If you’ve ever had the experience of going through old boxes from your childhood and discovering seemingly random items like a button, an old yarn bracelet, or seashells and — to you — they don’t look like just some old junk, they’re treasures from long ago. And they immediately bring back memories and feelings of a different time of delight and even magic.
If something like that has ever happened to you, then you’re well on your way to understanding and embracing one of the latest design trends: maximalism.
Let’s dig into that and answer the question of what maximalism is, what — if any — are its rules and key components, and how to get there in your home and upholstery.
How Minimalism Essentially Points You To Your New Maximalism Style
Arguably, minimalism gave rise to maximalism. Though, certainly, historically there have been interior design eras similar to maximalism. Like the Victorian era with its love of showing off your stuff. Or boho with its delight in all things eclectic.
But for much of the 21st century, the trend has been the opposite. Interior design has swung in the direction of less is more, simple is better, and neutral is king. Maximalism is less a reaction to that trend and more a response to it. Minimalism in many ways set the process in motion by winnowing design down to the essential elements of a space.
Yes, maximalism can be distilled down to “more is more.” But that misses the point — and the magic. Maximalism is about the qualities, characteristics, and focus of that “more.” You take a cue from minimalism and identify what’s essential to you, to truly express yourself, and then take it to the max.
Back to that inner child awakened with a box of random bits from your youth. That kid didn’t think small or see small. Rainy day and building a “fort” in your bedroom? Everything’s fair game has a purpose and tells a story — to you. A grown-up walks into the room and you give them a tour of your castle with its ramparts, moats, princesses, and knights.
Maximalism is like that for adults. It’s a chance to use design to say something about you and to you. To create a space that reflects a passion, perspective, or vibe uniquely yours. Beyond that, there are no rules — mostly.
Maximalism Quick Guide: The Rules Of A Design Style With No Rules
Letting your personality shine in your home’s design can’t be reined in with super specific rules. However, spend some time checking out maximalist spaces and you’ll see some common elements that help as you explore this style for yourself.
Peace out neutrals of minimalism, and hello color. Rich, bold, playful. Have a color you love and catch yourself thinking, “Oh, no, I can’t do that. It’s too much.”? Nope. It’s perfect. Do that. Lots of it.
Take walls and furniture bold and/or bright. Or wallpaper floor to ceiling (maybe including the ceiling) in green and white plaid and do the same with furniture. If the colors serve the story — aka, your personality — in a way that brings joy, peace, energy, or whatever feeling you’re after, go for it. Let colors wow.
This isn’t interior design chaos. This is design storytelling. It’s about choosing a focus or central feeling and then filling the room to the brim with a carefully curated collection of colors, textures, and objects that support that focus.
A room centered around a wall of modern art with dynamic primary colors could carry those into the room’s upholstery with a sofa in cider red jacquard. And a reading chair in chevron patterned teal velvet. Use intentionality to enhance the focus and the sense of stepping into a story.
And part of the reason for coloring boldly and curating intentionally is that maximalism is fundamentally about creating comfortable spaces. That’s about the sizes of the pieces and accents, it’s about the color palette, and it’s about the texture of your furniture upholstery.
Where To Begin Building Your Home’s New Maximalist Look
We can’t stress this enough but we’ll try… Maximalism really really really is all about you. It’s about physically embodying some aspect, characteristic, or feeling that’s you. There are lots of ways to approach that but here are a few simple tips to get you started:
Think of others.
Imagine you’re welcoming someone into your space. You’re not allowed to say a word. But you want them to feel like they instantly know you, like your favorite parts of you have become super-sized and able to be lived in.
All about uplift and energizing? Offer a sunny tropical oasis with loads of plants, walls in bright green, chairs in lime green, and curtains in a green and white foliage pattern. The idea is to create a vibe and an experience uniquely — and unabashedly — your own.
Think of yourself.
How do you most want to feel in your space? Focus on what part of your personality you love the most and turn the visual volume of that up high. Like, through the roof.
Your love of music gives rise to a room packed with records and your prominently displayed vintage hi-fi system. And — perched on a faux zebra rug — a pair of mid-century modern swivel lounge chairs in elegant apricot-colored Brazilian leather for settling into long listening sessions.
Think of your stuff.
Most people have a few things that hold special memories, energy, allure, or a million other feelings. Sometimes it’s a piece of art, an heirloom, a collection, or simply a color palette.
Your love of rare books and deep blues becomes the inspiration for a library with shelves of your bound treasures as the central story against calming midnight blue walls with furniture in navy large-scale patterned jacquard, throw pillows in azure blue foliage pattern, and curtains in midnight blue silk.
Once you’ve identified an aspect of your personality to showcase, build from there. Everything in the space serves that or it doesn’t belong. That’s how you’ll find cohesion, avoid clutter, and create a space reflective of you.
Now Set Out On Your Perfectly Imperfect Path To A Home You Love
Regular readers (thank you, btw) may note a relative dearth of upholstery suggestions today. That’s by design. Because what makes maximalism really work is it’s wildly customizable and specific to you. Though, as ever, as you set out to realize that vision, we’re so very happy to help.
Things to keep in mind. Add colors (the bolder the better). Mix and contrast textures and patterns. Add details and decor. Just make sure that they add to the story you’re telling and the feeling you’re creating. Keep the focus on the focus. And remember more is more.
The single most important — and greatest — thing about maximalism is that it evolves and changes and “imperfections” are perfect. Have fun setting yourself free to go through your personal looking glass and be as wacky and wonderfully you as you can.