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Maximalism - a "How to" Guide

Updated: Dec 1, 2020

I recently put out a post on social media asking what people would be interested to see me write about, and several of the replies essentially relate to maximalism . Maximalism is a design style that is rich in colour, texture and pattern featuring an eclectic mix of accessories. I cannot say that this surprises me, it is a sentiment I see echoed amongst many of my clients, especially those with families. They are bored to the back teeth with seeing blanket white/grey, impractical and impersonal interiors with not so much as a holiday fridge magnet to suggest the space is lived in. Neither, however, do they want to live in a cluttered home with no sense of style or direction. So how exactly do you master maximalism to turn your home into an eclectic wonderland that is aesthetically pleasing, and completely yours?

STEP 1 - Take everything out

Yes, this is that part EVERYONE finds painful and often the reason people have to resort to hiring an interior designer in the first place. Whether you do this physically or in your imagination, you have to start with an empty space. If you are just wanting to decorate around the eclectic collection you already have in the room, if it was not working already it is not going to work now. This does not mean you have to chuck it all away and start again, just that if and when you reintroduce items into the space you will be doing so mindfully in a way that will enhance the whole design, so you will appreciate each aspect so much more.

STEP 2 - Choose your starting point and colour palette

Do not rush this step. This is probably the most important part of creating a maximalist space that will wow in a good way!

The reason I have paired choosing your starting point and colour palette together is because many maximalist spaces involve at least one bold, oversized or busy pattern. Whether that features on the walls, carpet, curtains, cushions, bedding or ceiling, it is likely to contain all the major elements you need to inform your colour palette for the room.

The example I have used here features a fabric from one of my favourite maximalist fabric and wallpaper designers Emma J Shipley. When you have found a starting point that you love, you are likely to find that the designer has essentially done all of the work for you. They have used a colour palette that perfectly balances with enough warmth and depth, accents and complements.

There are a lot of colours here, but to simplify into a standard 60, 30, 10 format, the Teal is your 60% base colour, the Blue, Green and Yellow form the Complementary 30% and the Pinks and Orange give you the accent colours. Sticking to this rule in the space will help you keep a pleasing balance of colour even when there is a lot going on, so try to use your complementary colours in equal measure, but do not allow all of them to occupy more than 30% of the space, and similarly use your accent colours in equal measure, but only in 10% of the space.

Once you have your colour palette, stick to these variations on these tones in these proportions as you make decisions for any colourful items going into the room. It is okay to incorporate neutral colours too if you would like a softer look.

STEP 3 - Layering

In the more is more world of maximalism, layering is key! You want to use all of your colours with a range of textures, patterns and scales. No object hovers in a void of space on its own, so you must think about what is in front of and behind it from any vantage point.

  • A colour example of this is that you want your accent colour to sit in front of another colour so it "pops".

  • In a textural context, if you have cold, smooth leather, throw on a shaggy fur throw and chunky knitted cushion. Place polished metal on top of rustic wood. You are creating a sensual feast.

  • Offset OVERSIZED patterns with intricate designs, plains, plaids, stripes, dots. Have fun with it, but stick to your colour rule.

STEP 4 - Integration

Now that you are making deliberate decisions about what you are bringing into the space, make sure that the item fits the purpose. By this I mean, if you have placed an accent chair in a spot where you would like to read, put an appropriate lamp next to it. Fill the need as opposed to bringing the lamp into the room and wondering where to put it.

When you are deciding which of your beloved collection of furniture and objects are going into which room, try to group them into collections that make sense. Have all your dark wood items in one room and all your light wood items in another. The same goes for metals, keep your chromes in one room and brass in another. This helps keep an eclectic look cohesive. There are of course exceptions to this rule, but as a guide this can really help to ensure you do not end up with a mismatched mess,

STEP 5 - Declutter your clutter

You have probably heard every designer under the sun hoist the decluttering flag at some stage, but in a maximalistic home clutter is not a bad thing, it just needs to be deliberate and thought out.

If maximalism is a trend that appeals to you, you are likely to have many fond memories associated with many objects, and these little things are what really stamp your personality on a property and make it your home. Think about using the layering techniques and grouping objects that have a similar theme, texture or colour and pleasing combinations of these.

As a rule of thumb when creating display areas think about symmetry, or offset asymmetrical symmetry. Think in triangles to give different heights and remember that when grouping objects odd numbers look better than even.

Hopefully these five steps are enough to get you fully on your way to your own stunningly maximalised home! Now get designing and have fun!

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