Design Deconstruction: Maximalism

WORDS Tracy-Lynn Chemaly PHOTOS Greg Cox/Bureaux and Supplied

Maximalists have mastered the art of layering colour, pattern and texture to create very personalised interiors. Now’s the time to embrace the bold mishmash and make home yours.

The importance of home has never been as apparent as in the past few months. Isolated and hibernated, we’ve been engulfed by the things that decorate our dwellings. If you’ve noticed a mark of your personality emerging in the way you brought vintage silk cushions and soft woollen throws out of storage, painted feature walls in striking hues, and mounted artworks and photos to imbue your rooms with some true-to-you oomph, then you’re living proof that Maximalism is back in business.

The more-is-more approach – or, as US designer and ceramicist Jonathan Adler puts it, “glamour upon glamour” – is pretty much the direct opposite of Minimalism. While that Scandinavian/Japanese style advocates the bare necessities in the most neutral tones, Maximalism champions a riot of colour, multitude of textures and profusion of patterns.

An example of Jonathan Adler’s bold style, with his antique glass-and-polished-brass Delphine Bar as a focal point.

It calls for the unashamed mixing-and-matching of styles. It’s a case of “anything goes”, and is a welcome reprieve from the stringent regulations imposed on us outside our homes. While it defies any formal definition, US composer David Jaffe sees it, in musical terms, as something that “embraces heterogeneity and allows for complex systems of collision and juxtaposition”. But perhaps Maximalism isn’t meant to be theorised.

London-based artist and interior designer Luke Edward Hall, a modern-day poster boy for Maximalism, calls it “a fantasy in which to lose yourself”. “The world we’re living in can be rather grim at times,” says Hall. “I think that’s partly why people are taking to this trend. Perhaps they need an escape from the everyday, as opposed to living in a white box.”

Maximalism’s feel-good factor is an undeniable drawcard. Embodied in personalisation rather than perfection, this style dates back to the Memphis Group of the 1980s, another counter-movement against the purity and conventionality of design at the time. It encourages us to explore who we are by eclectically embellishing our home narratives. Plants, books and curious collections (of glassware, magnets, mirrors or flea-market toys) enliven these interiors with a curated form of clutter that represents passions, hobbies and interests. Bold floral wallpaper, family heirlooms, Persian rugs and the latest Tonic armchair can all coexist with layer upon layer of exotic Ardmore fabric and wild animal prints. The busier, the Maximalists say, the better.

Local fashion designers Marianne Fassler and Klûk CGDT have mastered this art of weaving worlds together – both in their colour-splashed, textural collections and in their boutiques – as has Cape Town interior designer Andrea Graff.

Cape Town interior designer Andrea Graff uses elements of Maximalism to celebrate a home’s sense of history while giving it a modern, contemporary edge.

“Maximalism allows you to create spaces with a sense of history, while still being current and contemporary,” says Andrea. It’s not unusual for her to place a leopard-print coffee table over a jute carpet – and then to throw in an electric-blue velvet sofa scattered with cerise cushions alongside an antique ceramic stool. Perhaps an attitude rather than a style, Maximalism is making home the place where the heart is once again.