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Maximalism: What It Is And How To Get The Look

Morgan McBride5-Minute Read
April 24, 2020

Watch out Marie Kondo – it may be time to rethink minimalism. While minimalist enthusiasts encourage a bare-bones approach, the exact opposite is true of maximalism. See why many designers believe "bolder is better."

What Is Maximalism?

Maximalism is big, bright and bold. Say yes to cheetah print, Hollywood Regency furnishings, midcentury decor and everything in between. With maximalism, nothing is off the table.

While minimalists seek to pare down possessions and simplify design, maximalists want to create a space that speaks volumes in terms of personality. During its heyday in the 1960s and ’70s, this countermovement adopted a "more is more" approach to art and life.

Adorned with fringes, sequins and diva-like hair, music moguls like Cher and Diana Ross glamourized a larger-than-life attitude toward life and fashion. Now, this grandiose design approach is making a comeback with a fresh twist.

Maximalism Vs. Minimalism

The opposite of minimalists, maximalists prefer ornate designs with a touch of the eccentric. Unlike the neutral color tones and matching furniture of the past, this lifestyle has a flair for the dramatic. Audacious patterns and colors are a direct reaction to minimalist enthusiasts who believe "less is more."

But it's not always about luxury and high-fashion couture, in its purest form, the movement emphasizes holding on to the things you cherish most. In an interview with Spaces, interior designer Luke Edward Hall said, "We are spending so much time looking at screens that we want our homes to be more 'real' – more layered, more textured, full of objects we've collected and loved."

Maximalist Design Trends

Maximalism brings together the allure of high fashion, art and even literature off the magazine spread and into your living room. It's a celebration. Why settle on just one color, when you have an entire palette? Try your hand at making a scene with these vibrant decor trends.

Bold Colors

Bold Orange Mid Century

There's nothing subtle about this maximalist interior design trend. Let bold furniture and paint colors take the spotlight. Don't be afraid to make a statement.

Fashion designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee created an artist's getaway in his Calcutta mansion. By contrasting dark green walls with a gallery of one-of-a-kind art pieces, Mukherjee blends the lines of modern and classic. "This house is going to change the way I live and, more importantly, change the way I work," he said in an interview with Architectural Digest.

The best way to bring this bold look is by choosing the right paint color for your home. Try deep forest green or dark blue on the wall, or mix things up with a bright red shade.

Layered Patterns

Layered texture pillows in living room

Mix and match with layered prints and patterns. There's nothing too diverse when it comes to decorating your space. Change things up by mingling your grandma's wallpaper with these modern designs.

We love this Pinterest-worthy forest green wallpaper mural from Rebel Walls. You can also pair these funky throw pillows with a vintage ottoman or loveseat. Bring your luxury up a notch with this bright antique-inspired rug from Urban Outfitters.

Go Boho

Boho Modern Interior Living Room

If you fawn over abstract designs and internationally inspired textiles, you might be a maximalist at heart. Curators of art and culture, bohemian chic fans will feel right at home.

Add a little luxury with unique textured pieces like this fringed pouf or this Azul wall hanging to give your home that Jungalow look and feel. It's not boho without a touch of green. Break up the excess of decor with greenery-infused vertical wall planters, handcrafted potted containers and repurposed antique vessels.

Bring In The Art

Simple Modern Living Room

Gallery walls have returned to cheers from vintage enthusiasts. You don't have to pay excessive amounts of cash to pull off this design. Display family heirlooms or unique thrift store finds that depict a story.

Art lovers can play with selecting different canvas and frame sizes to create a one-of-a-kind arrangement. Maximalism in art encourages the use of a wide variety of colors and textures. So, mix and match your decor with ceramic busts, abstract paintings and a vast array of books to create a distinct look.

Turn Back Time

Chandelier

Relive history by bringing back iconic pieces from different eras. While chandeliers may be a thing of the past, our love for awe and grandeur is not. That's why the revival of the greatest periods in history can shed new light on old designs. Who can forget the Art Deco influence of the 1920s or the vibrant neons of the ’80s?

Don't make the mistake of confining inspiration to only one decade. Art Deco-inspired mirrors, midcentury seats, and groovy wall decor all have a place in the maximalist home. Bring everything together with a cohesive color like Pantone's Color of the Year. Don't worry too much about trying to match everything, but keep in mind that a harmonious color palette will help tie historical pieces together.

