Sometimes bold prints, bright colors and a boisterous attitude can seem tacky. However, with some stylization, even the wildest concepts can be brought to life in a way that is tasteful and coherent. Maximalism has existed for generations, living in bright ’70s floral prints, cluttered room decor and accessories on top of accessories. If you’ve been trying to get into a loud lifestyle or want to find ways to keep your own expression artfully corralled, Distraction is turning the vibrance up to give you a taste of how some University of Miami students live on the bright side.
If you’ve ever been drawn to bold aesthetics, you might be a maximalist at heart. Maximalism is a design and lifestyle movement that celebrates excess, abundance and individuality. It’s the antithesis of minimalism and encourages you to live life to the fullest.
Successfully pulling off maximalism can seem daunting. Unlike more traditional styles, there aren’t any rules to follow. All you have to do is follow the vibe. Whether you’re trying to learn how to enhance your own look or just want to observe from the sidelines, let’s get crazy.
When trying to achieve maximalism in design, it is all about embracing color, pattern and texture. Think of the opposites of the sleek and modern designs that have dominated the design world for the past few years. Instead of sparse spaces, maximalist interiors are filled with an abundance of objects, artworks and furnishings.
Kylie Spakausky, a sophomore majoring in architecture, gave her input on the design aspects of maximalism.
“Personally, mixing heavy woven wood like fabrics with super light and airy fabrics like sheer silk, linen or lace offers dimension, lightness and softness to a space,” said Spakausky.
The pieces you choose don’t all have to go together. Mix and match different styles to create a unique and personal space. Don’t be afraid to embrace the eclectic and unexpected, and let your creativity run wild.
“The mixing of multiple different textures is something I find really unique and maximalist designs pull it off very well,” said Spakausky. “Oftentimes in architecture textures on the interior of spaces tends to get lost especially now in more clean line [or] modern spaces and they end up being smooth and almost too easy on the eyes.”
While it is tempting to collect a bunch of things you find beautiful or fun, the key to achieving a successful maximalist interior is to balance the various elements so that they work together in harmony. There is a difference between bold maximalist design and tacky kindergarten-core. There is such a thing as too much.
“Having too many miscellaneous decorative elements like vases and pots on shelves starts to just make it look like you have an odd collection habit and just sold-out Home Depot and Home Goods,” said Spakausky.
What can help center a space is choosing specific things to focus on. Whether the space you’re looking at is a desk or an entire wall, choosing an element like layout or lighting can give your design a direction that can help elevate the appeal.
The art of maximalism has a lot of room for customization. For example, the other interests of a maximalist can really change what their room looks like. Someone who might love technology and video games can make their room reminiscent of an arcade with vibrant RGB lights on the ceilings and walls.
Another maximalist might have a deep connection to the natural aspects of the world and decorate their room with plants, crystals and tapestries. Vastly different aesthetics, but still maximalism at its core. It’s your space, so it should reflect who you are.
Maximalism in fashion is all about bold choices and wearing what you want. It’s a way to express your individuality and make a statement with your clothing. Instead of playing it safe with neutral tones and classic silhouettes, maximalism allows you to really go all in on your inner Harper from Wizards of Waverly Place.
“I really love color coordination,” said senior Sarah Hutchinson. “No matter what the piece is, if I can make the colors match, I’ll wear it.”
To truly make an outfit that screams controlled chaos, you should find a way to ground it. Play with simple pieces of different colors, or garments that have a simple color pattern accentuated by an interesting shape.
“Creating different outfits so that I’m almost never wearing the same exact outfit twice is one reason I like having my style,” says Hutchinson.
Switching around a few pieces of a few outfits can help create a bunch of outfits out of one — almost like a maximalist’s capsule closet.
Statement pieces are the name of the game in maximalism. If they are united under a theme or feel, you could throw on three different statement pieces and make a beautiful outfit.
If you love a denim vest and have a pair of red pants you can’t stop wearing, put them together with some red pins or a bandana to create a chaotic yet impactful look. Even the simplest of household objects can help blend two pieces together that usually stand out on their own.
It doesn’t only have to be accessories: makeup and hairstyles can also elevate an outfit.
“I love creating maximalist makeup looks with colored eyeliner, but normally on the weekend. Sometimes it just depends upon how confident I feel that day and what I think I can pull off,” said Hutchinson.
One thing to take note of if you’re trying to start out in maximalism is it might take time. As a style based on abundance and statement pieces, you may need to start building a wardrobe that truly stands out. But don’t buy just to buy; without a vision, maximalism’s impact falls flat and can border on tacky.
Life in Technicolor
While attributed mostly to a style of design, maximalism is also a lifestyle. Over the years it’s taken many shapes, but it’s always been there — from the YOLO merchandise a few years ago to Taco Bell’s slogan that tells us all to “live más.”
Much like how maximalism in fashion encourages abundance, it also encourages you to live life to the fullest. It’s all about focusing on joy and individuality in all aspects of your life.
A great start is to embrace your passions and interests. Art, music, fashion or travel — it doesn’t matter. Indulge in the things that bring you joy and fulfillment. If they make you feel happy, then why not show that happiness to the world?
Another pillar of the maximalist attitude is self-assurance and liberation from fear. When decorating a room or putting together a maximalist outfit, you have to push the envelope a little bit. It takes some confidence to rock an outfit like a Batman villain. You only have one life, so you may as well decorate the experience with as many fun things as you can, regardless of what other people may think or feel.
The final, key principle of maximalism is mindfulness. Instead of mindlessly consuming, maximalists are intentional about what they bring into their lives. They choose objects and experiences that bring them joy and meaning, rather than accumulating things for the sake of it.
As Marie Kondo once famously asked, “does it spark joy?” If not, why bother yourself with it? Whether it’s an old cardigan, unneeded notebook or even someone that just rubs you the wrong way, take it out of the picture.
Maximalism is all about embracing your individuality and expressing yourself authentically. Don’t try to get maximalism right by attempting to conform to a certain style or trend. Nothing beats expressing your individuality in a way that brings you joy and is undoubtedly you. So go ahead, give maximalism a shot and revel in all that life has to offer.
words_sal puma. photo_gracie herron. design_logan o’neill.
This article was published in Distraction’s Summer 2023 print issue.