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Mastering Maximalist Interior Design

Mastering Maximalist Interior Design

If you have a flair for the extravagant and live by the words “more is more,” it’s time to dive headfirst into the world of maximalism.


What Is Maximalism?

Curating your maximalist home offers freedom that other design styles don’t. While other design styles draw exclusively from a specific place, culture, or time period, maximalism centers around your unique personality. Think floor-to-ceiling bookcases to house your collection of novels, abstract art that commands an entire wall, and eclectic dishware vs. matching sets.

This approach boldly places your hobbies, passions, and most prized possessions on full display. So rather than worry about projecting a specific image, you can design a space that truly inspires you. For example, if you grew up in the American Southwest but have an undying love for all things anime, you can bring both influences together and tell your own story through your space.

Maximalism allows you to bring in new furniture and decor without worrying about whether they’ll “fit in.” And rest assured that your unusual pieces will serve as conversation starters when guests visit.

Minimalism vs. Maximalism

The clean lines and neutral colors of minimalism can feel like a breath of fresh air. Minimalist style is pure, bringing a sense of calm that many of us are seeking in today’s world. But for some, an overabundance of empty, white surfaces can make your space seem too impersonal or sterile.

The maximalist movement took off in the 1980s as a response to the streamlined look of the sleek mid-century modern furniture that came before it. The most outlandish examples came from the Memphis Group, the Italian design studio whose over-the-top geometric patterns and neon color palette went on to define the late 80s and 90s. We’re seeing the cycle repeat itself today, with maximalism offering an expressive alternative to the pared-back minimalist style of the 2010s.

Maximal Minimalism

While playful maximalism might seem like the opposite of reserved minimalism, designers are starting to blend the two philosophies. The emerging “maximal minimalist” look combines the clutter-free styling of minimalism with the vibrant color palette and varied textures of maximalism. When it comes to furniture, maximal minimalism often favors pieces with simple shapes and eye-catching colors. The result is a space that feels open and airy but still exuberant.

If you’re starting with a minimalist space, you might swap (or layer) a solid-colored area rug with a fun pattern or replace a neutral linen sofa for a vivid jewel-toned velvet. To simplify maximalist decor, try replacing an colorful collection of artwork with an oversized abstract art print that maintains the bold energy without looking too busy.

Maximalist Room Ideas

Lava lamps? Animal print rugs? Purple velvet sofas? Everything is on the table when building your maximalist living room or kitchen. This design style doesn’t shy away from the daring and loud. But how can you combine these disparate elements so they look harmonious?

Establish Connective Threads

Maximalism is joyous, but it isn’t unruly; you can make a room feel intentional by integrating repeating colors or patterns throughout. Start with a few items that delight you, and find ways to echo a similar visual effect in other areas. If you have pink curtains, you might look for a framed mirror and a throw pillow in a similar shade.

Maintain a feeling of lightness by varying the scale and position of the repeated elements; the pink tone might also appear on the cover of a coffee-table book or as an accent color in your wallpaper. These connective threads tie together disparate pieces, making the room feel cohesive rather than chaotic.

Add in Contrast

On the surface, the maximalism trend seems to break all the rules of design. But look closer at some of your most Insta-worthy inspiration pics, and you’ll notice a common theme: contrast. Two different prints can work together if one is on a small scale, like a sweet floral, and one is larger, like a wide stripe. The same goes for color. A saturated magenta might seem intense, but it works well with other jewel tones or colors opposite it on the color wheel, like forest green. Soft, gauzy curtains and fuzzy pillows can play off rougher textures like jute and burlap.

A simple reading chair takes on a maximalist look when you use a chunky knit throw to create texture, a bright ottoman for a burst of color, and an intricately carved wood side table to balance the soft fabrics. Top the table with a Tiffany-inspired lamp — the multicolored design will help unify the palette in the space. Layering these contrasting pieces will contribute to an overall balanced feel.

Curate, Don’t Clutter

There’s a fine line between the iconic maximalist style and a crowded space. When your room is full of treasured pieces, keeping it neat and tidy becomes even more important. Set up good organizational systems to keep miscellaneous items out of sight and your carefully chosen accessories in the spotlight. Corral like items together, such as framed photos on a gallery wall or tiny souvenirs on a trinket tray.