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Less is More- Nigerian decor takes on principles of minimalism


Minimalism is about achieving better design through simplicity, amongst its numerous definitions; it can also be describe the extreme simplification of a form using lines, shapes and colours. Many also describe minimalism as a movement, as it has influenced many aspects of life. While the history of minimalism officially started off with art and Japanese traditional designs in the 1960s, the word has since become a part of mass culture and has subsequently been applied to different areas, particularly design in furniture, fashion, architecture, technology and music.


Minimalist furniture has been at the forefront of design for decades due its growing influence on technology and notions of modernity in many parts of the world.  The 90s era saw an explosion of minimalist furniture with the likes of famous furniture designers such as Le Corbusier, Charles & Ray Eames and Paul McCobb. In the Nigerian context, decor is known to be quite flamboyant. More recently, we are seeing a new approach to interior decor here with people embracing contemporary furniture, while giving off a futuristic African vibe accompanied minimalistic elements.

One of the most appealing components of minimalism is its ability to turn furniture into “functional” art. A few spaces such as Sugarcane and Nok by Alara, in Lagos have tapped into the minimalistic idea of modern décor, which can easily be considered as contemporary art. Sugarcane uses triangular tables and square shaped selves accompanied by wood and iron. According to Ada Umeofia, the Sugarcane architect and interior designer, the minimalist furniture allows the space to be more “functional”. She says, “Triangular tables look different, and even though rectangular tables aren’t so different, they take up more space. Using less space was more functional and it enhances the experience of the space.”

While Sugarcane adopts a more classic look with the neutral black and brown colours. Nok plays around with contemporary hues of oranges and browns, which adds an African aesthetic to the space.  From the chairs to the lamps and the architecture of the building itself, each design contains a standard element of simplicity.

Although in the past minimalism revolved around the look of the product, designers are paying more attention to the portability of furniture particularly in small living spaces.  According to Nifemi Marcus-Bello, the product designer for a modern table, “Tebur”, “Minimalism has more to do with functionality; it’s stripping down the details to get to the essential use of the product.” The designer talks about the product being designed for “A modern day work station for modern Nigerians.”  He adds, “While conducting some research on potential users, I found that the main issue had to do with transporting the table from point A to point B as well as assembling it.” Tebur, meaning table in Hausa language is a classic table designed as a portable wooden piece of furniture, which can be assembled and dismantled easily by the customer by screwing on/off the table legs.  As the modern way of life sometimes no longer requires stationary workspaces, the portable table can be easily unscrewed and adapted to fit smaller spaces.


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