Live Like A Minimalist — All The Secrets From A Design Pro

Sometimes, we look around and wonder how we've accumulated so much stuff. Tchotchke mountains seem to materialize out of nowhere, and piles of unnecessary purchases clutter the corners. We live in a culture of acquiring, and our homes end up being the dumping ground. Creating a clean, edited sanctuary of pieces we truly love is hard work — and, it doesn't happen overnight.
Anne Hellman knows a thing or two about this. Not only is she the author of Design Brooklyn, a gorgeous coffee table book about modern design and innovation, but she and her husband remodeled their own Greek Revival-style home in Brooklyn, and she's spent years honing her collection of furniture. Her light-filled, aspirational three-story townhouse is an edited dream. We may not have her square footage, but we can take all of her advice on hanging art and choosing colors. Who feels a small-space purge coming on?
Advertisement
1 of 19
Photographed by Julia Robbs.
Over the past 10 years, how have you seen attitudes in interior design change?
"People are very conscious of their space now. How much stuff they have — what they really need. When you move into a room, you wonder if you need more than one couch, more than one table? I think there's a younger generation of design-minded people that's growing, which is exciting. Before, I think we allocated design to that esoteric and maybe even privileged zone. Now, people are thinking about it like, ‘Wait a second, how do we design better housing? How do we design space in a better way?' Reusing things, recycling — that’s where the industry is getting really exciting. Because younger minds are coming into it, there is more innovation."
2 of 19
Photographed by Julia Robbs.
Your home is very spacious, especially for a place in Brooklyn. How can anyone master that minimalist look, no matter their space?
"Before rushing in to buy a whole room full of furniture, just go one piece at a time. Obviously we all need something to sit on, but I wouldn’t rush around looking for a set of anything. Very likely, you have a piece from your parents or something from a friend that will suffice for a while. If it kind of grows on you, that’s fine. You don’t have to run around finding all new things. You can just slowly add a piece at a time."
3 of 19
Photographed by Julia Robbs.
Various textures and pops of color fill Hellman's front parlor room. The celling lamp is from Brooklyn design firm Pelle.
4 of 19
Photographed by Julia Robbs.
What's the first thing to do when moving into a new space?
"When we moved into the house in 2011, we put all the furniture in loosely, but the first thing we did is hang the art. If you have artwork that is important to you, you should arrange around it.
5 of 19
Photographed by Julia Robbs.
The plastic blue and green chairs are for Hellman's two younger children, which help for easy clean up. An added bonus: Mismatched chairs lend an eclectic note to the eating area.
Advertisement
6 of 19
Photographed by Julia Robbs.
What do you love about minimalism?
"It’s hard to edit, but being satisfied with empty space can be calming and fulfilling. Both my husband and I had a lot of fun decorating this house. I do get anxious about finishing a room and can get impatient, but my main advice is to take a deep breath and try to be as patient as you can. Because, rooms take forever to grow organically, and I think that’s okay. It actually ends up being better in the end."
7 of 19
Hellman kept a photo diary of the year they renovated the building to remember what it looked like before.
8 of 19
Photographed by Julia Robbs.
How do you keep the space from being too serious?
"When you have kids, you can't not let them mess around with stuff. And, we realized that the art we have is rather kid-like. We have a lot of friends who are talented, talented artists, but so youthful."
9 of 19
Photographed by Julia Robbs.
Have an odd nook? Squeeze a cabinet into it, and curate a little vignette, like this notch in the living room.
10 of 19
Art can be so expensive to buy and frame. What do you suggest?
"Ask a friend who is an artist or photographer if they can create a piece for you to put on your wall. Cliché, but look in your own backyard to your friends, your family.

"And, framing doesn’t have to expensive — you can just go to IKEA. Maybe one day you can frame it more nicely, but for now, you can get inexpensive ones and frame them yourself."
Advertisement
11 of 19
Photographed by Julia Robbs.
The baby blue and minty green chairs were vintage pieces that Hellman had reupholstered.
12 of 19
Photographed by Julia Robbs.
The similar browns from the leather sofa and countertop unite the kitchen and living room space.
13 of 19
Photographed by Julia Robbs.
Cabinets are your best friend.
14 of 19
Photographed by Julia Robbs.
You mix many textures and finishes together, which gives a minimalist space so much character. Is that intentional?
"Yes, I think it's a good way to give a streamlined space some color. Otherwise, you end up with just black and white, and we wanted more. So, from the beginning, we worked with this reclaimed elm wood on the floor that's light. But, then we wanted darker wood accents, so we did walnut on all of the railings and ledge."
15 of 19
Photographed by Julia Robbs.
Hellman's father-in-law, Ken White, painted this portrait of his future wife at age 23, on the occasion of their engagement. The statement piece stands out in the otherwise bare hallway.
Advertisement
16 of 19
Photographed by Julia Robbs.
Using two rugs cleverly separates a larger space into a dining room and separate sitting area.
17 of 19
Photographed by Julia Robbs.
This shelf on the second floor is a lesson in restraint.
18 of 19
Photographed by Julia Robbs.
Architects Jen and Roy Leone created a staircase that connects all three floors and allows family members to talk to each other from any level. Heavy oak doors on the bedrooms keep things from becoming too noisy.
19 of 19
Photographed by Julia Robbs.
If you're wondering where all the personal items go, the upstairs den houses the family TV, collection of books, and vacation photos. Also, though much of the artwork throughout the house looks like it could have come from the MoMA, it's really the handiwork of her artistic kids.
Advertisement