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Can Joy Decorating and Minimalism Get Along?

I keep reading articles about Joy Decorating on the design sites. And the idea is pretty hard to resist – who doesn’t want more joy in life? I’m signing up for even five percent more joy in my life, particularly after the last few years. But I’m also working toward minimalism to help improve my general outlook and for a more sustainable way of living. So, I find myself asking the question, “Can ‘Joy Decorating’ and minimalism get along?”

What Is Joy Decorating?

While there is no one definition, it’s roughly akin to ‘joy dressing.’ Whether that means dressing in the brightest colors you can find or wearing only items that bring you joy, if your clothing brings a delighted smile to your face, you have achieved ‘joy dressing.’ The same is true in design.

The last few years have seen us all swerve hard towards things dark and cozy. I see this in my own life, from my gray sweatpants to my fluffy graphite couch pillows to my charcoal re-cashmere throw blanket. And while Covid is still a danger, we have seen people taking steps to be out in the world or opening their homes to friends and family. Being immunosuppressed means that my venturing out into the world remains cautious, and hosting has been outside. Still, even I incorporated yellow florals and emerald greens into my wardrobe this spring, and rich brick reds have started popping up into my fall décor.

Are There Rules to Joy Decorating?

Not really. Sure, we’ve seen a ton of pastels, bold 70s-inspired patterns, and even 80s-reminiscent colors in everything from new artwork to budget-friendly slipcovers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take part in joy decorating without those elements.

Do you love your neutral sofa but feel like it is missing something? Try recovering one or more of the existing cushions (the large permanent ones or the smaller decorative ones) in a vivid hue or eye-catching pattern. Even using a slightly darker or lighter shade of solid fabric that complements your couch can make you smile – and Joy Decorating will have been achieved.

Yes, much of Joy Decorating does include an eccentric combination of patterns and colors. And if you have the budget, the time, and the inclination, whimsical, zany, and dramatic approaches may be just the thing to kick the emotional and physical burnout of the last few years. But I just added a “Mariner Blue” flannel duvet cover to our bed from L.L. Bean (not an ad, just the truth), and I am practically ecstatic. This brings me so much joy!

How Do You Embrace Joy Decorating on a Budget?

With a bit of creativity, Joy Decorating can be an option for anyone working on a budget (as we are). Rather than buying new couch cushions for that pop of color, see if you can cover one side (or the entire thing) in leftover fabric. Old graphic t-shirts can be cut up and sewn together as the top layer of a perfectly joyful and colorful quilt. Low-cost vinyl murals can be the perfect no-paint option to enliven older furniture or the walls, closet doors, or appliances in rental units.

Do you have silver or gold spray paint from an earlier craft project? You can add seasonal charm that will renew old candle sticks, clothing hooks, lampshades, and more. And if fire engine red is what makes you happy, a single can of spray paint or a pot of sample paint can bring your desired pops of color to everything from picture frames to bookcases for less than $10.

Can Joy Decorating and Minimalism Get Along?

I think it’s obvious that my opinion is that they can. I don’t need to buy a lot of extra stuff to make a room feel joyful. And I don’t believe that being a minimalist means everything in my space needs to be white or greige. I can paint this office a deep, moody hunter green and still be a minimalist if everything in this space is useful or something I love. In fact, making sure that everything in my space is something useful or adored is my definition of Joy Decorating. It might just be yours. 

And now I want to paint every wall in this apartment a deep, moody green. 🙂

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