I don’t know when, precisely, my dislike for minimalism started but it may have been over half a decade ago, at Tate Modern. A blank white canvas with a mirror doesn’t tell me to look deep into my soul. It tells me that the person behind the work is a very lazy artist. Most design, architecture and art I’ve admired has always contained a bit of ostentatious foreplay at the very least.
I have often struggled with Scandinavian design. I’d stare for hours at what they’d call art and architecture and still wouldn’t be able to see the “beauty” and/or “effort” behind it. To me it lacked a basic evolving thought process. You can’t really blame me for that opinion when hotels like the Radisson Blue in Copenhagen pride themselves on their rooms and suites looking like airport lounges. Seriously, what is so great about looking like an airport lounge? In my world, seats that remind me of cramped planes or sterile environments never feel luxurious. Perhaps this mindset has something to do with my Indian heritage; in India, design, art and architecture is the very opposite of minimal. They go all out: no colour is spared, no inch of the canvas is left bare, and every tile in every building is a little work of art in itself. That’s the kind of almost “overboard” design attitude I am used to – so maybe it’s no wonder there’s no room left in my affections for minimalism.
Earlier this year however I had to head to Copenhagen for work. For Copenhagen Fashion Week, I was being put up in a designer aparthotel called Stay. I imagined a farrago of minimalist trends. A dress with a line striking through the middle, or a bulb hanging from a black cable, were going to be held up as the epitome of great design; I’d just have to groan inwardly. At least, I thought to myself, I knew what not to waste my time with, once I’d made polite compliments: I’d ignore the minimal in favour of going out to the music venues, chatting to the famously happy folk, and taking in the brightly coloured harbor of Nyhavn.
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Arriving at Stay, I was met by a cheery lady and the minimalism I’d expected. Unexpectedly, though, this time it did interest me: the oddly angled lampshades, the black walls with bold writing, the baskets of bright green apples all intrigued me enough to enquire about the designer. The hotel is designed by HAY, a popular Danish company, whose attention to detail and obvious sense of style is impressive, even working within the minimalist aesthetic. While the lobby bathrooms, the breakfast room, and the art installations in the hallways are individually simplistic, together they create great interiors.
There was definitely enough drama in my immense room to keep me entertained: it’s a space which appears bare, but in fact is just perfectly “to the point”, with multi-angular light fittings, a décor in contrasting black and white, and of course the striking river views. No two rooms are exactly the same, with each taking on its own personality based on size, location and overall vibe. This individuality is one of my favourite things about the property; for me, minimalism has always been synonymous with boredom and an absence of depth, but Stay challenged my prejudice. Even the blinding green grass-patterned carpets and stark white walls of the hallways, which at first made me feel like I was in some sci-fi meadow, grew on me (well… it would) as I gradually got the sense of the hotel as a whole.
Though its location is nicely isolated, Stay is in walking distance of Copenhagen’s cultural and hip suburbs Nørrebro and Vesterbro: handy if you’re keen on exploring the active Danish nightlife, as well as cafés, jazz bars and design boutiques like HAY House and Normann.
Stay’s brilliant staff were always happy to answer my excessive queries, and deserve a special mention for their wonderful jovial personalities. I’d flown into Copenhagen with no interest in their inherent culture of minimalism, but I departed an enthusiast. That said, will I now start seeing the depths of my converted soul in mirrors on blank canvases? Not any time soon. C
Stay Apartment Hotel, Islands Brygge 79A – 2300, Copenhagen
staycopenhagen.dk; +45 72 44 44 34