Is Less More or is Less a Bore?

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe vs. Robert Venturi, Jr.


Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe adopted the motto “Less is more” in describing his aesthetic for extreme simplicity in the Modern Architecture movement. Modern Architecture is also known for its minimalism; buildings were functional and economical rather than comfortable and beautifully decorated. Starkness won out over ornamentation.

Architect Robert Venturi, Jr., by contrast, said “Less is a bore”. Venturi desired and sought to bring back ornamental and decorative elements to architecture. The decorative elements in buildings provide both needed and necessary variety.

I tend to prefer detailing in architecture. Imagine the French window. The arch. Crown molding. Wainscot. They all bring visual art to an otherwise blank canvas.

Note the details on this house exterior.

Here's a charming gate with beautiful hardware.
Detailed ironwork and lantern.

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I’ve also been in modern homes where the walls were glass and the “art” was nature herself outside the windows. Nature always captures my attention and I can easily live in a home with walls of windows with beautiful views. For me, this style of less is definitely more.
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Modern Home with Center Atrium in Minneapolis
Floor to ceiling windows provide expansive outdoor views.

There will likely always be a variety of homes for buyers to choose from: homes that offer great detailing and homes that offer minimal detailing. Which type do you prefer?
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41 Comments

  1. D Light says:

    Nice photographs. Great way to promote your work. You may wish to check out my site although the topic is not the same. Its a bit of fun. D

  2. Patrick says:

    First one! I love old houses and the more detailed the better.

  3. krystianastacykelly says:

    Beautiful pictures.
    Krystiana

    1. designhouse9 says:

      Thank you, Krystiana. And you have a beautiful name.

  4. NiceArtLife says:

    Amazingly beautiful house, a real palace. I love the contrast of the light blue windows and the white stones. It reminds me of a country house near the river Loire in central France near Orléans. Great!

    1. designhouse9 says:

      It is a beautiful house and I, too, love the contrast between the light blue and the white. The current owners clearly take pride in maintaining it. I’m told it was designed by architect Edwin Lundie. You can learn more about him here: http://shop.mnhs.org/moreinfomhspress.cfm?Product_ID=2315&category=80

  5. melanirae says:

    I don’t discriminate. I love more and I love less. I’m crazy that way!

    1. BrassNote says:

      True.
      Sometimes effective design, simple or more detailed, can depend on the environment where the design is placed.
      Both have function.

  6. infamousqbert says:

    i love the look of modern architecture and design, but i find myself drawn to older homes with more classic designs. my favorite, though, is the feeling of early 20th century homes (pre-1950s) that have bigger, more open floor plans, along with that older home charm in the detail. something happened to home design in the 50s where they decided to break up all the rooms with lots of walls so everything feels cramped. i love the open-flow feeling of the 1920/30s cottages around Dallas. the rooms may not be big, but they were designed with big windows and not too many walls between living spaces, so you never feel cramped.

  7. Karin says:

    I love the first set of pictures with the black hooks that hold back the shutters. Do they even make houses with those that aren’t only in historic districts?!
    Right now I’m into several different types of interior design concepts I like. I feel that if can’t alway replicate “old” so if you buy something “old” then you can make it what you want. You can make the inside to match or make it something all together different. I do miss the structure of a house that was built with care! You just don’t find it anymore.

    1. designhouse9 says:

      Karin,
      I have to agree with you. They just don’t make homes the way they used to which is why I’m a big fan of preservation.
      Kate

  8. Gloriadelia says:

    Love the open spaces and windows, and I agree with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe — less is more. It applies to everything but chocolate. 🙂

  9. izziedarling says:

    Love the first. Work on a design team that would love the #2. Whoops!

  10. I tend to go for both fine detail and open space with warm simplicity. Our strawbale timberframe home (la casa de insparacion has a link of its own page on my blog) has this artful combination.

  11. ramonakent says:

    I love small, warm and cozy and lots of windows!!

    Ramona Kent
    Author of
    ~Anomar’s Journey~

  12. Breland Kent says:

    Very nice…I like the photos 😉

  13. leilasummers says:

    Beautiful Photography! Less is definitely more, and this goes for most things in life. That’s not to say that the detailing isn’t far more gracious, in a simple way. I prefer anything old, from the days when folk still had time to create with integrity and care. Modern makes me feel stressed just by looking at it! Call me old-fashioned…

  14. myphotoscout says:

    I subscribe to the less is more philosophy. That is until a certain point when less becomes nothing substantial.

