Design and maximalism: the anti-Minimalist movement

By Penny Craswell

There is no doubt that the world of architecture and interiors has been under the calming, ordered influence of modernism and minimalism for a long time. Especially in Australia, the majority of designers prefer clean lines, simple colour palettes and form follows function – there’s even a magazine about it. But if you sometimes like breaking rules and shaking things up a bit, Maximalism may give you the licence to follow your patterned dreams.

Maximalism is a direct response to Minimalism – it layers bold pattern and colour on top of each other. Fabulously expressive, Maximalist interiors and designs offer the designer to get really creative – to explore play and to indulge in an orgy of extremes.

Drake Commissary  in Toronto, mural by artist Alex McLeod. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid

Drake Commissary in Toronto, mural by artist Alex McLeod. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid

The Drake Commissary in Toronto includes the work of a number of artists in an evolving exhibition called “Fast Forward”. Most spectacular is a huge mural by artist Alex McLeod called Ancient Hills, which spans 10+ metres and depicts an incredible fantasy landscape created using 3D modelling tools. Other works include textile works, sculptural pieces and video art.

In Amsterdam, another hospitality interior going all out on Maximalist style is Bar Botanique, which includes layers of green planting, pattern and colour, designed by Studio Modijefsky. While much of the colour here derives from the theme, the interiors also include surprising elements like butterscotch velvet seating and geometric mirrored hanging artworks that make this a Maximalist joy.

Bar Botanique  in Amsterdam, designed by Studio Modijefsky. Photo: Maarten Willemstein

Bar Botanique in Amsterdam, designed by Studio Modijefsky. Photo: Maarten Willemstein

In 2017 in Milan, Corian presented “Corian Cabana Club: Exploring the World of Maximalism”, a display of creativity with seven cabanas made up of seven maximalist scenes. The most popular of these was a Mexican Bedroom styled by Antonio Marras in collaboration with Paolo Bazzani, which was inspired by this quote by Frida Khalo: “I paint flowers so that they will not die”.

Mexican Bedroom at  Corian Cabana Club . Photo: courtesy Corian

Mexican Bedroom at Corian Cabana Club. Photo: courtesy Corian

In Australia, our most famous Maximalist designer is probably Catherine Martin, whose aesthetic can be seen in Baz Luhrmann films including Romeo and JulietMoulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby. More recently, her textiles ranges for Mokum show that she is not afraid of pattern.

Another Australian with a love for pattern is Greg Natale, whose new book The Patterned Interiorlooks to be serving up some amazing interiors on the Maximalist side of design. We can’t wait to see more.

Barwon River House by Greg Natale features in The Patterned Interior

Barwon River House by Greg Natale features in The Patterned Interior

But interiors are not the only place for Maximalism. In fashion, the layering of pattern and colour has had a revival, inspired by icons like Iris Apfel who said: “If you put something on and it doesn’t look good, the fashion police aren’t going to come and take you away. And if they do, you might have some fun in jail. The fun of getting dressed is that it’s a creative experience.”1

There are many fashion designers who are now making clashing outfits work. I am a huge fan of Belgian designer Dries Van Noten because of the incredible patterns in his pieces and the way he layers textures, pattern and colour, best seen in his Autumn 2017 collection. Check out his recent book celebrating his 100th collection Books 1-100.

From Books 1-100 by Dries Van Noten.

From Books 1-100 by Dries Van Noten.

In ceramics, New Zealander Virginia Leonard‘s incredible expressive style is so far removed from the pristine ceramics we are used to seeing. Oversized, unsymmetrical and oozing with life, they are Maximalist objects each and every one, and look terrific in a group.

The work of ceramicist  Virginia Leonard  at Melbourne Art Fair 2018. Photo: courtesy the artist

The work of ceramicist Virginia Leonard at Melbourne Art Fair 2018. Photo: courtesy the artist

In furniture, Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Kostas Lambridis‘s giant oversized cabinet is made up of a series of contrasting styles and finishes, in a nod to postmodern pastiche reborn as Maximalism. I wonder what he will design next.

Cabinet by  Kostas Lambridis

Cabinet by Kostas Lambridis

Just researching this story has been amazing fun, and I could keep on going forever. If you are keen to see more, I can recommend you take a look at the Mondrian Hotel in Doha by Marcel Wanders, Studio Job’s new Headquarters in Antwerp, the work of New York interior designer Alex Papachristidis and this Texas Mansion by Miles Redd. Also, read these fun articles: “10 signs you might be a maximalist” by Apartment Therapy and “Maximalists, Rejoice: Here’s How to Keep Your Space from Looking Sloppy” by Architectural Digest. Here’s hoping we see a few more of these fun interiors in Australia soon.