After decades of bland minimalism, people are decorating their homes to the max. Is it a response to our troubled periods or individual expressionism?
Outside, Tania James’s home looks reasonably median, a flat in a Victorian conversion on a north London street lined with trees and velocity bumps. Inside, it’s a riot of colour.
Neon pink, amber and orange zap across the walls, while dozens of 60 s and 70 s tea trays line the stairs, each a different pattern. In the living room are green and pink sofas with leopard-print cushions. A pink plastic light-up pigeon and a toy plastic pony sit on a shelf alongside a big yellow plastic bird she found in a charity store.” I was like, oh my God, PS4- that’ll go with the pigeon !” she says. On another shelf sits her brightly coloured glass-bottle collect, which she has been adding to for the past 20 years-” it’s a one-in, one-out policy now “. There is a fireplace painted highlighter yellow, pink and purple, with a baby-sized blue plastic bear standing to attention in the grate. In the bay window, a jungle of house plants spreads its fronds.” I don’t want to say I’m attached to stuff ,” says James.” I’m not materialistic- but it’s important to me to have how I feel inside, out .”
She was understood that the home she shares with their own families is “Marmite”- someone once told her:” It’s like 10 beakers of coffee with a migraine .” But she loves it.” I work from home and I literally need it ,” she says. And while it may sound chaotic, on a sunny Monday morning it feels amazingly serene.
On Instagram, maximalist interiors abound. James is known as Ms Pink on the site( she and her partner run a company called Quirk and Rescue, selling cushions and publishes) and she points out the democratic nature of social media; you would have had to buy specialist magazines in the past to access anything approaching this range of ideas. But the move towards maximalism also seems to be about other shiftings: a reaction to grim political times, and a rejection of the idea of a home as, mainly, a commodity.
In the 00 s, as home prices rose swiftly, cultural forces-out, including Tv property displays, encouraged home-owners to keep their home beige and bland, the idea being that this would increase its appeal should they ever need to sell or let it. Now there seems to be a move towards building our living space- big or small, rented or owned- into an expression of our personality. In other words, a home.
Maximalism can be read as an fled from a world and culture that at times seems bleak. James watches it in part as a backlash against austerity:” People are like, right, what can we do to stimulate ourselves feel good ?” The American interior designer Jonathan Adler suggests it’s because” minimalism is a bummer. When you’re about to kick the bucket, you don’t want to look back and assure an endless haze of beige .” He says maximalism is about surrounding yourself with things that construct you” feel a little bit more glamorous than you think you are “. Rather than more-is-more, he describes this as “glamour-upon-glamour”.
Pati Robins, a full-time carer whose maximalist rented home on the outskirts of Cardiff has attracted more than 50,000 Instagram adherents, says maximalism for her is about” a collection of things that I love … I have to feel something for them. If something gives me a great exhilaration or any reaction, I pick it up .”
When she and her husband first started renting their home from a housing association in 2006, she says it was a nicotine-stained,” magnolia hell, all Scandi and Ikea, all white and empty “. She had moved from Poland with one suitcase and her husband” was a homeless veteran, so he didn’t have many belongings. When “youre living” like someone else is living because you don’t want to stick out too much ,” she says,” you end up feeling like a guest in your own home … it was just awful .”
Her version of the aesthetic feels very different from James’s- her walls are painted dark colourings, for instance. In her living room, the head of a donkey jut from a neon pink frame.
Maximalism is all about carrying individualism and personality, and so the culture reference points are hugely varied. Ben Spriggs, executive editor of Elle Decoration magazine, mentions the colour-saturated worlds of Wes Anderson and the Italian palazzo look of
Call Me By Your Name. Both he and James namecheck the 1980 s Memphis design movement, with its squiggly patterns and bold colour, especially the aesthetic of its founder, Ettore Sottsass, whose fans included David Bowie and Elio Fiorucci- Sottsass co-designed the latter’s flagship New York store.
‘ It is a way of conveying yourself’ … Hall in his flat. Photo: Jill Mead for the Guardian </ figcaption > </ source >In Luke Edward Hall‘s one-bedroom flat, there are shell-shaped wall lamps, merman candlesticks and so many volumes that his shelves sag under their weight. He is one of the artists and interior designers most associated with today’s maximalism, and says that at a time when the world can be quite grim, it is about escaping into a fantastical universe.
For him, that involves being surrounded by objects that have a tale.” It is a way of expressing yourself ,” he says, sitting on a mustard yellow sofa.” In the same way I have scrapbooks, it’s a way of having these memories surrounding you .” On a nearby table are small glass anchovies picked up on a trip to the Amalfi coast with his partner; on another there are glass chicory and asparagus picked up in Venice. He and his partner” love anything shaped like a fish, vegetable or animal”, he says. His fridge is adorned with magnets of crustaceans, Campari and Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. In the bedroom, there are palm-print bedsheets and a leopard-print carpet, green wallpaper and pink curtains.
With minimalism there was a clear aesthetic, while maximalism embraces everything from Robins’s dark walls, James’s neon birds, and Hall’s shrimp magnets.” It’s much more personal ,” says Tangaz,” much more about what you want to create .” Robins believes people are” getting sick and tired of living like everybody else. I think we just want to be seen as individuals .” If that means pink walls, orange floors and lamps in the shape of artichokes, so be it.
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