How can something decorative carry minimalist qualities? That’s the question I first asked myself upon seeing Dream-and-Maze-themed guest rooms from The Other Place guesthouse, designed by Studio 10.
Situated in Pingle County, Guilin, China, the renovated interiors are made of strange twists: staircases that lead to nowhere, curved openings, geometrical accents, and a play of vibrant colours. Dimensions are distorted and spatial division is almost non-existent, all confined within a larger space that can be seen as a mystery box full of fantastical wonders. Here, only flat surfaces are present—technical structures and appliances are hidden to implement the push for surrealism.
With the aforementioned components, one can’t help but to dismiss this project as decorative and even post-modern. Besides the monochromatic use of colours and minimal furniture, there is a lack of apparent minimalism. However, what I appreciate most in this project is the use of negative space to construct a feeling of openness within a restricted width. By clustering the rooms together, the designers were able to keep the generous ceiling height and used that as an agent to free up individual parties. With that system, Studio 10 cleverly delivers a lightness that’s neither dense nor sparse—the use of seemingly pointless staircases becomes a geometrical element to pull all the volumes together. The simplicity of this project then does not lie in the interior’s appearance, but in the mindset and decisions of the designers.
I believe in minimalist qualities in every aspect of life. Perhaps objects, designs, arts, structures, instances… shouldn’t be the ones that communicate those qualities to us, but we are the ones who should be able to look and live through the lens of minimalist individuals.