The Perfect Minimalist

The monastic and ordered realm of the design perfectionist.

Last week, the world learned of a certain breed of human known as the design perfectionist. They’re a type driven by symmetry, aesthetics, distinct lines and extreme minimalism. So extreme in fact, that many who eschew design most, consider common sense in favor of streamlined simplicity.

Steve Jobs was one, as evidenced by the ever-decreasing convolution of Apple products. Evidenced, too, by an anecdote from his widow Laurene Powell referenced in The New Yorker and recalled in his eponymous biography.

“We spoke about furniture in theory for eight years,” Powell told Walter Isaacson. “We spent a lot of time asking ourselves, ‘What is the purpose of a sofa?’”

A topical question: one that would really throw the Jobs’ household into a tizzy? The purpose of a sofa that takes up an entire room.

The design perfectionist has never met a sheet she couldn’t tuck.

They also debated washing machines for two weeks at the dinner table. The table itself was undoubtedly a painfully acquired object in its own right. Though, perhaps not as painfully perfect as Todd Waturbury’s apartment per The New York Times.

“It’s not simply that his book collection is restricted to titles with black, gray or white bindings, and stacked jacketless, in neat horizontal rows,” Penelope Green writes. “Or that nearly every item here is also either black, gray or white, including the paint on the walls… there’s an even deeper level of ‘perfect’ at work in this large one-bedroom apartment near Central Park South.”

The money shot of Waturbury’s cherry-picked perfection can be sighted by standing in the “sweet spot” of the apartment, wherein all the lines come together to form some kind of wood accented typographical vortex.

One can only speculate the impact extreme minimalism can have on the health of one’s sex life, though handsome Waturbury is one of the only apparent bachelors in the Times article. Besides, while a date night parlay into the vortex would be a deal breaker for most, for a New Yorker, being featured in The New York Times is natural aphrodisiac enough.

The design perfectionist does not attract dust. 

The Times also mentions Klaus Biesenbach, director of PS1 in Long Island City, Queens. When he travels, he puts anything that moves, including furniture, colored pillows, desktop accessories, into the closet. His own Lower East Side apartment contains a mattress, television and sofa sprung upon him by a houseguest, who also happens to be an artist. As such, the sofa has gained the status of “performance” as opposed to couch, the spectacle being gift giving.

Green delves into the homes and psyches of many other perfectionists, including a minimalist architect who forced his interior designer wife, an admitted hoarder, into living without a sofa for twenty years; an academic whose friends play a dinner party game involving moving objects from their permanent installations in order to see how long it will take their host to notice its misalignment (presumably before he runs off and washes his hands half a dozen times); and another architect who hilariously refers to radiators as “wall acne” and the maximalist who loves him.

The design perfectionist does not need doors.

Psychologically speaking, perfectionism “is a personality trait expressed in a spectrum of behaviors that range from adaptive to maladaptive, appearing as an element of obsessive-compulsive disorder.”

These perfectionists are the maladaptive kind, aesthetes to an almost supernatural degree who would sooner sit on a cold marble floor mindfully before defaulting to anything from Ikea, as so many do, unquestionably. These are also the devout opposites of New Antiquarians who acquire with intent and purpose, but accumulate nonetheless.

The design perfectionist is a fascinating and complex blend of principled aestheticism, exacting indecisiveness, clinical OCD and minimalist snobbery. To be a design perfectionist is very much a state of being, of living very distinctly in a clutter immersed world.

The design perfectionist knows that every object has its place and every place has its object.

Would you want to live with one? Probably not. But they do have their consciousness in check. Why clutter when you can minimize?


Images: Arch Daily; Kaye Tan; Home Interior Design; deluxearchConvoy

K. Emily Bond

K. Emily Bond is the Shelter Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in southern Spain, reporting on trends in art, design, sustainable living and lifestyle.