Interiorssneak peeks

Living The “New Minimalism” Lifestyle in 340 Square Feet

by Maxwell Tielman

I don’t consider myself a clutter-bug by any means, but there are most definitely times in my life when I wish I could have a professional come into my home, really tell it like it is, and force help me to get rid of all of the things I don’t need. Call it Living-In-The-Modern-World Syndrome. Luckily, there actually are professionals who take on such tasks, like Kyle Quilici, one-half of the team at the Bay Area’s New Minimalism. Established in 2013 to address the need for sustainable clean-sweeping, New Minimalism is a thoroughly fresh take on the idea of personal organizing. With an emphasis on recycling, reusing, and a reduced environmental footprint, the company has redefined what it means to live minimally.

Late last year, when Kyle was forced to vacate her affordable shared loft in San Francisco, she took it as an opportunity to find a place to herself—one where she could truly practice what she preaches. What she found was a small, thin-walled, 340-square-foot apartment near the city’s Japantown. No stranger to living with little, Kyle managed to transform the tiny space into a showroom of sorts for the “New” minimalist style—one that is full of life and color, but free of brain-draining clutter. Outfitted in vintage pieces and only objects that are truly needed and loved, the space is a testament to Kyle and New Minimalism’s mission. —Max

Photographs by Kelly Ishikawa.

Image above: Kyle’s bedroom. “Even though the studio is only 340 square feet,” she says, “I wanted to give the bed its due space. Putting the bed on this wall allows two people to comfortably get in and out, a design principle we always recommend at New Minimalism, especially for clients who are looking for love.” The headboard is constructed from a fruit-drying tray purchased at a flea market.



Image above: The living room, as seen from the bedroom. “Placing the couch parallel to the fireplace makes the fireplace the focal point, an element I wanted to highlight, especially since I don’t have a television,” Kyle says. “I also live Internet-free, which was a New Minimalism experiment that ended up sticking. It makes me get out of the house to do focused Internet work and keeps me very present and centered when I’m home. I think that’s why my house is so clean and why I’ve read more books this year – no Internet!”

See more of this minimalist home after the jump!


Image above: “A wood-burning fireplace is a rarity in San Francisco,” Kyle notes, “and this one is regularly put to use during the fall and winter months. We love to play Scrabble or chess on the rug while listening to the crackle of the fire.”



Image above: A tiny library of books that Kyle regularly references sits along one of the living room walls.  “The photo is an image I took on a hot summer night when I used to live in Greenpoint, Brooklyn,” Kyle says. “My roommate was playing around with a jump rope and I was playing around with my camera’s flash. I like that it is off-kilter, and that her face is obscured by her hair. She almost looks like she’s floating in space, and her skin has a luminosity that only film can capture. My boyfriend and his crew with Kloudwalker Design printed the image on canvas and stretched it over a wooden frame for me.”


Image above: Kyle’s record-player console was a Craigslist find—an old IKEA cabinet that was hacked to be lower to the ground. “I decided to paint this wall a pop of pink,” Kyle says, “which I had customized at the paint store. I landed on pink because it is unexpected, bright and modern compared to the given browns and red-oranges found in the space. I placed a rope light behind the console, so at night the wall glows from orange to pink. It looks pretty great! While my apartment gets great natural light during the day, it is at its best at nighttime. The windows look out onto a huge steeple of a modern cathedral across the street. The vintage neon treble clef is a nod to my piano lesson days as a child; it also glows pink.” 



Image above: “This glass piece was handmade by a local badass artist named Lisa,” Kyle says. “She calls her creations Sacred Glass because there is a lot of theory behind the shapes. It was a gift from my boyfriend, who has a very green thumb and created the little interior garden, complete with accent rocks of interest.” The brass candlestick was a gift from Kyle’s grandmother.


Image above: “My tiny kitchen is just the right size,” Kyle says. “I cook a lot of dinners at home and I love the simplicity of a small space. The secret, aside from not having too much stuff, is to find miniature-sized kitchen items. What would be considered a medium-sized mixing bowl is actually a large mixing bowl in my kitchen. If I had large items that barely fit into my cabinets, I would get frustrated with the space.” Kyle painted the island a chocolate brown so that it would visually recede into the background. The stools are a Craigslist find. 


Image above: “A peek inside my cabinets reveals that I keep my cabinets pretty spartan,” Kyle says. “I was able to find 90% of my kitchen items at secondhand stores. The bunny and raccoon heads are my holiday decorations. In their off-duty months they keep an eye on the plates, cups and mugs.”


Image above: “This is my attempt to make lemonade out of lemons,” Kyle says. “I worked within the negative space to give some intentionality to the wall. The light switch plate is from my boyfriend, who carried it around for years, apparently so it could live on my wall. The quote by Frank Lloyd Wright reads ‘If you invest in beauty it will stay with you all the days of your life.’ I had it custom made by Union Press in Boston. Oh, and the small print is of a huge wall decal I first saw at Area Ware. I printed it for an interior design class and want to one day use it in my home, or maybe in the New Minimalism headquarters, once we have a dedicated office space. “


Image above: The entryway functions as a landing space for keys, shoes, and bags. 


Image above: “I am lucky that I have a large entry closet,” Kyle says. “By leaving this closet space mostly empty, I was able to conceal my boyfriend’s and my own bike in the closet. We bike everywhere, and I love my bike, but I prefer to not look at it while relaxing at home.”


