There are even celebrity maximalists: Sylvester Stallone, Liberace, Elvis Presley and, surprisingly, Sigmund Freud, according to the lavishly illustrated coffee-table book released this month called “Maximalism: Bold, Bedazzled, Gold, and Tasseled Interiors” (Phaidon, $90).
Maximalism is an all-in design style centered on a more-is-more philosophy. It revels in animal prints, wallpaper, bold paint color, layers of texture and pattern, lavish drapery, tassels and fringe, decorative trinkets and charming curiosities amassed on travels and antique shop binges. The very best maximalists craft the sublime from excess.
Maximalism is, of course, the polar opposite of a minimalism, according to Simon Doonan, who wrote the introductory essay for “Maximalism.” Minimalism focuses on clean, spare interiors, a uniform, neutral color palette and a lack of clutter and superfluous objects. It’s a controlled, organized environment.
Maximalism is, by contrast, is associated with creativity and zeal.
“Living with daring, creative decor will keep you in an optimistic frame of mind and remind you that the world is full of possibilities. Stop worrying about what the neighbors think,” Doonan said in an interview.
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While minimalism often emphasizes high-end furniture and objects, Doonan added, “you don’t need buckets of dough to be a maximalist.”
Doonan credits Instagram with its style and decor influencers with the resurgence in maximalism or what some have dubbed “grandmillennial,” or granny chic for this layered, nostalgic style’s appeal to younger audiences.
For Atlanta designer Mallory Mathison Glenn, maximalism has never really gone out of style though “it is, for sure, having a moment.”
“Maximalism when you look back in the decorating world, it kind of stems from an English country style, which is layered — comfortable furniture, layered rugs, stacked art or gallery walls, lots of lamp light, sconce lights and picture lights.”
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There may be a reason more people are leaning into maximalist style after years of sticking closer to home, said Mathison Glenn. “I think people want to feel comfortable, and they want a space that envelops them and makes them feel welcome.”
Mathison Glenn is known for creating cozy, inviting spaces that revel in a streak of preppy maximalism founded on bright hues, beloved personal collections of items found on travels or that conjure up happy memories. It was the style that the designer was weaned on.
“I grew up in a house full of many collections, a lot of art, a lot of antique furniture. My mom was not afraid to experiment with things,” she said.
“You know, when I come home, I like to be reminded of all the places I’ve been and people who are important to me. That’s why I want a table that’s covered in 500 framed photographs of my great- great-, great-grandparents down to my dog and everything in between.”
Here are tips for budding maximalists:
Nothing says design confidence like blending a tiger print with a damask or a gorgeous floral wallpaper with a colorful rug.
Go bold with paint and wallpaper
Mathison Glenn likes scenic wallpapers and shades of blue, green and yellow.
“Yellow can be so sophisticated, so warm. And it just such a happy color,” she said. But the point of maximalism is to express your own taste, so pick a favorite hue and drench a room. Doonan’s advice: “Don’t be scared to paint your room dark purple and them accessorize it with white plastic futuristic furniture.”
Start a collection
“I have always been a collector, and someone who is much more comfortable being surrounded by a lot of things that make me happy,” said Mathison Glenn who collects sterling silver picture frames, china, vintage portraits, maps, headbands, straw hats, matchboxes, bar accessories and much, much more.
“I want to be able to look around and see things that make you feel good and remind you of people who’ve been in your life or places you’ve been or things that just appeal to you,” she said.
Hit the flea market
Simon Doonan recommends Alfie’s in London, Clignancourt in Paris and vintage shops like End of History in New York City, which he calls a “maximalist paradise.”
Visit a British country house
Both Doonan and Mathison Glenn recommend traveling to the origin point of all things maximalist: the grand manor homes of England.
Embrace a life well lived
Dogs are allowed on the furniture. Coasters are not required. “We’re not aiming for perfection,” said Mathison Glenn.
Layer your rugs
Mathison Glenn recommends layering patterned, colorful or Oriental rugs over a neutral backdrop of sisal, jute or plain wool rugs.
Stack your books
Nothing says devil-may-care style like a pile of gorgeous design books on a stool or a coffee table, and they can often be sourced at thrift stores like Goodwill, said Mathison Glenn.
Most of all, have fun
“I look at decorating as something that’s constantly evolving. It’s dynamic, and it’s OK to experiment a little bit and just kind of follow your instinct on what feels good to you,” said Mathison Glenn.
Felicia Feaster is a longtime lifestyle and design editor who spent 11 years covering gardening, interior design, trends and wellness for HGTV.com. Felicia is a contributor to MarthaStewart.com and has been interviewed as a design expert by The New York Times, Forbes and the Associated Press.