If the minimalist trend of sparse furnishings and white walls leaves you feeling empty, here’s heartening news. Its polar opposite is now capturing the imagination of homeowners across the country.
This design philosophy, maximalism, lives by the mantra More Is More. HGTV “Design Star” winner Jennifer Bertrand calls it “layered happiness” for its prolific use of wallpaper, art, curtains, rugs and objects.
“It’s a wild sort of giving in to one’s desires and tastes, pulling everything you love into one shadowbox,” says designer Kelee Katillac, from Arrow Rock, Mo. “When it’s done with an artistic hand, it’s a feast for the eyes everywhere you look.”
Though currently trending, maximalism is not new. Victorians minted the style in the late 1800s in a show of wealth and rank.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
Today’s modernized version can lean theatrical or whimsical, but it’s always personality-driven. Bertrand’s version involves Etsy and lacquer; Katillac’s, Adelphi recolored archival wallpapers and pooled drapes.
Both are correct.
“It’s about getting everything to vibe together in one cohesive look,” suggests Kansas City designer Nichole Loiacono.
While maximalism is not a jumble, it generally happens naturally and individualistically. At its core, it’s an expression of how people find comfort in the world.
Just as minimalists find respite in cleanliness and orderliness, maximalists find solace by surrounding themselves with familiar, reassuring objects, comforting colors and fabrics that provide a sense of warmth.
“It’s the ultimate, ultimate nest,” Katillac says.
Its primary psychological element is color.
“I love giving people color because they don’t realize how much they need it,” Bertrand says. “Too much gray and white makes a house feel like it’s on Xanax.”
Jewel tones, especially hunter green, are back in vogue (remember the 2017 Pantone color of the year is Greenery). And mixing metals, like once-banished brass and gold, is on the uptick.
Maximalism isn’t necessarily its own style; it works like a bonus level to other established styles. It can be traditional or contemporary. You can maximalize a voluminous space or a tiny one. You can spray-paint Craigslist finds or buy high-end.
One thing for sure is that it’s going to cost you in terms of the sheer amount of stuff needed. But the best way to get your maximalism on is to curate the look over time.
“Don’t buy something just to fill space,” Loiacono advises. “Find pieces you love and stick with them.”
While surrounding yourself with beloved items feels right, maximalism can go wrong in a few ways.
First, scale matters. Patterns need to be varied in size. Katillac seeks a blend of small, medium and large. She also recommends using a thread of color to tie everything together and finding a place for whimsy or a spark of juxtaposition.
Don’t forget the ceiling.
“Play with every plane of the room,” Bertrand says. “Nothing is off limits.”
Still, you must give the eyes a place to rest. “They still have to regroup before the next thing or pattern to avoid headaches,” Bertrand says.
For this reason, Loiacono likes to keep window treatments relatively solid.
Maximalism is not a pass to hoard or clutter up space. “It’s about movement and groupings that make sense,” Bertrand explains.
Finally, it’s a matter of expressing your personality. If you’re a closet maximalist, there is no better time to let yourself out and go bananas.
“Self-expression is very therapeutic,” Katillac says. “We can use our homes to make ourselves feel better, and it’s a safe place to do that. There’s no judgment.”