Source List


Living Room:


  • Shelf – found new on Craigslist, but made by EQ3
  • Photo by me, printed and framed by Kloudwalker Design
  • Elephant: vintage piece by JARU


  • Stools – used from Craigslist


  • Mirror – a street find
  • Stool – vintage from Home Consignment
  • Painting by MAGNA Paint

Suggested For You


  • This is a really cute space, and I really appreciate the way she’s crafted it out of such a small studio. I’d love to see how Kyle would style a space for a family with kids, a workspace in the home, etc.

  • Lovely. But I’m curious… I can’t see any clothes storage! There must be some somewhere, right?

  • Yes where do they keep their clothes and books? These are the things that I have a problem to minimise, so they spill over everywhere, but I can’t get rid of books.

  • Gorgeous! This perfectly illustrates how a space can be streamlined and also warm, cozy, and whimsical. Also japantown is the best.

  • Venice I have books piled everywhere right now! It’s getting out of control.

    This post is inspiring to me, as I am getting to a point where I need to do a MAJOR purge and I don’t know where to start.
    It’s daunting!
    Wish I was in The Bay area as I could enlist help from New Minimalism.

    Anyone have any suggestions how to start something like this?
    I am a maker, so I always feel like I may need something for a future project.
    I also am one who has a myriad of sentimental attachments to things.


  • Thank you for the comments! To answer some questions – Kelsey, we declutter many family and commercial spaces and it all comes down to identifying the occupants’ top 3-5 needs/functions of the space, and designing from there. Jessica, the globe light I found at the Alameda Flea Market. It has a little damage on the top so I was able to haggle it for $50. E & Venice, Great observations! The clothes are stored in two closets that lead to the bathroom (in photo #11 you can sort of glimpse the bathroom here). But like the kitchen cabinets, I keep it simple here as well. Venice & Ashley, books and clothes can be tough. Here are a couple of tips: keep only the books you regularly reference or truly plan to re-read or read within the next few months. Donate everything else to you local library. And at the same time, get a library card :) With clothes, when it is time for you to do laundry, look at all the remaining clean clothes in your closet. If it is in season, and it is not a special occasion piece, chances are you don’t really love wearing it. And even so, there are plenty of clothes and items that I love to appreciate but actively decided to keep out of my home, in order to reduce the number of decisions I make on a daily basis. Hope this helps! We have a lot of tips on our blog (check out Oct 2014 archives), which I’ve hyperlinked as my website here.

  • Congratulations, they did a great job of capturing all the intention that went into creating your space. How rewarding. Go Nem Minimalism!

  • So glad I read this post… have checked out New Minimalism’s blog and it’s awesome!!!

  • Thank you Alix and John :) Lulu- the rug was actually found from a clean home on Craigslist! But the owner said she originally purchased it from Macy’s. It is 100% wool. Hope that helps!

  • I find this home tour and general lifestyle extremely insightful and inspiring. I have felt the need to declutter my home and life for a while now, and this tour and their website found me at just the right time. Beautiful home–thank you for sharing!

  • While this apartment is cute, I don’t see Minimalism at all. To me there’s nothing minimal about kitschy clutter like a neon treble clef, bunting, or things stacked on the floor. I understand that it’s just a name, but when you use a word like that it comes with very a very specific history and meaning… just something to think about.

    • Sarah

      While minimalism has a clear history in the world of art and design, this post discussed “the new minimalism” for a reason- it’s a contemporary expression of that specific history and is most often seen as a desire to simplify and lessen the amount we keep in our homes. While you may find some of these items ‘kitschy’, I don’t see clutter anywhere in this home. I see a few areas where there are a collection of books, etc. but nothing that would strike me as clutter or against the idea of living with less.


  • This is really inspiring, having recently moved into 480 sq ft (for two) and feeling a bit stuck as far as clutter goes. This helps me to see where I can simplify more—that kitchen!

    Also love your clothes idea in the comment above! Heading over to the blog…

  • Thank you Kyle, I am inspired to sort out my things, clothes and books, I actually live in the biggest house I have ever owned and it’s beginning to feel small. I have done the kitchen already, I found that easy bit!

  • It is so lovely…..ahhhh. The Texas contingent is enjoying your beautiful creations over thanksgiving breakfast. We are so proud of you. Love how you have incorporated memory laden items in the décor.

  • I like it !
    Especially the living-room… I like the idea of playing chess while listening to the fire…
    Thanks for sharing !

  • Wow! Kyle sure admire you for keeping it simple. What happens to us as we age…clutter. Nancy and Cindi did a great job helping my sister Marian. I’m down sizing with clothes being the simple way to start. Your comment about books also is helpful. We become attached to things that bring back memories.

  • Really like this aesthetic and love the way how there’s just a few well curated pieces thoughtfully placed… We have recently bought a teeny tiny house in Edinburgh and this post has inspired me to minimise our belongings further… fabulous

  • I can’t claim that my home is completely minimalist, but it surely isn’t
    cluttered, and most people I know would call it a pretty minimalist
    home. Clutter is a form of visual distraction, and everything in our vision pulls at our attention at least a little. The less clutter, the less visual stress we have. A minimalist home is calming. I did not manage it alone but with the help of an interior designer

  • I love this space! It is my dream to one day downsize substantially and live like this.

  • From some picture above, my eyes fixed on the picture, namely ‘Sacred Glass’. It’s very unique and appropriate to complement the minimalist style.

  • The young generation has been screwed in more than one way and they seem to be happy too…..