A Decor Identity Crisis: Maximal Minimalism Is Trending
The chicest hybrid yet.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:15 AM
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Combining trends is a tricky business, but when the trends in question are not only different but in direct odds with one another, the whole experience becomes exponentially more challenging. Such is the case with minimalism and maximalism. Two of design’s most easy-to-characterize styles, they are, by definition, polar opposites. But the fact is that most people don’t fall into one camp or the other. Our tastes are capricious and rarely fit neatly into one box. Which is why this latest design trend is one we can really get behind. Maximal minimalism is all about marrying the two aesthetics in perfect unity, and it’s possibly the most inclusive trend out there.
Simply put, maximal minimalism blends the vibrant colors and abstract shapes of bolder maximalist styles with the clean lines and sleek silhouettes of minimalism. It’s loud but never unmanageable. A maximal-minimalist piece can frequently act as the centerpiece for a room, set against a monochrome or even totally neutral backdrop. Look to artists like Josef Albers or Ellsworth Kelly for visual examples. In fashion, brands like Tibi and Mansur Gavriel have made maximal minimalism their signature. Straddling the line between two distinct styles, the trend is a commitment-phobe decorator’s dream.
Creative online marketplace Society6 is getting behind the maximal minimalism trend, even naming it as a trend to watch for the season. According to the site’s editorial director, Stephanie Dixon, there’s a reason the style is so pervasive right now, and it has everything to do with the climate.
“Minimalism has great appeal as an island of peace in our increasingly chaotic world, however, we’re finding that living in the land of beige isn’t quite cutting it for the generation that has fallen in love with self-expression,” explains Dixon. “Maximal minimalism is a happy medium that allows you to showcase your bold personality without getting lost in the visual clutter of more detail-oriented work.”
Chances are that you’ve noticed this a lot recently even if you haven’t had the language to define it. Copenhagen-based brand Raawii saw its saturated ceramic vessels go somewhat viral this year, and that’s possibly because there’s something so visually pleasing about seeing a simple yet striking color take on an abstract form. It’s Instagram bait. Or how about Block Shop, whose bold shapes have found a spot in a deluge of homes we’ve featured? Maximal-minimalist pieces are primed for virality, and there are tons of ways to make this fun style work with your own.
Dixon is a fan of going all-out: “The bigger the better,” she says. “You know that energetic feeling you get when you step in front of a huge piece of abstract art a la Mark Rothko? Re-create that glow by choosing a large print or wall mural to be a statement piece in any room.”
Alternatively, keep your minimalist side anxiety-free and opt for smaller ways to mix in the vivid trend against a neutral backdrop. “Throw pillows will add a kick to any couch or chair,” offers Dixon.
Whether you’re looking to go big or small, here are 11 maximal-minimalist pieces sure to breathe life into your home.
The 3-D Sculptural Side Table
Slightly irregular, this cobalt blue table is the perfect nightstand for your bedroom. Go for tonal monochromes by layering it in against different shades of blue in your bedding, accent pieces, and even wall color. It’s a style that packs a punch, but with contemporary pieces like this table, it won’t look cluttered.
The Insta-Famous Ceramic
Part of Raawii’s colorful, sculptural ceramics, this yellow jug is both a vase and a serving tool. Either way, it’s sure to become a dining room staple.
The Finishing Touch
Coasters make for a great coffee table accoutrement—particularly when they come in a cool 3-D print. Areaware has a lot of maximal-minimalist items, and this series of funky coasters are an easy way to tiptoe into the trend if you’re not fully sold.
The Renter’s Solution to Boring Walls
Given that the trend is largely inspired by iconic artwork, it only makes sense that the best way to try it out is via some color-blocked prints. We’re loving the tonal reds in this piece by Matthew Korbel-Bowers.
The Classic with a Twist
If you’re all about geometric lines, choose a brightly hued furniture piece with a classic silhouette. The orange iteration of this Kartell table is totally unexpected and enables you to brighten up your living room with a sunny accent.
The Minor Commitment
Is your cream-colored sofa looking a little sparse? Infuse some pattern into it with an abstract-printed pillow. The rich hues are an elegant take on the frequently brightly toned trend.
The Colorless Statement-Maker
While it typically involves color, maximal minimalism can also focus solely on a really bold pattern. This cotton percale bedding set is a fun upgrade from simple white sheets that’ll stay in line with your grayscale, monochrome aesthetic. Dress it up with a vibrant red throw pillow or keep it dressed down.
The Upgrade You Never Knew You Needed
Give a frequently overlooked part of your home a makeover and switch out your shower curtain for something with more flair. Quiet Town’s range of colorful curtains offers a lot of options, but we’re sold on this blue-and-gold Marfa pattern. With its blocked squares, it’s reminiscent of Albers’ work.
The Eco-Friendly Option
Your design-forward decor can also have a sustainable edge. This set of four bamboo dinner plates may have a tricolored pattern as its focal point, but the fact that each plate is eco-friendly and reusable is definitely its selling point.
The Multipurpose Essential
For adding a hint of color to the foot of your bed or to your living room seating, this coral blanket is a beautiful example of abstract art in textile format. Cozy up on wintry nights or use it as a picnic blanket when the weather warms up—it’s even machine washable.
The Perfect Gift
Snap up this limited edition artwork now while it’s still available. Surprisingly affordable, it will make a trendy and thoughtful gift for your more design-oriented friends—you can really take it up a notch and get it custom framed too.