Welcome to maximalism, the land of more is more, where beige is a four-letter word and excess is celebrated. If your design aesthetic leans toward extra, you’ll fit right in. If not, you may think you’ve entered crazy town. In sharp contrast to minimalism, maximalist interiors use bold colors and patterns to create a space that honors over the top. It’s been said that we should think of maximalism as a functional design language that influences how we want to feel in any given space.
“Maximalism is popular mostly because it is fun,” says Lucy Searle, global editor-in-chief of Homes & Gardens. “People love that the trend allows them to express their personalities through their homes. The perfect maximalist home is an expression of everything that the homeowner loves; it includes their favorite colors, patterns, and interests layered tastefully together in a room.”
Maximalism is all about choosing bright colors and whimsical objects to bring happiness into a space. It’s an opportunity to fill a space with meaningful objects that evoke memories. Does a particular vintage item bring you joy? Then bring it into your home and see where it fits best. While items don’t always have to match perfectly, be cautious not to dump random items you like into room. You can put together a unique collection of things that make you happy, as long as there’s a uniting theme—as maximalism is a curated design approach. And it’s been showing up in a big way.
Hommes Studio reports, “David Harbour and Lilly Allen´s Maximalist home is everything that the style aims for—a space where creativity and bold choices work together to make dreams come true; in that case, a magical garden home.” Take a tour of their “weird and wonderful” Brooklyn townhouse.
Maximalism: A Brief History
Thinking maximalist interior design is the newest design flavor of the month? Au contraire! It has been around for centuries. Prior to the 20th century, maximalism was the calling card of the wealthy and influential. In its earliest form, maximalism was created when the wealthy decorated their homes with ornate, gilded furniture and art. Associated with upper classes who had the means to travel and collect art, opulent interiors were a signifier of great wealth, and maximalism was a way for people to showcase their riches.
Maximalism goes all the way back to the Victorian era, when people were really trying to make a statement in their home as opposed to a more pared down conservative interior design style.” -Designer Megan Hopp
Throughout the 19th century, the accumulation of objects in the home became mainstream. This era launched the souvenir; a home with abundant memorabilia and adornment conveyed a leisurely life.
We’ve seen it trending in homes, but now maximalism is increasingly showing up in restaurants and retail interiors as well, sometimes for a limited time to surprise shoppers and entice them to visit.
Known for its classic aesthetic, Tiffany & Co. recently utilized maximalism as part of its brand-building strategy where it swapped out its trademark robin’s egg blue for a bold yellow hue. They successfully employed this as part of a multi-sensory marketing approach, engaging customers while somewhat blindsiding them.
Similarly, luxury brand Balenciaga went all out to celebrate its maximalist Le Cagole handbag line by covering its London store in pink faux fur. The limited-time experience invited visitors to interact with the soft textile, providing an Insta-worthy backdrop for shoppers’ selfies.
The Nike Style store in Seoul is a captivating fusion of past and future aesthetics. The intentional use of color enhances the overall maximalist atmosphere, turning the store into a haven of neo-maximalism where boldness and innovation flourish. With opportunities for customization and creativity, the retro-futuristic environment is as captivating as it is bold.
And then there’s Brooklyn’s Café Mars and Columbus Circle’s Bad Roman, each one taking maximalism to the max. Café Mars has door handles made with fettuccine and spaghetti dies; three-foot-tall pepper mills; neon pink squiggly legged chairs; yellow booths; wavy tables custom-shaped to fit together like puzzle pieces; and neon-lit wall accents.
Bad Roman is known for its unique glassware, a boar statue greeting guests, oversized onion pendant lamps, wallpapered ceilings, and over-the-top color palette displayed via numerous textures and materials. Their shot glasses affixed to rolling toy cars are so popular that they tend to roll away with guests. “We don’t always get these back, and we’ve accepted that,” a staff member acknowledged.
Further south, maximalism is heating up in Hotlanta restaurants as well. The Garden Room is said to have an Alice in Wonderland vibe. It features a steel- and glass-vaulted ceiling-enclosed patio filled with vibrant furniture and unique pieces. “It’s just pattern on pattern,” says Anita Summers, principal at the Johnson Studio of Cooper Carry, the firm that designed the space. “The overarching theme was, Well, if we can add that, let’s do it.” In other words, it is the epitome of maximalism.
Still not convinced to let your maximalist freak flag fly? No worries. This design aesthetic is not circling the drain any time soon. And, as a bonus, holiday decorating time is just around the corner – the perfect opportunity to kick things up a notch—or 1,000.
Read about another popular design trend that’s bubbling up: Barbie Pink.