By Shani Silver

Published on January 13, 2016

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Photography by Michael Wiltbank
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Photography by Michael Wiltbank

Our favorite minimalist moments are often inspired by Scandinavian homes. But we wouldn’t dare limit ourselves to just one take on this beloved decor approach. Robert & Christina Martinez, husband and wife behind the blog, New Darlings, set the standard when it comes to design-focused power couples. We were lucky enough to visit them in their Phoenix home, where they shared their thoughts and advice on styling a smart, southwest-inspired, minimalist home, for two.

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Photography by Michael Wiltbank

TELL US A BIT ABOUT HOW YOU GOT HERE.

We moved to central Phoenix four months ago after living in south Phoenix for our first two years in Arizona. We love our apartment. In our first home, we always felt so far away from our favorite places. Now, we are dangerously close to some of the best restaurants, coffee, and shopping Phoenix has to offer. Our complex has been around since the 60s; we love the charm and how unique each apartment feels. We chose the option to live in a casita, so it feels more like a house, rather than a traditional apartment.

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HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR DESIGN AESTHETIC AS A COUPLE?

We are definitely minimalists. Clean white walls, lots of plant life, and neat piles of our favorite belongings can be found nestled in each corner. We are very influenced by the southwestern desert, bohemian style. Most of our pieces are made from wood, or other natural materials. Earthy tones definitely give our home a feeling of life.

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DID YOU APPROACH THE SPACE ALL AT ONCE OR HAS ITS STYLE EVOLVED OVER TIME?

In our first place, we kind of picked whatever items we liked at the time and just added them in whichever room we felt suited it best. In the end, it never felt cohesive. We always loved each individual piece, but never the space as a whole. When we recently moved into our new apartment, we made a conscious decision to make sure each room made sense and to only bring in pieces we absolutely loved.

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We are still working on some rooms, like our office/guest room, but we feel that it’s slowly coming together perfectly for us. Our style has definitely evolved tremendously in the last two years, so we are trying to keep our place very focused on what we know and love. Our living room is the best example of how we want our entire place to be, and we are currently working on bringing that vibe into the rest of our apartment.

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THE SPACE SEEMS TO HAVE SEVERAL PERSONAL TOUCHES THAT CONTRIBUTE TO THE DECOR. ARE THERE ANY SPECIAL PIECES THAT STAND OUT TO YOU MORE THAN OTHERS?

Absolutely. Our place is filled with small stacks of some of our favorite books. It’s a constant reminder of who we are, creative influences, and keeps our minds from ever feeling bored. If we ever need inspiration, we sit on our sofa and flip through one of our books. We also keep a terrarium on our coffee table full of polaroids and various photos from our travels. It’s always fun to look through them and be instantly brought back to a city we’ve visited or a special memory.

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THE SPACE SEEMS SO WELL-STYLED, BUT STILL RELAXED. ANY ADVICE FOR OUR READERS ON HOW TO ACHIEVE SOMETHING SIMILAR?

Keep it natural. Bring things into your home that you absolutely love. Don’t be afraid to show off your personality. We are trying to live by those three rules.

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All the earthy tones definitely give off that relaxing vibe. Our plant addiction really creates a constant calmness to our busy schedules. It gives us a steady morning routine of misting or watering each plant which is so nice to wake up to.

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WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY OF STYLING YOUR SPACE?

Along with some friends, we created some shelving for some of our favorite little trinkets and plants. Any time we look at them, we can’t help but remember the fun afternoon we had creating and decorating together.

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AND THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE?

Trying not to over decorate. We have so many fun little souvenirs, candles, and structural pieces that we needed to give away or store. As much as we’d love to fill our entire house with every piece we’ve ever loved, we learned that less is definitely more in this case.

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Having some negative space, gives the eye a sense of calmness and balance, plus helps you appreciate all the individual pieces a bit more.

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WHERE DO YOU FIND YOURSELVES SPENDING THE MOST TIME HERE?

We feel we distribute our time pretty evenly around our place. Every room really does serve it’s purpose in a strong way.

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We try to keep our work and personal lives separate, so when we are in the office it is definitely “all business”, but when we make our way into our dining room/living room area, we relax, lounge around and keep it calm. We like to retreat to our bedroom well before we go to sleep. It gives us a place to wind down before officially calling it a night.

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WHAT IS THE BIGGEST DESIGN LESSON YOU LEARNED WHILE STYLING YOUR HOME?

Again, definitely balance. We try not to let anything fully take over a room. We like to vary the heights and shapes of the objects on display. Giving your eyes different places to look creates a more interesting experience.

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Also, just sticking to what you love. It’s easy to get sucked into a trend or feel that everything needs to match in some way. Once we stopped thinking about it all and analyzing each step of the design process, it all flowed so naturally. If you surround yourself with pieces you love, it’s impossible to not enjoy your place.

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See more from this creative duo on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Facebook via the handle, @newdarlings.

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