While most of us know Minimalism in at least some aspect, not as many are familiar with its boisterous counterpart; Maximalism. While the term Maximalism was coined relatively recently, the concept actually spans centuries! Throughout history we’ve valued a “more is more” mindset to display wealth, from the Italian Renaissance to the French Rococo and Baroque to Victorian England. While minimalism is more about showcasing the beauty of a space on its own, maximalism is more about showcasing who the room belongs to. Lovers of maximalism see every painting and funky secondhand piece of furniture as an extension of themselves, whereas minimalists prefer not to define themselves by their material belongings.
There has always been an ebb and flow between Maximalism and Minimalism. We first saw Maximalist design fall by the wayside naturally with the Great Depression and WWII, as well as with the influence of the German Bauhaus design school of the 1920’s and 30’s. Once soldiers returned from war the Mid Century Modern movement came along with an emphasis on clean lines, functionality and open floor plans. By the late 60’s their children, the baby boomers, were ready to start embracing colors and patterns influenced by nature and Maximalism was back from the dead! The Memphis Design Group (ironically, not actually from Memphis, but Milano Italy) shaped the 1980’s as we know it with vibrant colors, squiggles and geometric shapes. By the late 90’s of course everyone had had enough and got rid of their parent’s Laura Ashley inspired shabby chic decor. Minimalism has been de rigueur for the past 20 years, but the pendulum is swinging back. With the popularity of social media people have figured out they don’t necessarily have to go with whatever is the most popular. For possibly the first time ever Minimalism and Maximalism are coexisting!
Maximalism has become particularly popular with people in their 20’s and 30’s, who refer to the style as “ClutterCore”, or “GrandMillennial”. With an emphasis on environmentalism and frugality, they have chosen to thrift much of their furniture and art for a one of a kind style, including their grandparent’s macrame owls and mushroom printed kitchen canisters. After growing up in homes painted austere shades of white with oatmeal or gray colored furniture, it’s no wonder colors like “Millennial pink” and rose gold have begun to brighten up our homes in recent years.
The pandemic also had a significant impact in the resurgence of Maximalism design. With everyone stuck at home people felt the need to make their living spaces more enriching and comfortable. Marie Kondo’s popular Netflix series may have helped bridge the gap between Minimalism and Maximalism. While she advocated for a more pared down lifestyle, her ethos was to keep whatever sparks joy. While Minimalists purged anything that didn’t match the ethos, Maximalists make it their mission to seek out more of what they find joyful! Many find minimalism to feel cold, sterile, and hard to maintain, while Maximalism fully embraces a cozy, aesthetic that intends to feel very welcoming and homey.
Maximalism can be a daunting style to delve into. Where is the line between homey and homely? With some attention to detail and planning your home could be an eclectic hideaway that reflects your true personality! Here are some tips to help channel your inner Grandma!
Showcase your collections!
Do you collect matryoshkas, pottery, art or plants? Make them a feature of your room! Look for some unique shelves to help frame your collection and let it shine. A collection can even be pictures or artwork. Create a gallery wall in your room with mismatched frames and utilize as much space as possible to make an impact. This style is not for neat rows of uniform size! If you love books, fill one wall with floor to ceiling shelves for your personal library.
Hit the thrift store
Or antique malls, flea markets, estate sales or your grandparent’s attic. Shopping second hand is the best way to find unique treasures that no one else will have, and often at a bargain price! Keep in mind part of the allure of maximalism is the air of luxury. While many of the treasures you’d find in an eclectic home may be thrifted and inexpensive, they’re not necessarily cheap. So when shopping secondhand think more along the lines of vintage records, handmade rugs and indigenous art, and less singing bigmouth bass. Though there is something to be said for novelty, like vintage neon bar signs or dogs playing poker, the line between kitsch and tacky is very thin!
Add some bold color!
Your home doesn’t necessarily have to look like a funhouse for a Maximalist feel, but even adding some bright throw pillows or an accent chair can bring some vitality to your space. You can even use a colorful piece of art as the basis of your palette, and use its colors to help inspire the rest of your decor.
Play with patterns
A big factor with maximalism is layering different patterns throughout a space. One way to make this feel less overwhelming is to incorporate different scales of prints. For every large scale pattern add 1 or 2 smaller scale prints to help balance the proportions. Great ways to incorporate prints and patterns are throw rugs, curtains, or a wallpapered accent wall!
Take Your Time!
There’s no need to buy out the antique mall this weekend! The most cohesive home is one that is curated over time. If your space is already furnished, start by adding one or two new pieces at a time. Each time you consider a new acquisition ask yourself if it will be cohesive in the space you are creating.
In the end, remember that maximalism is supposed to be fun! It’s about creating a joyful and comfortable space for you and whoever you invite into your home. Who cares what some stuffy celebrities or decorators think? It’s your space and if you choose to make it look like a Victorian archeologist’s library, a groovy 70’s time capsule, or a colorful explosion of modern art, who's to stop you? Decorate freely and fearlessly!