Zany patterns. Punchy palettes. Combinations of materials from the concrete to metallic.
As Claire Elsworth of Claire Elsworth Design notes, the eccentric spirit of Maximalism is both magical and rebellious. It encourages traditional rules of design to be broken and conventional boundaries to be overstepped. From patterned wallpapers and dark paint to a velvet sofa with an eclectic mix of textures pillows, the goal is to be courageous in your design, and to love the “more” aesthetic.
“‘More’ is a love and appreciation of pattern, color, collection and curation,” Elsworth notes, “with a sheer joy of fusing, contrasting, styling and layering all that gloriousness together.”
Photos courtesy Sasha Bikoff.
Maximalism has been embracing “the more” of design since the 1980s with the creation of Memphis Milano in the 1980s, a legendary postmodern design group that championed the style and made it a staple in the industry. Author and design journalist Claire Bingham notes in her book, More is More: Memphis, Maximalism and New Wave Design, that after experiencing the “riot of color and pattern” indigenous to styles like Memphis, the 90s saw a rise of Minimalism, a stark contrast with designers such as John Pawson and Calvin Klein focusing on purity and simplicity.
“There has always been minimal versus maximal throughout time, but the rise of the Memphis/80s style was a kickback from the elegance of mid-century design and a desire to rethink how objects could look,” Bingham writes. Although minimalism has been an ever-developing presence in today’s world, the Memphis style and Maximalism as a whole has found its way back into the hearts of young impressionable designers looking to become expressive in a more vivacious, free-spirited way.
In More is More, Bingham spoke with a host of contemporary designers, as well as Peter Shire and George Snowden, some of the original founders of the Memphis group, who truly embrace and understand the spirit of Maximalism. “It’s not so much to do with a style,” she says. “Maximalism could look like anything — romantic and frilly, graphic patterns, disco … It’s like playing dress up for the home.” To quote the vivacious Iris Apfel, “more is more and less is a bore.”
Famed New York designer Sasha Bikoff was dubbed the “interior designer for the young and wealthy” by The New York Times. Bikoff affirms that she was at the forefront of Maximalism’s revival when she started her firm seven years ago, a revival she credits to the growing millennial culture. She says that like anything in history there’s an action and a direct reaction. Instead of creating simplistic looks that can be easily replicated for the masses, younger designers and people want to create spaces and live within spaces that are unique, that share a likeness of themselves, a desire that has stemmed such creative outlets as Instagram, Pinterest and other social media channels.
Photo courtesy © Claire Elsworth 2017
To heighten the effectiveness of Maximalism, Bikoff says that one of the most important aspects of this style type is the use of color, noting that in her own designs color helps bring out an emotional response. She notes that it’s important to surround yourself with colors and objects, patterns, and textures that make us happy and bring life into your home. “The same way I dress with fashion — as my fashion choices are bold and confident — is how I want my rooms to feel,” she says.
Just like personal fashion, each Maximalist designer and design is different and based on both creative taste and what each designer finds inspiring. For example, Bikoff’s aesthetic can be derived from 18th-century French Rococo, 1960s Space Age Modern, 1970s French Modernism and 1980s Italian Memphis Milano. An affinity for new experiences, her love of travel helps add to her ever-developing color palette, which you can see in her projects. “Marrakesh is a place I travel to all the time, and the colors of the spices you find there are so amazing you can see them all in a color palette, from bright turmerics to smoky paprikas,” Bikoff says.
Photo courtesy Claire Bingham.
Elsworth’s firm focuses on luxury wallpaper and home décor, and is known for intricate yet bold Maximalist features in every design. She hand sketches her designs, which are inspired by her short concept stories about an imaginary Duchess called Violacea Macrobothrys and her beautiful old aristocratic house — “a Maximalist treasure trove paradise!” she says. These stories weave through six collections of wallpapers and cushions, displaying both Elsworth’s love for drawing as well as her favorite aspects of Maximalism.
“I’ve always been drawn to anything ornately detailed, whether it be textiles, interiors, art, or historical architectural details,” Elsworth says. “So, I was naturally drawn to the Maximalist style long before I even knew there was a name for it.”
To embrace Maximalism in an everyday space there is a variety of ways one can incorporate aspects of the style. Bikoff says that some of the best Maximalist interiors are just showing off pieces from trips you’ve taken all in one space, even if they do not particularly go together. “The whole idea of Maximalism is that it’s the kind of space for a true collector, a space that tells a story.”
Photo courtesy Sasha Bikoff.
Photo courtesy Claire Bingham.
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