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Maximalism: The Decor Style That Will Define the 2020s

A bedroom decorated maximalist style.
Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

The default state of minimalist design is being shaken up on two fronts right now. As a result, 2020 looks to be the year maximalism is destined to come roaring back!

Minimalism has been in for far too long to be called a trend; it’s become an expectation. Modern coffee shops thrive on bare walls and sleek furniture. Beloved Instagram shots might feature nothing more than a succulent and a single book on a white table.

However, no decor style lasts forever, and there are two very strong pushes toward maximalism making a huge comeback this year.

Sure, minimalism will always exist in certain spaces, like upscale hotels and austere doctor’s offices. The power of minimalism is that it’s completely neutral—it offends no one and allows anyone to imprint his or her style over it. But as a stand-alone decorating scheme, it’s become a bit boring.

Trendy brands are shifting to an aesthetic that can be described as “cozy maximalism,” an antidote to minimalism’s long hold on design. That trend was already kicking off at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, but then the coronavirus happened. Suddenly, having stuff—any stuff at all—was good.

Lots of people quickly regretted paring back to a minimalist-chic look because sitting at home without, well, stuff wasn’t very enjoyable. Between the already-shifting trends and the realization that stuff is more enjoyable, minimalism is on its way out this year.

If you’re ready to move on from minimalism, too, there are countless ways you can incorporate maximalism into your life. Here’s what you need to know about the design trend that’s poised to take over the 2020s.

What Is Maximalism?

While minimalism is all about reducing visual elements to highlight blank walls and sparse silhouettes, maximalism is about packing a room with visual splendor.

Minimalism thrives on black and white with an accent color or two, but maximalism mixes multiple loud colors and patterns. Minimalism might feature a single painting on a bare wall, but maximalism fills that wall with different paintings in mismatched frames.

Although maximalism is a visual smorgasbord, it doesn’t mean clutter or clashing elements. Just like minimalism, it involves carefully selecting items that go together in a space. However, minimalism uses a short list of displayed items, while maximalism packs a room with lots of things that create a cohesive, pleasing effect.

Why Maximalist Decor Feels Fresh Right Now

The current minimalist trend arguably rose in popularity as a form of resistance to our hectic digital lives. For example, a website with a lot of white space and simple text is far easier to look at than one filled with Myspace-style animations, colors, and fonts. This design trend soon spilled over into our homes, and even our fashion.

The “less is more” approach has been the dominant trend of the last decade. For many reasons, though, maximalism is a much-needed response to minimalism’s hold on design.

Our digital lives certainly haven’t gotten any less hectic in the last 10 years. But minimalist decor may not have given us quite the mental escape we’d hoped for.

In fact, maximalism can be a relaxing response to the seemingly never-ending quest for minimalism. Let’s take a closer look at why this style is poised to dominate the 2020s.

It Makes Space for Personality

For many people, striving for minimalism feels like an effort to get rid of every marker of personality in a room.

With maximalism, you can display as many books, paintings, records, pillows, or whatever else as you want. Invite someone into a maximalist home, and they’ll find no shortage of talking points on the walls and shelves. In many ways, this is an easier (and more fun) approach to decor than strict minimalism—it allows you to display the things you find meaningful.

It Requires Creativity

A busy but well appointed living space with plants, shelving, seating, and a wide array of colors and textures.
Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Maximalism requires creativity and decorating skills in a way that minimalism does not.

Minimalism follows a predictable set of rules: you arrange a few well-crafted items in a room, with a carefully matched color scheme. You really can’t go wrong if you follow these rules.

For maximalism, you have to think outside minimalism’s box. The more you display in a space, the more deliberate you have to be about curating those items for the space to look good.

For example, a minimalist kitchen might feature a single set of white dishes in geometric shapes, which you can buy at any store. A maximalist kitchen, though, might involve a careful selection of secondhand dishes, all chosen to meet a certain standard of color or design.

Maximalism requires effort and creativity, while minimalism can be bought easily. If you enjoy decorating, this is part of the fun.

It Can Be Cheaper

Although maximalism involves more stuff, it actually can be less expensive.

Minimalist decor requires particular, high-quality items to achieve a very specific look. You’re not likely to find an ideal minimalist desk chair at any old thrift store. You’ll have to seek it out and might end up paying top dollar for it, too.

But maximalism is all about making unusual or mismatched items work, using your creativity and design skills. It’s far easier to fit thrift or antique items into a maximalist decor scheme than a minimalist one because the rules aren’t as strict.

Also, while minimalism is a raging consumer trend with countless products available, maximalism hasn’t (yet) been commodified in the same way. It’s a far harder concept to package and sell, so you probably won’t find yourself spending big bucks to chase the elusive goal of maximalism.

It Suits Small Spaces

Unless you live a truly sparse lifestyle, minimalism requires storage—lots of it.

After all, even minimalists still have stuff. They might want to keep a healthy supply of clothes or kitchen implements on hand. But a coat rack on the wall or a counter full of mixers and slow-cookers will mess up the bare, minimalist look of a space.

If you don’t have extensive storage space, minimalism is a goal you can exhaust yourself trying to achieve. That’s why maximalism lends itself so well to small spaces. Instead of trying to hide most of your stuff, you can find practical, visually pleasing ways to display it in a maximalist home.

It’s Simply Different

Even if you’re an avowed maximalist, it’s hard to deny the appeal of minimalism at times. Clean, sleek spaces do look nice, but that’s not the only decor style that’s appealing.

Plus, any trend eventually wanes—especially if it’s been popular for a long time. As minimalism has been the dominant design trend of the last decade, it’s definitely time for a change.

Of course, you also don’t have to go full minimalist or maximalist if neither truly speaks to you. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy medium.

However, if you’ve become a bit bored with white paint, tiny succulents, and midcentury modern furniture, maximalism offers a refreshing alternative.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »

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