No Judgment, But Why All The Bling?

I’d like to discuss this photograph: Is it minimalism? Is it staged? Is it attractive? Does it matter? But first . . .

Photo by Jeffrey Czum on

This is one of those blogs where what I have to say is purely a matter of taste and opinion. In fact, aren’t they all? The word excess in the title certainly has a negative connotation. You have your taste, I have my taste, and my taste is the right taste — I kid.

I Will Get to That Photo in a Moment

Let me be clear that this is coming from an average Joe. I do not have a design degree, I do not get paid to do design work, and I do not know very much about design. Now some would say that gays have a design gene; I’d like to think that was true, however, we know it’s false. There is one small thing that leads me to believe that I have a good sense of color, light, and “tasteful” design. I worked for Dorothy Hamilton who owned The French Culinary Institute in New York City. My job description did not include interior design, but . . . I was in fact the lead person on several expansion projects. In that role I got to choose furnishings, wall color, and finishes. I would have to run my ideas by Dorothy, but I would say 90% of the time she liked what I showed her. After a number of years of successful project management, Dorothy told her staff that I was to be the “go to” person for the look and feel of the facilities (70,000 sq. ft.) and a campus in California (don’t recall, but at least 30,000 sq. ft.). I do not like to toot my own horn, ergo, I have to say, this particular distinction made me very proud. Obviously, I do not need to justify having an opinion, but there you go. Also, see link to profile article on me at the end of this piece.

The Photograph: In my humble opinion the only reason what you see in the above photograph could be considered minimalism, is all of the blank space around the window. It draws your eyes to the center of the photograph — the focal point. It makes you feel good. It’s pretty and takes you to Europe. Not a lot of clutter or color. It transports you back to simpler times. The building might be old and possibly historical or it might be a fairly new building made to look older. I like the shutters and I love the flower boxes. My criticism is that it looks a bit staged and a bit too feminine. But all that empty space around the windows, the muted colors, and the rust streaks in a couple of places, make it a very attractive photograph; a place I’d like to be.


Definition of minimalism: a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity.

Minimalism is all about living with less. This includes less financial burdens such as debt and unnecessary expenses. … For many minimalists, the philosophy is about getting rid of excess stuff and living life based on experiences rather than worldly possessions.

I hate clutter, I hate dust, I hate waste, I hate having “things” in drawers and closets that I will never use, I hate thinking about all this stuff; too much stuff jams up your brain. This hatred does not drive my stylistic preferences. If you normally have a maximum of three people sitting in and using a living room, why do you need two big sofas? If once a month or twice a year you have eight people sitting in the living room, add chairs when you need them. Excess furniture makes a space feel smaller and more cramped. This has an impact on how you feel in the space; meaning that you consciously or unconsciously feel that the world is closing in on you — you feel anxious.I’m not fond of feeling anxious.

The same is true for knick-knacks, small objects that have no real functional use. These items tend to collect dust and take up space. When I look at the photograph below, this is what comes to mind: open, clean, fresh, stunning, inviting, and peaceful.

Photo by Patryk Kamenczak on

Some of you may look at the same photograph and think: bare, empty, sparse, over-designed and cold. Admittedly, I would add a couple of nightstands, some books, and a simple side chair. I especially love the wood floor and the floor to ceiling windows. It feels like there is no barrier between the inside and outside, making the room seem even larger than it actually is. You are made to feel as if you are living in nature; magnificent and powerful.

Advantages to minimal design:

  • fewer objects to clean
  • you can budget less for furniture
  • option to add chairs for seating if you need to
  • easier to make changes
  • a splash of color can brighten things up (pop)

Whatever Makes You Comfortable

One thing that that I find troubling about design is how snooty the industry can be. Interior design professionals are for the most part well paid, and they should be. To be a good designer you have to know your stuff and it’s obviously hard work. I had clients in my consulting business who were: indecisive, picky, entitled, angry, know-it-alls — and this is when they were being cooperative. Having stated this, when it comes to designers, I still believe there is an air of they know better than you. I would argue that no one knows better than you. You know what you like, you know what makes you comfortable, and you know what you want. You are the boss in this scenario.

If you’re like me, you prefer certain colors to others. You might like big and bold furniture or you might want to go in the opposite direction. You might prefer your walls to be bright and filled with artwork from top to bottom. I love white walls in an open space; it provides a blank canvas. Sometimes people go overboard with accent colors and they end up dominating a space. Again, it should be whatever you like.

I find that keeping my bedroom simple and uncluttered, helps me sleep better. White, crisp cotton sheets, a subtle color on the walls, clean lines, and a minimal amount of furniture (I like built-ins); these things make me happy. I don’t spend much time in my bedroom, but the time I spend there should be restful. I no longer sleep like I slept when I was a teenager.


Fifteen years ago I was fortunate enough to purchase a little country house in Pennsylvania (PA). I was thinking about how I might furnish the house and equip the kitchen. I pondered: before I go out and buy more “stuff,” let me see what I have in my apartment that I could take to PA. Three car loads later, my kitchen was completely outfitted; no lie I had two of everything in Brooklyn, and all I had to purchase was a couple of beds and a few other pieces of furniture to make the house in PA comfortable and functional. You might ask what I was doing with all of that excess stuff in Brooklyn? Darned if I know. I learned a great lesson about accumulating things and why it would be prudent to try and avoid that in the future . . . and for the most part, I have.

I find that friends are great for helping you edit. I have a number of friends who have no problem telling me what they think.

I will not be writing about hoarding, that’s a whole other issue. All I can say is I feel sorry for people who cannot part with things. I find tossing out or giving away stuff I don’t need, to be cleansing and gratifying.

Minimalism when dressing and wearing jewelry is usually also more attractive. Sometimes people wear six bracelets, three wrist watches, five necklaces, and nine lapel pins; what am I supposed to look at? Several belts, t-shirts over t-shirts, and so on, make up your mind. Edit yourself people. Simplicity and restraint will win the day. Again, just my opinion.

The House Special: Christopher Papagni Elevates Portland’s Restaurant Scene

Click on title above and it will take you to a profile piece about me done in Old Port Magazine, Portland, Maine.

Minimalist Typography Poster - FREE DOWNLOAD | Frases minimalistas ...

4 thoughts on “Simplicity vs. Excess

  1. Hey Mr. P!
    I too have called upon your gay super powers many years ago when I asked you if the collar on the shirt I was wearing should be tucked in or out of the jacket I had on. ( do you remember?)
    Please notice that I said your Gay super powers and not your super gay powers. 🤔


  2. You always make me laugh Matt and for that I am grateful. Do I remember the collar incident? I’m afraid not, but I have other friends who have made the same claim. You are cherished.


  3. Hi Christopher!
    I just read your “keep it simple” piece and the article about your Portland, Maine apartment. Such a coincidence because I just returned from a family vacation in Maine- just outside of Portland. Crescent Lake to be exact. We are at Eventide Oyster Company. Fun to hear your take on the downtown area! Hope all well with you!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.