In visual arts, and especially home design, maximalism is the antithesis of minimalism. Where minimalism favors simple and clean looks with minimal possessions displayed, maximalism favors the opposite. From walls that feature mosaics of patterns, colors, and textures, to a captivating array of furniture types, maximalism fully engages the senses.
Maximalism can be a tough design to emulate, since balancing multiple aspects of a complex design is a much different challenge than coordinating everything within a small palette. Of course, many people might find maximalism easier or more intuitive than minimalism—both design philosophies have their critics and fans, and their own challenges and benefits.
Collages are strong examples of the mixing and matching that maximalism works best with. Pictures, shapes, and colors from many sources can blend together into a harmonious whole. But, like a collage, maximalism risks being overdone. Some people might find it overwhelming in a room meant to be calming, like a bedroom, or distracting in an office. Of course, others might find the complex shapes soothing—it’s wholly dependent on preference.
An important consideration with maximalism is keeping elements in harmony. This doesn’t mean everything must match—the exact opposite, actually! But, think carefully before putting an angular post-modern piece of furniture into a room inspired by the flowing lines of art nouveau. If you’re thinking of transitioning to maximalism, think first about the scaffolding. What sort of shapes are you going for? Do you want to focus on one part of color space, one pattern theme, (like florals), or one art tradition? Write down your goals for the room to help guide your furniture and decor selections.
You don’t need to buy things all at once—personally, I would say it’s better not to. Maximalist elements benefit strongly from a sense of purpose and history. Mismatched antiques have more charm if they belonged to your grandmother, or if you picked them up one at a time at flea markets over the years, giving each piece a chance for its own story, than if you mass ordered them. It’s easier to see how a room evolves to fit your needs and tastes if it does so slowly. You might find yourself happy with a different balance than you initially thought you’d like.
Maximalism doesn’t mean keeping things you don’t like. Every part of the design should make you happy. If you don’t like it, don’t go with it! In fact, maximalist design is a great way to recycle beloved items that have lived full lives. Old clothes that are falling apart can join a patchwork quilt, or–if you’re less handy like I am–be attached with glue or a staple gun to wooden boards or foam board insulation that you’ve cut into interesting shapes. A beloved vase or mug that has broken beyond repair might get a new life as part of a mosaic or in a shadowbox with other memories.
One advantage of maximalism, especially if you incorporate a lot of fabric, is sound insulation. Many modern rooms, especially those with minimalist designs, have problems with sounds echoing and spreading between rooms. Those old Victorian overstuffed cloth chairs and heavy drapes help absorb and deaden sound, so it’s entirely possible for a room that’s visually loud to be audibly quiet.
If you want to embrace maximalism, but don’t want clutter to overtake your life, don’t worry. Maximalism doesn’t necessarily mean it all needs to go on the floor and desk! In fact, it’s best to have dedicated spaces on the walls, in cupboards and drawers, and on shelves for each item, especially ones you plan to use a lot. And, unfortunately, that might mean being keenly aware of what space you have left, even if that giant paper fan or porcelain umbrella vase is the neatest thing you’ve ever seen. Unsightly or clashing clutter can be kept tucked out of sight quite easily.
Of course, the most important element is having fun and filling your home with memories and joy. As long as you like it, don’t worry whether others think less is more or more is more, and go for the room of your dreams.