An example of a maximalist style room, illustrated by Baz Pugmire
Maximalism style is about combining vibrant patterns, colors and things that speak to you. (Illustration by Baz Pugmire, Michigan State University)

You’ve Heard About Minimalism, but Maximalist Style Is Just as Intriguing

Aesthetic considerations are an important part of decorating your space, and looking past current trends can help you find your own style.

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An example of a maximalist style room, illustrated by Baz Pugmire

Aesthetic considerations are an important part of decorating your space, and looking past current trends can help you find your own style.

Over the past few years, minimalism, with its neutral tones, sparse furniture and muted decor has dominated what’s thought of as trendy, modern and sophisticated when it comes to home decor. Reality star and businesswoman Kim Kardashian’s home, with its bare white walls, strictly organic materials and minimal, all-white furniture, was highlighted in an issue of Architectural Digest this past February. Minimalism is often presented as aesthetically superior, but the artistic clutter found in a maximalist decor style is more personalized, visually interesting and requires an eye for design so as not to end up with a room that clashes completely. Maximalism encourages finding your personal style and discovering and filling your space with objects that make you happy. It can look just as artistically superb as minimalism, if not even more visually intriguing.

Unlike photos of minimalist spaces that show off sparsely outfitted rooms encased in exclusively neutral tones, maximalism represents “a loud style composed of mixed patterns, excessive, but curated collections, and saturated colors.” Maximalism encourages using your space in the boldest way possible, and is the counterpart to the super-trendy minimalist decor and lifestyle that has saturated social media platforms from YouTube to Pinterest in recent years.

One aspect that makes a maximalist space stunning in its own right is how personalized the style of the room is. Ditching the idea that less is more frees up space to let your creativity run wild. A maximalist room, in essence, is a reflection of the tastes, color palette biases and interests of the person who owns it.

With its emphasis on mixed patterns and saturated colors, approaching a blank room with a design to maximalize it means making choice after choice after choice in accordance with the individual’s preferences, so of course the process draws out a great deal of the designer’s personality. Every part of the room is an opportunity to add something visually interesting, whether that is an abstract painting, piles of bright-colored, vibrant throw pillows, a trio of hanging plants or an oatmeal-colored throw blanket with large tassels. A maximalist bedroom or office is filled with objects that, for one reason or another, their owner is attracted to.

Maximalist decor isn’t just a jumbling of random fabrics and objects. The process involves a great deal of creative forethought, something not as critical to achieving a “minimalist” style. Though the rooms may look chaotic, successful maximalist-style rooms have something that seems to pull all the excess together. That could be a muted pink color that each corner of the room picks up in some fashion, small doses of polka dots or cow print, or a continuous display of greenery found in the room’s scattered plants.

Jenelle Porter, an independent art curator, spoke to interior design site Curbed about maximalism: “Maximalism is this attitude of pouring on, not not editing out, but adding in.” Writer Diana Budds expresses in the same article how maximalism is not to be confused with the destructive consumerism associated with accumulating stuff for stuff’s sake. Rather, maximalism is a decorative and cultural statement that is “about the power and necessity of plurality and tapping into what makes us human. It’s about being omnivorous, about seeing the world with open eyes, and about expressing who you are and what you love.”

The search term “maximalist” will bring up copious examples of rooms achieving a “maximalist” look on platforms like TikTok and Pinterest, where inspiration board-esque content is popular. Panoramic videos of bedrooms maxed out with posters, pillows, personal collections and knick-knacks display a galvanizing commitment to putting one’s personal style on display when it comes to filling a space.

Each room has multiple focal points, multiple bursts of color and a charming degree of clutter. These bedrooms show that having a stylish or put-together room doesn’t have to mean repressing your passion for anime posters or vintage knick-knacks or lace canopies. More really is more. It’s a philosophy that proclaims an unapologetic love for what you love.

Minimalist restraint is impressive, sure, but a commitment to bold self-expression is more visually interesting, and the self-pride evoked by decking out one’s room with the patterns and textures that bring you joy will never stop being appealing. Simplicity and a restrained color palette look sophisticated, but organizing a gallery wall out of album covers, flags and tapestries displays an artistic streak that tells a story. This is not to say that people who choose to live in minimalist spaces are less artistic or creative, but that a maximalist-style bedroom shows off those sensibilities.

As the continued reality of the coronavirus pandemic and the approaching cold months coalesce to form a winter like no other, rejuvenating your space with tips out of the maximalist playbook may help make those shorter days and increased time indoors a little happier. With maximalist style, you don’t strive for perfection, you strive for personalization. Glancing up and seeing a shelf sagging with favorite novels, a window sill lined with unique knick-knacks, or a once-white wall covered in meaningful posters and photos is sometimes all that’s needed to perk up a day spent inside. The best part about maximalism is that if you fill the space until you love it, others will likely see the beauty in it too.

Writer Profile

Imani Benberry

Columbia University
English Literature and African-American Studies

Imani is a rising senior studying English and African-American studies at Columbia, where she is a student worker in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. She has fiction published in Quarto, and hails from Maryland.

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