Go bold with these designer tips for successful maximalist style.

By Mackenzie Nichols
January 25, 2021
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With many of us stuck at home, it’s no wonder that maximalism is seeing a resurgence. For those looking for something new and exciting, this art of creating a bold room and editing your clutter to tell a cohesive story may be more appealing than ever. Whether it involves combining patterns and textures or decorating with bright colors, there’s a way to incorporate maximalism without overcomplicating your space. According to interior designer Nick Olsen, overcoming your fears is key toward creating a maximalist space. 

“Maximalism, in general, is not having the fear of adding more and not having the fear of taking a risk,” says Olsen. “It's visual layers, it's layers of textures, it's layers of colors, it's layers of patterns, it's layers of objects. And it could be any one of those things, isolated or altogether.” Here are 5 designer-approved ways to approach maximalism successfully. 

Interior designer Rayman Boozer's New York City apartment.
| Credit: David Land

1. Choose a cohesive color palette.

When you’re in the planning stages of your maximalist design, it’s key to decide on a color palette. Go with a set of colors based on the mood you want to evoke. Decide whether you want warm tones like reds, oranges, and yellows or cool blues, grays, and whites. Then, run with that color. Outfit the room with furniture, artwork, and accessories in your chosen color scheme.

“A table filled with a bunch of clutter looks like a swap meet,” says Steve Giannetti of Giannetti Home. “A table filled with an edited group of objects that looks like they go together and are part of a collection and the palette matches feels like good maximalist design.”

Stylist Liz Strong's Los Angeles home.
| Credit: David Tsay

2. Consider the scale of your patterns.

One of the tenets of maximalist style is the combination of patterns. However, it’s a fine line to walk in terms of execution. Olsen says that mixing patterns can be a process of trial and error, and surveying your scale is important. Confine some patterns to small areas and others to expansive spaces so the scales don’t compete. 

“If you're mixing patterns, just look at the scale of each pattern,” Olsen says. “And if you can tell that the floral is the same scale as the geometric is the same scale as the animal print, all those things side by side are going to fight each other.” 

Lisa and Matt Hall's St. Louis-area home, designed by Amie Corley.
| Credit: Annie Schlecther

3. Be bold from the get-go.

A single item can make a major maximalist statement. For interior designer Brooke Giannetti, a 100-year old tapestry became the perfect backdrop. She designed her entire space around it to showcase the tapestry’s large-scale pattern. “Doing something kind of big and bold like that is also a great thing to do, or a great scenic wallpaper that adds a great kind of backdrop and some texture to the wall,” she says. 

And if you’re attracted to one bright color, stick with it and paint the entire room that same shade instead of just one accent wall. It might shock you at first, but Olsen says to allow some time for your eyes to acclimate to the new showstopping surroundings.

Designer Shannon Claire Smith's Washington, D.C., condo.
| Credit: Brie Williams

4. Group items together.

Have three of the same vase or multiple leatherbound books? Arrange them together. Maximalism, as opposed to minimalism, allows for clutter to be turned into smart design, and, according to the Giannettis, lets your personality really come to life. When your eye is drawn to something, see if you can buy three or five of them and put them in the same spot. “There's something much more powerful about things in groups than things in ones and twos,” Brooke says. 

Sarah and John Biondi’s Minneapolis home, designed by Lucy Penfield.
| Credit: Kim Cornelison

5. Showcase artwork on one wall.

One of the most attractive maximalism design tricks is to gather all of your artwork and mount it on a single wall, filling it up entirely. Olson relates this move to the window displays of Bergdorf Goodman and Tiffany & Co. “Find a giant canvas at the flea market or the art store and paint it and then kind of scatter all your other favorite smaller artworks around it until literally the entire wall is gone. It looks fabulous,” he says.

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