On Throw Pillows, Minimalism, and Styling a Someday Timber Frame Home

All you need is less.
— Unknown

It amazes me the deep pull on my psyche of two things: the mindset that I need to work for a paycheck or I’m not pulling my weight in our family, and the mindset that I need to continually consume in order to be happy. We are in a season of paring down to essentials for a couple of reasons: to make it work on one paycheck, and with an eye toward selling our home and building a small timber frame to live in. We’ve been in our current city home for nearly 13 years, but I remember well the every-two-years moves prior to that, where I’d start out with a smug feeling of “This will be easy, we don’t have that much stuff,” to the dazed realization two days later of “Holy moly, we have a lot of stuff!” And unlike those moves, now we have a small child whose toys I estimate make up about 25% of the total volume of stuff in our home.

I envision living in a nearly empty timber frame home someday, and that would be my ideal. To have only the true essentials of life--and those of very spare design--in order to be able to focus the attention up … up to the trusses, the rafters, the light, the space. We plan on a frame itself of spare design, economical to build but lacking none of the aspects that make timber frames so special. That vision today has me energetically boxing up throw pillows to donate to charity.

Can we just talk about throw pillows for a minute? I am by no means immune to their allure, and it has nothing to do their ability to cradle the head for a nap. I spend idle moments scrolling through pages of pillows of various colors, textures and fibers for fun, picturing how each would perch in its assigned place and communicate something in particular. A rough, colorful, recycled kilim would say, “these people are wordly and well-travelled.” An ombre velvet of subdued color … “these people are sophisticated.” An off-white canvas screen-printed with “Live, Laugh, Love” … “these people are warm and family-oriented.” My latest temptation? A white silky square embroidered with “All you need is less.” Do minimalists really need, or want, throw pillows?

I resist, reminding myself that living in a timber frame home is the ultimate statement of its occupants’ identity. Throw pillows, and any other type of decor, although perfectly acceptable and admittedly lovely, distract from the loveliness of the wood. Holy moly, the wood ... with its glow, its warmth, its resonant scent of the forest. Also, a timber frame is a structure built to shelter people, lots of people, and I’ve always thought a timber frame home would be the perfect gathering place for family and friends. Its open space unpartitioned by weight-bearing walls, its incomparable head room, and no need to be continually pushing aside pillows in order to sit on the couch. No pillows needed at all to achieve such comfort and style.

So for today, my commitment to minimalism is winning over my ego, and the vision of our someday timber frame rises hopefully in my mind.