo utensils and label-free jars. I’ll admit, there is something extremely appealing about the idea of living in a space and lifestyle that look so meditative.

I was taken in. For a moment, I too wanted a pristinely clean living environment and homogeneously neutral “staple” wardrobe. But as I started to declutter with this goal in mind, I felt sad and anxious. I didn’t feel authentic. I couldn’t measure up. The experience wasn’t joyful. I realized I was giving away all the empowerment I had found by limiting my view, thinking that sustainability had to look one way. I lost sight of my own aesthetic personality in the process.

I crave pattern and color! Color, at its core, isn’t unsustainable. Nature provides some of the most sumptuous and stunning hues. Wasn’t everything I had been working toward—the realization of how to be my most authentic self, how to define my own terms, feeling empowered to live conscientiously in accordance with my values—wasn’t it all, at its root, the empowerment one gains when we no longer blindly accept what we have been told to think and prioritize? Counter culture is calling bullshit on just accepting what has been handed down to you. It’s about free and critical thinking! I never have and still don’t want to look like everyone else.

It’s not that I dislike neutrals; I’m tired of homogeneity. I’m exhausted and bored by the pressure to just copy different versions of the same idea suggested to me by my Instagram feed. While there will always be some trends worthy of jumping on the bandwagon, it’s never a matter of being all in or all out. Life is more complicated than that. You can have a sustainable, ethical wardrobe and wear color too. What is unsustainable is the impoverishment that follows from a lack of diversity. Problems present us with the opportunity to get creative, to think outside the box, and to explore and embrace a multitude of solutions. We miss that opportunity when we cease to respect the differences of others, lose sight of our own perspective, and forget to nourish the seeds of joy.


"I have an eclectic mix of vintage dishware and glassware in my kitchen like this colorful set of shot glasses I found at the Long Beach Flea Market, but still felt so modern to me! I may have also bought that bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil solely for the beautiful bottle - I have a thing for well designed packaging! This dish rack from Hay Design also sparks so much joy for me - I thought I would never find a beautiful dish rack, but leave it to Hay to deliver!" -Maggie Stoll
*Some playful colors, shapes and textures in the kitchen of Burke
founder, Maggie Stoll.


"Minimal, but make it colorful! After jumping hard on the Marie Kondo train, I decided to re-paint my kitchen to a warm color that felt unique but complimented the other decorations and objects in the room - This Cocoa Nutmeg color was perfect!" -Maggie Stoll
*Some more details from Burke's founder, Maggie's kitchen.


"Every year, I get the Slowdown Studio yearly calendar featuring 12 amazing illustrations from modern contemporary artists. When 2018 ended, I cut out the images and framed them to add artwork and color to my walls - low cost, little waste decor option!" - Maggie Stoll 


"I live in a 300 square foot studio apartment, so I have to be really strategic about the amount of stuff I have, but I try to make sure everything is a reflection of my personality - so I love having color and print! I like doing small color story groupings in different areas so it doesn't feel too chaotic (I.e. the dusty mint green on my console) and making even small things beautiful (I.e. my powder coated steel & wood Kleenex box :) )" - Maggie Stoll


"I love having lots of little weirdo decorations, especially that no one else has! I have an addiction to vintage ceramics and geometric shapes. One of my current favorite items is the vintage battery powered, blue Japanese steel clock I found at a thrift store in Phoenix that screams 80s Memphis style. The other is a figurine box my Aunt handmade me of the Washington DC original women's march which we attended together in 2017. Your books are also a reflection of who you are, so I make sure to only keep those that resonate with me and speak to who I am." -Maggie Stoll


"Some inspiration photos from the apartment of Kristina Bing, friend and E-Commerce manager at the Jungalow. I love how all her plants bring so much life to her space, and she isn't afraid to mix lots of different colors in both furniture and decor!" -Maggie Stoll 


"Amigo Modern and Küdd:krig Home are two of my favorite home brands and inspiration sources, and both based in Long Beach. Amigo Modern makes furniture and home objects and their sleek, modern designs and never ending use of playful colors makes them one of my favorite brands! Eric Trine, designer of Amigo Modern, recently moved into and renovated a new home for his family, and to say I am obsessed with his kitchen (shown above) is a massive understatement!! Küdd:krig just recently starting incorporating more color into their hand painted pieces like this textile wall art, and I love that everything they make has an abstract element because abstract art is my favorite!" -Maggie Stoll
*Photo 1: Kitchen of Eric Trine's home
Photo 2: Display from Amigo Modern studio featuring rugs by Dana Haim
Photo 3: Objects & scene from Amigo Modern & Küdd:krig studio


Tell us in the comments what you think, and how you like to decorate your home! And click HERE to shop some of our favorite fun Burke objects for the home! 



  • Comment author

    Hi Matthew! Thanks for your comment and your thoughts! I never thought that hard about color choices being inspired by the environment – but that totally makes sense, especially when I think about a lot of the bold, bright and primary colors coming out of some New York design as well! Your question has made me think a lot too! I’m actually a total control freak in most aspects of my life, so I think maybe my wild mix of objects, patterns and colors at home might actually be a way for me to let go a little bit – since my home for me is kind of my sanctuary to let go and unwind. :)

    Posted by Maggie | February 16, 2019
  • Comment author

    I truly found resonance with your comments about the aesthetics of minimalism. Coming (most recently) from PDX, where design palettes only come in white or woodsman, it’s been refreshing to see how much the sky plays into Los Angeles color design. Sky colors, particularly the range of sunsets, inform LA choices everywhere. Admittedly, nudes and pinks and palm-greens and blacks are seen all-too-often here; it’s Southern California’s own palette of minimalism. Are your wild mixtures and patterns a kind of embrace of the messiness of life? (When minimalism overall strikes me as sort of denial, an effort to control?) I think this is where aesthetics, as a departure from the accepted form, can lift us into truth.

    Posted by Matthew Kulisch | February 16, 2019
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