Minimalism vs maximalism – How they’re different

It’s the match-up we’ve all been waiting for! Both of these opposing styles have exploded at relatively the same time which has people on opposite sides of the fence about which is better. We’re not one-sided here; let’s take a closer look into the natural opponent of minimalism. Maximalism.

Minimalism versus Maximalism

Minimalism aesthetically isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Some people genuinely love the more, the louder, the scattered—and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The pandemic has turned our homes into our offices, daycares, gyms.

It’s important now more than ever to make sure that your homes are somewhere where you’re actually comfortable and at peace. Trust yourself in knowing what kind of environment you need to thrive!

Before we analyze minimalism and maximalism side-by-side, it would help to become more familiar with what maximalism is.

What is maximalism? – Definition

While minimalism screams, “less is more!”, maximalism screams, “more is more!” Maximalism is an interior or fashion aesthetic design choice where designers go over the top with eye-drawing features and popping colors.

Maximalist interior design incorporates wallpaper, decor, and furniture that is covered in several different patterns and textures. If you walk into a maximalist’s living room it’ll appear to be bombarded with random things.

That’s until your eye adjusts and you notice a subtle color palette, theme, and purpose in how each thing was placed. 

Maximalist design incorporates lots of small pieces that compliment the whole. It isn’t about just being loud or having something there. Maximalist designers focus on shapes and textures that add to the room.

They use bold colors and rarely stick to just one color for any one thing. They employ lots of furniture, including small pieces like foot rests and cabinets. It wouldn’t be odd to find a navy blue shag pillow on top of a cream-and-green-striped couch next to a leopard-skin fleece blanket with a large peach-colored vase next to it holding golden reeds.

You’re also very likely to find multiple pieces of decor on every surface. Maximalists really know how to fill up a room!

It’s genuinely impressive when you can manage to squeeze a lot of things into one room without it looking mindless, chaotic, or even messy. Maximalist design is admittedly enchanting, even sometimes whimsical.

It’s fascinating to look at as it keeps the senses stimulated and engaged—it’s almost surreal to be in a maximalist’s room! Where could anybody have gotten this idea from?

Origin of Maximalism

Minimalism was born in the 1950s and ‘60s as a means of challenging consumerist culture and its values, primarily when it came to visual art. Not too long after minimalism was conceived, maximalism found life.

Maximalism is a retort to minimalism from proponents of consumerism who stick by the ideology that more is better. Maximalism was specifically created as an opposite aesthetic to minimalism, which was exploding in popularity. 

Maximalism’s origins aren’t as meticulously tracked as minimalism’s. It’s generally agreed that maximalism sprung up not too long after minimalism to serve as the “other side of the spectrum” so to speak.

But the reason behind its conception should give you a better idea of what maximal design looks like.

Now that we’ve got the background information we need, we’re going to focus on the aesthetic aspects of each class. We’re going to determine what minimalism and maximalism mean, and how they affect our lives and standards of living.

Minimalism and Maximalism – The Difference

Maximalism

You might be tempted to automatically assume that maximalists are all materialistic people. But maximalists don’t care for the possession itself as much as how the possession makes them feel. They acquire things that ignite positive feelings or memories.

They figure, “Why have nothing here when I can have something pretty here instead!” Maximalists are masters of their space! And they try not to waste any.

Inside a maximalist’s home awaits an Alice in Wonderland-esque scape of mix-match patterns and vibrant accessories. A circular glass vase next to a tall stone statue next to a square-framed picture brilliantly embellished with gold scrolls and swoops, all of which are surrounded by speckles of glistening crystals.

You can’t help but be in a state of delighted wonder at the whimsy of a maximalist’s design. And that’s exactly what they want! Maximalists cherish their home’s ability to spark interest and amazement from onlookers.

More important is that their decor fills any visitors with energy and positive vibes. Can you really be sad sitting on a squiggly salmon-pink couch?

Maximalist fashion follows the same code. As you can imagine, maximalist fashion is edgy, precise, and not the easiest to pull off. Much like the home, it features outfits composed of a lot of differing elements such as varying patterns, colors, and materials.

Sometimes, maximalist fashion is in the form of articles of clothes that are jam-packed with patterns, graphics, or embellishments on them. Other times, it manifests as different styles, colors, and textures being combined into one outfit. 

Maximalists, like minimalists, also take measures to toss away anything that doesn’t contribute to their happiness, health, or productivity. Unlike minimalists, however, maximalists then begin to fill that empty space with more things that make them feel happy, healthy, and productive.

Then they organize it carefully to create a “busy” look. There are several methods to this madness, but we’ll go over some of those in the Tips section.

Overall, the goal of maximalism is to feel good and be stimulated by your environment. Maximalists find comfort in being surrounded on all sides by things that make them feel warm, cozy, and joyful.

