Design Lesson

The dos and don'ts of maximalist style

The dos and don'ts of maximalist style Author: Style At Home

Design Lesson

The dos and don'ts of maximalist style

If there is one design style meant to drop your jaw, it’s maximalism. It’s compelling because it represents a contrast to other styles rather than a rigorous design framework of its own. It’s the opposite of austere and the opposite of minimal. And while maximalism is not for every taste, its adherents almost always have big personalities that match their gutsy decor. This is also the appeal of the maximalist space, be it a living room, bedroom, or bathroom. It is entrancing because it is so self-assured, luxurious, eye-catching and enveloping, all at once. But how much is too much? We asked three noted Canadian designers for their input on what maximalism means to them, and how not to overdo it.

1 Blend styles and periods seamlessly

“To me, maximalist is just the opposite of minimalist, which is a design term people tend to be quite familiar with, I find. To some, it may mean clutter and can be borderline ‘hoarder’, however when successfully achieved it is very endearing and visually interesting,” says Yanic Simard, principal designer of Toronto Interior Design Group. This approach goes well with an eclectic aesthetic. To accomplish it, several styles and periods must be blended together seamlessly, mixing old, new and everything in between, he says. Simard’s pro-styling secret is to create richly layered rooms that blend serious style and playful individualism, which his team achieve by mixing custom and vintage pieces, travel mementoes, family heirlooms and personal keepsakes with the addition of bold art. “The beauty of the maximalist style is that with the plenty of items that you need to make it happen, you can essentially create a whole new appearance for the space when you’re ready for something new just by moving things around,” says Simard.

Designer advice: Keep maximalism in check using the theory of visual weight

The best way to go about comprising this look is by doing it in stages – little by little until you feel the room has enough,” Simard says. Sit back and take time to observe until you feel it’s complete, he says. “It’s important to keep the look balanced and symmetrical by maintaining a consistent ‘visual weight’ throughout which is achieved by scale, texture, material and colour,” says Simard. Lastly, the main traffic flow paths should remain open. “Articles to make up maximalist design should be added through accessories on surfaces, artwork on walls, lighting and rugs – not with large scale furnishings,” says Simard.

2 Add meaningful layers

To Toronto interior designer Tara Fingold of Tara Fingold Interiors, the term maximalism represents “the ultimate layering of a client's favourite items,” she says. Maximalism isn’t a wild mishmash of anything-goes bric-a-brac. For her clientele, this means carefully selecting a collection of items and using it in one room. “This is achieved by layering of colours, textures and patterns,” says Fingold, who creates sumptuous, visually impactful interiors.

Designer advice: Keep it sophisticated with a uniting element
If you love the deliciously luxe impact of maximalist style but you’re not confident in creating a more-is-more statement in a room, use Fingold’s rule of thumb. “I make sure that it is not overdone by having a cohesive overall look,” she says.  “This is achieved by having a united element, whether it be a colour, a texture or a pattern,” she says.

3 Think bold, rich colours and exotic influences
“To me, maximalist design incorporates a mixture of different rich, deep colours and bold patterns,” says Rebecca Mitchell of Rebecca Mitchell Interiors in Montreal.  It can be inspired by European or Middle Eastern influences, she says. “Think Downton Abbey to Parisian Bohemian to Indian or Moroccan,” she says. To achieve this look, Mitchell says she would start with an opulent area rug. Then she would work in bold, complementary textiles and colours in the furniture, wallpaper, fabrics and artwork. “The end result is a rich tapestry -- versus eclectic -- of carefully curated elements that reflect the homeowner's personality and experience,” she says.

Designer advice: Yes, you still have to edit – even with maximalism
Judicious editing is part of a top interior designers' skill set, which he or she will apply to maximalist style too. “Minimalism to me is all about the breathing space around each element to appreciate its form and texture,” Mitchell says. Maximalism is about depth and richness, but the end result must be edited to be complementary and not clashing. “Both maximalist and minimalist styles require careful editing to achieve the right result,” says Mitchell.


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Design Lesson

The dos and don'ts of maximalist style