The Minimalist Store is my latest online addiction! It’s curated and run by designer, blogger and stylist Leah Robins, who compiles a unique and eye-catching collection of designer homewares for those that relish a minimal décor with a pop of colour and curios. In its own words, The Minimalist isn’t about buying less, but buying better. After months of indulging a love for innovative and minimal design through Leah’s online store and inspiring blog, I’m very excited to share this interview with you! Leah shares her thoughts on Australian design, the Minimalist Store, her inspirations and more. Enjoy!
Tell us about The Minimalist Store. What will we love here?
At The Minimalist Store, we source pieces for the home and office from Australia and around the globe. There’s an emphasis on unique, designer-made, small-batch and limited-edition finds. We love working directly with emerging designers and avoid mass production unless we wholeheartedly believe in the design and concept.
The collection that best represents what The Minimalist Store is all about is the Faceture collection by Phil Cuttance. Each piece in the collection — which consists of vessels, light shades and a side table — is made by hand using a single-use mould for an inherit value.
You’re a designer, blogger and stylist. Do you have a preferred hat?
I don’t really have a favourite, they’re quite closely intertwined. I strongly believe you should do what you love and I am so incredibly lucky that I have the opportunity to be creative and share my passion with like-minded people on a daily basis. I am particularly excited by the styling projects I am doing at the moment for The Minimalist Store.
I live above my (small) design studio and spend many, many hours into the night there! I am definitely a night owl and I find it very hard to switch off sometimes.
How did you make the move from stylist to online retailer?
The Minimalist Store was created out of a desire for something different for my own home and for the homes and offices of my clients. As a designer, I was feeling swamped by replicas and mass-produced pieces that had nothing more to offer than face value. I wanted to feel a connection to a piece I was bringing into my home and, I have found through The Minimalist Store and blog, that I’m not alone!
I have always wanted to curate my own store for as long as I can remember and, after putting it off and finding every reason not to, I finally realised that there will never be a perfect time to do it, so it may as well be now! A lot of people around me thought I was crazy, but the last few months have been an amazing adventure and huge learning curve. The opportunities and people I have met in such a short space of time make all the hard work and stress worthwhile.
Describe your personal style. Does it favour a minimalist approach?
My personal style has evolved many times but, there are some enduring themes that never seem to change. Quality over quantity is a big one. When it comes to colour, black and white is timeless – I love it in my home, I love wearing it and I love using it in my work. I have been told that I have a very masculine style. I love deep hues and straight lines mixed with earthy timbers and a pop of white. My personal style is reflected in each and every piece at The Minimalist Store. There is not a single piece I would not have in my own home. And that is one of my top criteria for everything we have. If I don’t love it, we don’t have it!
What is it you’re looking for when curating products for The Minimalist Store?
I look for a unique style and something with a story. We look for pieces that are handmade with traditional materials and/or techniques used in new ways. We love bold styling and unique collaborations, and pieces made by artisans that would otherwise be hard to find or unavailable in Australia.
You put a great emphasis on sourcing products that come straight from the designer as opposed to being mass-produced. Why is this important to you?
As industrial designer, Dieter Rams famously said, “There is no longer room for irrelevant things. We have no longer got the resources. Irrelevance is out.” I think the question is why more people don’t feel that it’s important to surround themselves with pieces they love, that are unique, and that have a purpose.
My grandparents’ home was filled with special things that came attached to special memories. Their home didn’t change with trends and fads like homes do today. Everything they owned was built to last, or was made especially for them by an artisan. Those kinds of homes are the best in my opinion. They have a special substance and I believe we can all have that feeling in our environments no matter what your style or budget is.
What is it you love about a minimal design?
I think the world is a very busy and very cluttered place, and there’s something about minimalist design that I find very calming and serene. I love a space where there may not be a lot of ‘things’, but there’s a wonderful feel and perfect functionality. I love clean surfaces, clean walls, large blocks of a single colour, big open windows and high ceilings, too.
You source products for The Minimalist Store both locally in Australia and internationally. What do you think of the current state of Australian design?
Australia has a huge wealth of talent that’s under recognised. We have products at two ends of the spectrum available in the country right now: big name designers that can be found at big name retail giants; and replicas of big name designers at replica retailers. At The Minimalist Store, we’re trying to create a platform to showcase emerging designers that often feel stuck in the middle of this spectrum.
What is your dream creative project?
I’m really inspired by the gorilla gardening movement and, despite living in a terrace house in Surry Hills NSW, with no lawn or garden space, I have managed to spread some greenery – little by little – along the footpath outside — shhh!
I’m also loving the ‘edible outdoor rooms’ that Sam Crawford Architects in Sydney have created. So my current dream creative project would be redesigning dead and under-used spaces into herb gardens, space for beautiful flowers and trees, and softening the sometimes harsh cityscape.
I have a huge passion for print, too. My father was a designer and printer and used to do typesetting by hand! So I would love to create a printed bodywork that incorporated the now outdated processes of printing that my father was taught.
Where would you like to take your business and yourself creatively in the coming years?
I have many big ideas and they change daily! We have grand plans for a bricks and mortar store in Surry Hills which I want to be a collaborative and ever-changing space that showcases our unique products as well as works from students and young designers. I would love to help take ideas and concepts to creations, too. Urban renewal and urban planning is another great interest of mine.
Where do you turn to for inspiration?
I am strongly influenced by Scandinavian designers and stylists. My favourite stylist is Susanna Vento, who designs our Varpunen sacks. I also find inspiration simply by walking through the streets near my home. I love buildings, beautiful gardens, old books and time-worn furniture.
What other creative outlets do you indulge in outside of The Minimalist and your styling at Collective Design Studio?
I really enjoy gardening, not that I am very good at it! I am a very amateur DIY-er, I love giving old things a lick of paint — especially chairs! Is playing and designing homes on The Sims considered a legitimate creative pursuit? I believe it is, or at least should be!