They’re appreciative of what they have and how much it gives to their radiance, creativity, and comfort. Make use of all the room in your home and fill it to the brim with all good vibes, plants, and fluffy things!

Minimalism

Unlike maximalism, minimalism is a term that can be applied to facets of you life besides design. Minimalist principles can be applied to your finances, your parenting style, your environmentalist pursuits or even minimalist music.

The core of minimalism is to rid yourself of unnecessary things, habits, and people to make room for what’s important to them.

Minimalists look at the mantra “less is more” from this angle: the less you own, the more the eye is drawn to the elements that are in the picture. That’s why minimalists make sure their surfaces and possessions are always spotless and tidy (not to say that maximalists don’t!). 

Rather than a lot of poppy colors, a minimalist’s house will stray very little, if at all, from earth tones and gray-scale colors.

Not to mention, you won’t see nearly as many things around. In a pursuit to use less, spend less, and stress less, minimalists only own things that they need in order to lead an efficient and healthy life.

That means minus all the conveniences and privileges that we’ve come to think of as “essential”. This allows them to appreciate the things they do have that keep their lives moving forward. Most of what they do own is stowed away to maintain order. 

Minimalist fashion is monochromatic, unembellished, and simple chic. Their outfits consist of a few matching pieces with a variation of two colors max. Nothing is over-done or big, including jewelry and accessories. Crisp, clean, and straight.

As mentioned before, minimalists as well as maximalists weed out and keep the things that make them feel happy. However, their cherished pieces don’t have to be on display and if they are, they’re placed with a purpose. 

Unlike maximalists, minimalists choose to give up their attachment to things and how possessions make them feel.

Minimalists prefer sources of happiness outside of material possessions such as experiences and people. It’s about living mindfully and gratefully outside of consumerist culture.

Maximalist Tips

Now that you’ve examined both together, are you feeling that maximalism is more your style? Say no more, I’ve got you covered! Here are a few tips for achieving that ethereal maximalism glow-up!

  • Don’t add what doesn’t fit. That’s called noise. The goal isn’t to create noise, it’s to “add onto” the room. If the item doesn’t fit the color scheme, texture scheme, or theme of the room, don’t put it in there. That doesn’t mean you can place it somewhere else more suitable! The wrong stray item can kill the illusion.
  • Create a theme. Speaking of themes, this is the fun part! If you really want your room to pop aesthetically, establish a theme for it. Themes serve to tie your seemingly-random assortment of things together. A few quaint ideas for a lighthearted theme: cottage core, boho, Victorian, and metallic.
  • Books! Who doesn’t love books? And you get to have as many as you want. How awesome is that?
  • Maintain balance. There should be a balanced ratio of big, heavy objects and small objects in a room. A room shouldn’t just be packed wall to wall with furniture. Put up shelves (mount them on the walls if there’s no floor space) and fill them.
  • Utilize the ceiling space. Yep, you have a ceiling! You can hang plants, small chandeliers, a yoga swing, chimes, beads—the possibilities are endless!
  • Apply wall decor generously. Don’t be afraid to fill up your wall space as well (just remember to do it artfully and not just pile it on). Mount pictures and photos that speak to you on the walls. Attach sconces for some extra reading light. Hand tapestries or attach vines along the walls. 
  • Cool additions. Some small, colorful bug or plant exhibits add a cool touch to any room. Some multi-hued moss art is a creative and natural addition to your space—and an easy DIY! An LED fish tank filled with colorful fish is a mesmerizing idea. String lights: always pretty.

Wrap Up – Conclusion

Your motivations, values, and unique style will determine whether you were meant to be a minimalist or a maximalist. There’s no wrong answer! Both groups have their own motivations, comforts, and benefits. However you choose to design your home should be an outward expression of you.

You might be a maximalist if you’re comfortable in busy places or maybe have a fast-paced career. You thrive in consistent stimulation, and visuals motivate you the most. You likely have a vibrant personality and the heart of a creative (judging by what’s going on outside).

Minimalists choose practicality and productivity in order to live efficient lives. If that sounds like you then you might be a minimalist. You don’t like a lot of noise—you like to get down to brass tacks and you’re especially goal-oriented.

Your home is awesome because it reflects you. And whether you’re a lot or a little, you’re perfect. Coming to the truth of which you align with most is a matter of being honest with yourself and what makes you happy.

We should celebrate both our motivated minimalists and our manic maximalists for your conscientious design, your unique quirks, and your contributions to the fashion and design industry!

Photo of author

Connect: Social

Author

minimalistathome

Hey! I'm Cori, and I've been a minimalist for as long as I can remember. I started this blog to share my thoughts on minimalism, my life & how decluttering my home has benefitted me.

Read more from minimalistathome