For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that this chat about maximalism is long overdue. I’ve been wanting to delve into how to embrace allll the thangs in your home, while still maintaining a sense of order and intention. Striking that kind of balance isn’t easy. But it can be done. Here’s how.
First things first: we need to make a distinction between maximalism and clutter. I think the biggest misconception when it comes to maximalist interiors is that they are filled to the brim with “stuff” – but maximalism isn’t always about having loads of items scattered about. The most important thing to keep in mind is that maximalism is curated. Clutter is….clutter. This is something that we non-minimalists struggle with in our homes, and it takes a lot of practice to be able to discern the difference.
As a vintage dealer, I constantly have loads of vintage items entering and exiting my home. In fact, that first thing I do when I come home from sourcing these items is style them. I do that for two reasons: 1. to shoot photography in order to list the items and 2. to decide if these items are something that I may not want to list at all, and instead keep in my own home. I used to live with nearly all the items I had for sale, and would desperately search the house for corners, nooks and crannies to style them in so I could appreciate them before they were sold. Now, I walk through my home and ask myself what can be taken away and stored until that sale is made. The result has been a much more cohesive look that has allowed the items that I DO decide to live with really shine. Instead of asking myself what I can add, I now ask myself what I can take away while still maintaining a varied interest in the space.
The second topic I want to talk about is not a tangible item, but something that is aesthetically crucial to nailing that maximalist look: color. After all, maximalist interiors are often not just maximizing decorative items, but are featuring a mix of color, patterns and textures in a way that is visually cohesive. We want to use these design tools to add interest, contrast and depth to our spaces, while avoiding clash and an overwhelming of our senses. While there is no single formula that will be universally appealing (after all, the disparity of tastes amongst humans is what makes humanity interesting), I find that creating a neutral backdrop helps. In most rooms, I paint my walls black or white and add pops of color from there. In other rooms, loud wallpaper takes on the lead role, while the rug, furniture and/or art become secondary players. Overall, it’s important to remember that if we want certain items to shine, not everything can be the star. Treating color and pattern as intentional tools in a space, rather than using them with abandon, will help minimize a sense of clutter and will add to the room’s dimension.
Which leads to this idea of having negative and positive space in your rooms. Any good painter knows that the canvas needs to have balance. Even when we look at a Jackson Pollock painting, which may appear to be pandemonium at first glance, you will notice that his drips and streaks have an expert intentionality to them and his canvases are amongst the most compositionally balanced in the post-modern era. Pollock chose to go wild with movement and texture, and consequently, used symmetry and a very limited palette to allow the eye to focus on that fluidity and texture. The overall point here is this: we need to choose which design tropes we want to focus on, and allow the others to play supporting roles.
I think a good exercise in maximalism is to take everything we want to put into a space and, well, just put it into that space. Then, we need to subtract. Take things away from the space until the things that we really want to draw attention to grab our attention. I also love using things in groups. For example, I have been a bit obsessed with porcelain busts as of late, and have a group of three of them placed on my piano. And that is all that is placed on my piano. The different heights and facial expressions add dimension and a diverse expressivity, but allowing them to be the only items on that surface allow them to shine.
Nailing maximalism is tough. Like any artistic endeavor, it’s a style that needs to be practiced and it’s something that I’m still working really hard to perfect. I also try to remind myself that perfect is boring and, unlike with minimalism, imperfections are at the heart of a maximalist style. But beyond the obvious differences between a maximalism and a minimalism, these two styles are truly not polar opposites. Like any interior that has a sense of artistry, it all comes down to curating with intention. And that is truly what both maximalism AND minimalism are all about.