More Is More

Interior Design Living Room

Luxury items are key centerpieces for a larger-than-life style because playing it small and safe isn't as fun. Become a connoisseur of rare and fabulous finds. Embellish your home with opulence by adding lavishly comfortable pillows, throws and rugs. Add unique light fixtures like modern chandeliers or antique floor lamps.

Lastly, no great home is complete without an impressive set of books. The onset of maximalist literature brought about a love for long novels and poetry. Writers like David Foster Wallace used finely tuned details and elaborate stories to pique their audience's interest. With this in mind, a functional library is both stunning and enlightening. Bring in some elegance and charm to your home with vintage book sets by heading over to your nearest library or by finding unique books online.

Tips For Cultivating A Maximalist Living Space

Be a unicorn among a field of horses. Trendsetters often stand out from the crowd, and this style is no different. Maximalist fashion leans towards the eccentric. From the runway to the street, fashion designers are pushing the boundaries of traditional form and color.

Designers like Richard Quinn work to reimagine classic silhouettes and shapes. With oversized elements like puffed sleeves, over-the-top tulle, and juxtaposed designs, the aesthetic is anything but cookie-cutter.

With this fashion trend, it's all about the textiles. Maximalist style is all about attitude. Take these floral separates by Julie Heuer out for a spin or go for a bold print with Zuri's frocks made from sustainable fabrics in Africa. Sometimes getting into the right mood requires the right outfit.

In a recent interview with FastCompany, fashion designer Mapate Diop said, "there are some consumers who really love to use color and patterns in their clothes to express their personality and mood. I know because I am one of them." Diop co-founded his company in Detroit in 2018 and sources the same Ankara prints his mother used to make his childhood clothes.

Decorating in such a bold style can be intimidating, especially if it is out of your comfort zone. Here are a few tips for how you can achieve a maximalist interior in your home.

Get Creative

Creativity is the name of the game with this trend. Nothing is considered too tacky or gaudy for the maximalist design style, and those who want to bring it into their homes should feel encouraged to think outside the box and pull in any type of stylistic influence that speaks to them.

Curate, Don’t Clutter

One important distinction to make when decorating with a this style is that maximalism is not the same thing as hoarding possessions. You should instead focus on curating and showcasing items that you love and that reflect your personality.

Hoarded items might be piled up on top of each other or shoved into bins and drawers. This makes the room look full and crowded, not bold and intentional. Curated collections are going to be intentionally displayed in a way that lets each item be visible and highlighted for its uniqueness.

Displaying items with intention will help your home feel purposefully full and not overcrowded.

Hang Lots Of Artwork

A great way to add a maximalist feel to a room is by hanging artwork all over the walls. Artwork brings color and patterns into a space. Plus, it’s a great way to show off your specific and unique styles and tastes.

Consider putting together a gallery wall. The easiest way to do this is to look for pieces that all have something in common. For example – all black and white photos, all seascape paintings, or all abstract paintings with blue as the main color.

Large art collections are a fantastic way to make a room instantly feel more interesting and stylish. Just be sure that the pieces are cohesive and strategically placed for a look that is most satisfying to the eye.

Use Bookshelves

Books and knickknacks are very common components of maximalist decor, and using bookshelves to showcase collections of those items can help tie together the overall look of the space.

When decorating shelves, there are a few rules to keep in mind for a look that is most pleasing to the eye. First of all – the rule of threes. Groupings of three items tend to look best. Focus on items with differing heights to add interest in a small space.

Also try to pull in different textures to your shelves – smooth pottery, rough textiles, and papery books all contrast nicely to give your eye something interesting to look at.

The Bottom Line

In art, literature, music and interior design, maximalism is experiencing a comeback. Adopting a "more is more" lifestyle is less about excess than it is about holding onto the things you love the most. Bold colors, gallery walls, layered designs and multidimensional textures curate a picture of light and warmth.

By using these design tips, you'll be able to grab onto the beauty of the moment while also reliving the glory days. With maximalism, luxury living never felt so right.

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    Morgan McBride

    Morgan McBride is a DIY-lover and home decor enthusiast living in Charleston, South Carolina. She has been blogging at CharlestonCrafted.com alongside her husband since 2012, where they empower their readers to craft their current home into their dream home through the power of DIY.