Maximalism – Elements of This Style Where More Is More

Minimalism has been an ongoing trend for quite some time now, but have you heard about maximalism?  Maximalism is a way of life, aesthetics, design and function as well as a way to tell your story.

Maximalism is defined as excess in decorations, fabrics, design, and even architecture.  It is characterized by bold colors and contrasting prints, eclectic decorations and furniture, as well as living boldly and in pursuit of comfort and happiness.

Have you thought about adopting a minimalist-style life, but couldn’t make it work for you?  Then maximalism could be something for you to consider!

What Is Maximalism?

Maximalism is defined as the aesthetic of or tendency toward excess.  It can be seen in the arts, in homes, even in lifestyles.  Characteristics of maximalism include patterns, bold colors, busy spaces, interest, and lots of variety.  Maximalism can also be seen as the opposite of minimalism.

It’s a focus on more colors, more layers, more fabrics, etc. However, maximalism does not necessarily equal clutter. Despite the focus on more, there is still a sense of intention and cohesion. It’s all about balance with maximalism.

Maximalist decor - Maximalism - Gone Minimal
Maximalist decor

Elements of The Maximalism Aesthetic

When it comes to aesthetics, there are certain elements that define maximalism.  It’s not just about owning excessive pieces of art or decoration!  It’s loud, mixed, bold statements reminiscent of English home interiors with a modern-day look.  Here are the key characteristics to creating a maximalist aesthetic:

  • Bold, rich colors
  • Repetitive patterns
  • Mixed colors and textures
  • Blending styles
  • Statement pieces
  • Layering of fabrics
  • Multiple items in collections
  • Pieces that tell your story

You too can create a maximalist aesthetic by using varied fabrics and artwork, even books and the things you’ve collected over time.  Create a space that you love, that is characteristic of you, a place that makes you happy and comfortable.

The Appeal of Maximalism

You’ve probably heard over the last few years about the minimalism trend, tiny houses, and so on-so what is the appeal now of maximalism?  In being like the opposite of minimalism, maximalism provides a playful style marked by bright colors and patterns, collections of multiples of certain items, even collections of collections, and a bold lifestyle. 

This trend highlights your own personality and encourages the use of more everything-your favorites in accessories, fabrics, and colors!  Who wouldn’t want to display their own personality and favorite things?  Maximalism is appealing because it’s like putting yourself and your family on display, which is something you should be proud of because it’s YOU!  This can be very appealing due to its individualistic nature and using the things you already own and love.

Layered fashion - Maximalism - Gone Minimal
Layered fashion

Maximalism vs Minimalism

Maximalism and minimalism are very much opposite of each other, and in several different ways.  We can see both of these characteristics in appearance, architecture, decorations, and even lifestyles, so let’s look at how they differ from each other:

  • Minimalism is about a simple and streamlined appearance, simple and efficient living standards, and basic yet meaningful lifestyle practices.  Minimalists are not interested in consumerism, like collecting things or decorating their homes.  Their focus is on experiences, travel, and enriched and meaningful lives.  The minimalism lifestyle is about the basics, covering needs rather than wants, and spending time with those important to them.
  • Maximalism is about displaying your lifestyle, bright and bold colors and contrasting patterns, comfort and décor, and personalized everything.  Maximalists buy things that assist them in expressing their personalities, decorating their spaces, and creating something truly unique to them.  The maximalist lifestyle is about a bit of excess (especially books!), comfort, happiness, and the things they love.

Here is a helpful video that explains Minimalist vs Maximalist interior design aesthetics:

Areas of Maximalism

Maximalism can be applied to many areas of everyday life. From the things we have, to the spaces we keep, to the ways that we think. Let’s explore a bit more about some of the more popular areas of maximalism.

Maximalism Fashion

Maximalism Fashion is not just about making a statement-it’s about going beyond the bright and bold colors and patterns and adding the extra layers of embellishments and fun things.  It’s the contrasts of patterns combined with the oversized bags or shoes.  It’s layers of fabric, ruffles, smocking, jewels, crazy hats and more.  It’s like those crazy fashion shows and those outfits you always said you’d never wear in public!

Maximalism Music

Maximalism Music is interesting in that there’s an attempt to take things to an absolute extreme.  This type of music has been described as aggressive, angry, and even noise-but in some aspects it is specific yet complex and does not hold back.  Maximalist music is intense, excessive, and includes genres like electronic, techno, and heavy metal.  It’s too much for some while perfect for others.

Maximalism Architecture

Maximalism Architecture goes beyond what is essential in a home or building and strives to be pleasing to the eye.  There are lots of angles, interesting designs, built-ins and abstract lines and things that set them apart from others.  These buildings are highly individualized, and homes are quite the opposite of the “cookie-cutter” homes we often see in our neighborhoods.  It’s the ones that stick out on Google maps because they’re so different!