  15. rutheh says:

    Yes, the photos look like Architectural Digest!
    I subscribe to your blog now because you commented on mine.
    Good thoughts about Less Is More…
    Thanks
    rutheh.wordpress.com

    1. designhouse9 says:

      Thanks for subscribing and welcome aboard!

  16. lan says:

    Maybe it’s old but really natural look. N0 need to re-paint it.
    Keep it natural way.

  17. When the more is more looks like a wedding cake gone wrong, I am not happy with it. However, the moldings and details on the first house were just enough.
    As much as I enjoyed the modern setting, I could see how all of those windows would be too much distraction. It was beautiful but not what I would want. Then again, I am a total slob and am always throwing stuff out so I can have less clutter and more open space.

  18. I’m definitely a less is more girl – a Realtor for 48 years now. these shots were perfect to back up your message.

  19. Laura says:

    I think I like the “less is more” aesthetic, but that’s just personal opinion. Partly, it’s because I keep thinking it would be easier to clean the less things it has!

  20. slowoodworker says:

    Well, I was certainly fooled by your headline. I was thinking “less is more” as in footprint. Neither of these houses is “less”. The biggest problem (IMHO) with houses today is that they are huge. Now, the brick house is no cottage either, but probably the original family had several kids, & Grandma & Grandpa living there too. (Maybe Slaves also?) The family used all that room. With the glass house, what do you figure; Mom, Dad & maybe two kids? Or, more likely, DINKs.

    Also, who decorated that place?

    Sorry, obviously we all have different tastes.

  21. Songbird says:

    How beautiful! Especially the interior shots. I love the huge windows, thats what I always look for in a house or an apartment- big windows to let the light in!!

  22. Herlina says:

    For now (I’m in my mid 20s) I think less is more but when I get older (hopefully when I can afford it), I definitely want a house with more details!

  23. bookjunkie says:

    i like something in between. I love the idea of nature through the glass too. Wood always lends that element of warm and would be my pick. Your shots are gorgeous by the way 🙂

    1. designhouse9 says:

      Thanks. Glad you are enjoying the photos.

  24. Less on a building in terms of architecture can have a certain timeless quality to it. Sometimes, we at The Mid-Atlantic Lounge enjoy exquisite over-the-top extravagance, but sometimes it gets to a point where it can be quite overbearing. In that case, less is more because the eyes sometimes need a rest from overstimulation and bombardment.

  25. rubiescorner says:

    Thanks for showing this particular house. I love the pictures, and the details. I especially love the inside view. This is a nice, ornate, home even in its simplicity.

    1. designhouse9 says:

      The photos in this post are of three different homes. The exterior shots are of one home, and the two interior shots are of two more homes. The interior of the first home does not have the walls of glass that the second two have.

  26. raisingable says:

    We have a house with many windows overlooking a pond, which requires we limit what we can hang on the walls 😦

    The photos are gorgeous.

    1. designhouse9 says:

      Yes, many windows do limit the available wall space for artwork. Isn’t this a perfect opportunity to rotate your art though? Thanks for letting me know how much you like the photos. I certainly enjoy taking them.

  27. Lori Schmidt Lutze says:

    I’m starting to love less more and more!!

  28. Less has always been more for me. Never subscribed to the over-ornamented aesthetic.

  29. sketchseven says:

    For me, less is definitely more. I prefer minimal, modern architecture with a lot of natural materials to provide some colour/texture. I’m also a big fan of clever or original design solutions to common problems – I would find that attractive in a property.

    That said, I do like a building that looks as if it has some history. For me, the modern/high-tech-conversion-of-an-older-building is a big draw.

  30. Tim Cutbush says:

    I love the modern houses, some great pictures here.
    Good blog.

  31. Annie says:

    While I LOVE nature as the backdrop, when it gets dark, your “walls” are simply all black. I love the art of architecture – not smooth straight lines, but curves and accents and all the rest.

    This is my first visit here… I’ll certainly be back.

    1. designhouse9 says:

      Annie,
      Yes, it can go black at night. I’ve been in houses with glass walls that had exterior lighting in the trees so that one had a visual at night as well. And it always seemed as though we were focused on family time or a movie or TV show so that we were not aware of the darkness outside. The focus became the inside at night.
      Kate

  32. Redeker says:

    Legendary post. I enjoy this spectacular site. I found you along freshly pressed!

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