Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

The Most Minimalist Furniture There Is

If you’re looking to de-clutter, streamline and create a home that feels open and minimal, Katy Bowman has a decorating tip: ditch the furniture. Katy, her husband and two children, ages 18 months and three years, have a home almost completely free of any furniture whatsoever. Their choice is less aesthetic than physiological. The Bowmans are consultants specializing in biomechanics which, according to Katy, is “the study of living structures (I study the body) and how the forces created by and placed upon them affect how they work.”

Their premise–one we’ve touched on when writing about using standing desks–is pretty straightforward: the human body and physiology did not evolve to sit on its ass nine hours a day. We are a species, like most, designed to be on the go more often than not. Bowman explains her choice in an interview posted on the SlowMama Blog:

I understand the relationship between musculoskeletal function and the immune system, bone robusticity (density and shape), and functions like digestion and breathing. Having furniture isn’t an option for us [her family], in the same way a cupboard full of junk food isn’t an option for many others. Furniture creates a development-crippling environment in that the stuff literally shapes our body, both in the now and in the future.

In their home, the Bowmans do have some “furniture”: some cushions on the floor, a low, traditional Japanese-style table and some mattresses. Katy says of the mattresses, “both my husband and I prefer the floor, and we noticed our kids sleep better on the ground as well, so we’ve just started phasing the beds out.” And they don’t even use the table, preferring to spread out their food on a platter placed on the floor middle-eastern style. Unlike many homes, the Bowmans have an indoor monkey bar set for the boys to play on.


Their motivation to go furniture-less is health-related, but Katy does note the ancillary benefit that her home is “less cluttered, easier to clean, and instead of needing to go to yoga class for permission to get on the floor and sit cross-legged or do a twist, I do these things way more often.” She adds:

This makes all of us happier in general: As a kid, I dreaded all the chores I had to do, like dusting, simply because my mom liked lots of knick-knacks. Living on the floor has made it easy for my husband and I to stay strong and flexible because we’re essentially getting our “workout” all day long, in short and easy doses. It’s perfect for a working and stay-at-home mom and dad who, frankly, don’t have time to drive for 90 minutes to do something for an hour.

We think the Bowman’s choice an interesting and compelling one–one that is a significant deviation from conventional thinking. They beg the question, “what if the best designed furniture was no furniture at all?”

Read the full interview with Katy Bowman on SlowMama and find out more about Katy on her website.

  • Christopher Tilley

    It’s a very thought provoking idea, it appears to make intuitive sense but not sure that I’m ready to give up my couch.

  • Susan Moore

    I have worked since I was 12. I am now, well, older. Most jobs I have had, I’ve had to stand, and or walk all day. I don’t smoke or drink, or eat red meat. I am active and healthy BUT I can tell you that I am also in near constant pain. My bones hurt, and on my days off I keep my computer on a counter and stand at it most of the time. But after a while my back hurts so much I have to sit. I have also done yoga since I was twelve, and again, in some ways am in much better shape and eat healtier, than most my age, however, again, standing too long even when moving often is just plain painful!

  • WithheldName

    It certainly provides 200% of the living space! Every square inch of the floor effectively becomes a desk, a table, a counter, a bed. Instead of 1 dining room table of a certain set width and length, you now have an almost unlimited number of potential “dining room tables”. Instead of 8 chairs in your house – you now have potentially 800 “chairs”. It allows tremendous creativity and flexibility as spaces are created, adapted, and reused. It’s a lot of fun. It’s brilliant. However…

    The biggest problem is that humans evolved in part to live in trees. We’re not ants. We’re not 2-dimensional creatures. We have 3D stereoscopic vision, 4 long limbs, and rotating hips and shoulders. We’re partially designed to climb, hang, and swing on trees. The kids playing on the monkey bars illustrate that exactly. For thousands of years, humans have lived with staircases, for example. A flat apartment isn’t as mentally or physically stimulating in many ways.

    You’re also losing storage. Cabinets, shelves, chests, and other containers all hold stuff. If you don’t have stuff, that’s not a problem. Or maybe you have dozens of hooks hanging from the ceiling? Or maybe you have trap doors that open to storage compartments below.

    What would be even more bold and innovative is to extend those monkey bars throughout 75% of the house. Objects could stored and hung from them all throughout the house – clothes, blankets, pots, pans, books, etc. It would be a little bit like a child’s play fort. Or a jungle gym.