Maximalism Philosophy

Maximalism Philosophy is known as “more is more”, quite the opposite of the minimalist philosophy of “less is more”.  It’s about excess, boldness, creativity, passion, and the pursuit of pleasure.  Things are good if they feel good.  It’s also about sharing your story in what you do, as well as how you live.

Maximalism Décor

Maximalism Décor is about truly personalizing your home.  Bold colors and patterns, collections of books and collectibles, and eclectic décor that tells your story.  There’s nothing neutral here!  Plenty of art, things that you love, comfortable fabrics and furniture are all characteristic of maximalist-style décor. 

Minimal room decor - Maximalism - Gone Minimal
Minimal room decor

Designing a Maximalist Space

The elements of maximalist design can be applied to most any space, with the aesthetic being as unique as the person creating it. It is critically important to separate the understanding of maximalist decor from just sheer volume.

For example, maximalist decor is done with choice, class, and style. While what some might consider “hoarding”, where a space is filled without much discretion, is merely the filling of space without attention to usual appear. Hoarding is somewhat a “mess”, while maximalist decor is an intentionally curated style.

For example, let’s look at a famous art museum, the Barnes Foundation. It mimics exactly the artistic decor arrangement, room by room, of the home of a wealthy collector.

The Barnes Foundation Maximalist Art Decor (Source: Drozdp)

In general, one can look at applying these techniques:

Filling the Visual Space

In a maximalist design layout, filling the visual space is key. One aims to create an attractive arrangement that’s engaging, while not being overwhelming. It should invite the eye to travel throughout it, exploring the elements as it moves. Drawing on curiosity and interest.

Keeping it Organized

While a tenet or maximalist decor is volume, it still benefits from organization. Haphazard placements or straight-up clutter is just that, clutter. A well-laid-out maximal room maintains a style, elegance, and grace; it’s still intentional interior design, just filled with more.

Keeping it organized can involve an order of the layout, even if asymmetrical. Textures and colors can vary, while still being integrated. Types of furniture can even vary, including ones that might not typically fill a space; yet they too are placed in a way that is functional and intentional (even when furniture is being used as an aesthetic piece rather than a functional one).

Varying Textures, Colors, Patterns, and Materials

Where minimalist decor strives for integrated simplicity and understated elegance, maximalist decor benefits from variations of colors, textures, look, feel, and material. Even so, it can be done in such a way as they “come together” and still look and feel right, rather than disheveled and haphazardly placed.

For example, one might have picture frames of varying widths, woods, carving styles, and textures; yet, they are still arranged in a visually appealing way. Furniture might mix older woods, more modern metals, and accents of plastic pieces, varying greatly the material approach, while still being placed usefully, and with purpose.

Enjoying the Process and Expressing Yourself

Maximalist decor can be applied most often to your favorite spaces like the living room, bedrooms, bathrooms, even the kitchen. It also allows for extensive expression of personal tastes, even exploration into new ones as adding new elements, furniture, or items will “fit right in”, even if you’re exploring with a piece or color or texture that it totally different than the others already there.

For some additional insights, I was named a featured expert in the Redfin blog and you can read more there at More is More: 6 Tips for Perfecting the Maximalist Design Style.

The key to maximalism is to keep it intentional. While clutter can be overwhelming and uncomfortable, well-planned maximal decor can look inviting, exciting, energizing and inspiring. Give it a try, and let your inner creativity shine!

What Is The New Maximalism?

We’ve already discussed maximalism and how opposite it is to minimalism, which brings us to the New maximalism.  This is a way of life that isn’t just about excess, but reusing and recycling.  It’s inspiring and eclectic in that you can have things from different time periods in the same area, and it works because it’s you and it wastes nothing. 

We find things that perhaps don’t work for our living space anymore, but rather than throwing it away-we repurpose it to a different room and it works!

What Is a Maximalist Person?

A maximalist person can be defined by many different things, going beyond how they decorate their home.  This is a person who may have strong views about something, and they’re usually unwilling to compromise those views.  It can also be someone who takes large or revolutionary-style action to get their point across or achieve a goal.  But it’s also those who embrace lots of things-things that make them comfortable and happy!

Other Resources:

If you are a follower of the minimalist lifestyle, the maximalist lifestyle should not be seen as a negative thing.  Maximalism is bright and colorful, funky and eclectic, comfortable and happy.  It can define your space, your home, your office building, and even be a way of life.  As long as it brings you happiness, pursue it with a smile on your face.

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