Minimalism Life

G’s home looked like something out of a storybook with its picturesque brick and white siding, mature landscaping, and abundant flowers in bloom. Smoke from the wood-burning fireplace wafted out of the chimney and into the cold air as a warm welcome signal. G lit up as he greeted my husband and me at the door; we walked back to the great room and sat in plush, overstuffed couches by the crackling fireplace.

I’ve been visiting my uncle G’s home for as long as I can remember; he built it in 1973, a decade before I was born. I’d always viewed us as polar opposites—he, a maximalist with thousands of antique collectables, and I, a minimalist with a penchant for modern design. Each visit, G would regale us with details of his latest acquisitions: a new porcelain sculpture, a cut-glass vessel, another grandfather clock. He knew the complete history of each piece and never had just one of anything. His collections were well curated and impressively clean.

When the time came to have dinner, we stepped into the formal dining room, which was painted pink with white crown molding. There were life-size oil portraits of G and his late wife flanking the doors to the patio. There was a piece of ornate wooden furniture behind the table that had ten or more pink pillar candles - G lit every one of them before we sat down. Above the table was a dramatic crystal chandelier punctuating the space. It was a complete mood, the sort that could be experienced only in a maximalist home like G’s.

As I sat down to eat, an electric spark of joy shot through my body, as though the table were transporting me to some kind of Alice in Wonderland otherworld. I turned to G and asked, “Don’t you feel like our homes need us?” G agreed with absolute certainty, “When a house is not lived in, it dies.”

Perhaps G and I aren’t opposites after all. We both understand that our homes have a spirit, a life force, which can only be awakened through our love and care. Our homes are uncontrived expressions of our truest selves; to experience our homes is to experience a part of us. I felt the heartbeat of G’s home that evening, and through it, I knew him better.