Aesthetics Wiki

Maximalism is a design style that encourages excess. It is the polar opposite of Minimalism.


"Wealthy people throughout history have practiced forms of maximalism as ways to showcase their riches-" Alessandra Wood, VP of Style at interior design service Modsy.[1]

Maximalism's beginning is hard to pinpoint for many because it has seemed to have always existed in many forms and styles. Earlier incarnations had wealthy individuals displaying artwork, animal specimens and other goods considered expensive or exotic, in what is equated to a small private museum, to show off to visitors.

Maximalism was also a way to create awe in people who entered in churches or cathedrals. This is especially the case for Baroque and Rococo religious architecture. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Catholic Church tried to oppose the Protestant Reformation. Baroque architecture emerged from this Counter Reformation. The Catholic Church in Rome tried to convey its power and emphasize the magnificence of God through reiligious art. Baroque art, design and architecture of the 17th century is known for being extravagant, complex and dramatic. Most ornaments of the Baroque era are inspired by those from Greco-Roman antiquity, and a few originate in the Renaissance. Trompe-l'œil were highly realistic optical illusion paintings of three-dimensional space and objects on a two-dimensional surface. They were used in Italy to decorate church ceilings, so the believers would feel like they are closer to good and heaven. Maximalism continued during the early and mid-18th century too, with the Rococo style. In contrast to the heavy grandeur of Baroque interiors, Rococo salons are lighter and more chill, but still use a big quantity of ornaments.

19th and early 20th centuries[]

Minton vase, by the Minton Factory and Albert-Ernst Carrier-Belleuse, 1862, bone china, painted and gilded

Minton vase, by the Minton Factory and Albert-Ernst Carrier-Belleuse, 1862, bone china, painted and gilded, V&A Museum, London. More than anything, this vase, like other Victorian designs, is an exercise of eclectically mixing previous historical styles. It has four layers: a blue and gilt base like a Sévres vase from the 18th century; four sculpted cherubs taken from Italian Baroque; a large front-like, open amphora, decorated with English roses and gilt Rococo patterns on the boarders, and a Greek key; and at the top, two gilt snakes crawl around the rim pretending to be handles, taken from Hellenic Greece

The Victorian era (1837-1901) was a period of revivalism of styles from the past (Neoclassicism, Gothic Revival, Rococo Revival, Renaissance Revival, Egyptian Revival etc), and of eclecticism (the practice of deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources). Designers and architects of the 19th and very early 20th centuries tried to create something new by combining different historical styles into a single design. Eclectic art is like a collage, where elements from different periods and areas are put together. Generally speaking, ecelcticism is one of the key things that leads to overornamentation, aka maximalism. It was a key part of 19th century design and architecture, also due to the fact that artists had access to more materials, technology, chemistry, and sources from more places and periods than ever before. The new museums established during the century were full of them.

As said before, revivalism was a big part of Victorian maximalism. For people of the 19th century, style wasn't about individual taste or personal choices. Our present-day idea that this is my, or his or her style barely existed before the last years of the century, and even then it was widely seen as somewhat superficial. The revivals of the Victorian era were of styles of cultures, communities, nations or periods from the past.

The objects and buildings of the Victorian era shown in the gallery bellow are without any doubt impressive. Today were are delighted by their ornaments, colours and styles. However, up to the 1960s, with the rise of Postmodernism, when people started to question Modernism and began to appreciate things from the pre-Modern past, the verdict of Victorian designs wasn't good. During the early 20th century and even when they were made, some people described the Victorian age as being one that has been providing us with some of the ugliest objects that have ever been made. Descriptions like 'aesthetic monstrosities' or 'ornamental abominations' were around at the time, and it only got worse. At the end of the 19th century Marc-Louis Solon (1835-1913), a well established ceramic designer, who worked for Minton and Company, was not unusual in commenting that the period 'bears the stamp of an unmitigated bad taste'. As time passed, negative opinions only got worse. Pioneer Mondern architects Adolf Loos and Le Corbusier felt that works like this were not simply bad, they were such an affront they should have been made illegal.

Present day[]

Main: Gen Z maximalism

"After the Recession of 2008, design trends turned to minimalist—making a statement with less. As the economy recovered over the next decade, society began accumulating wealth with more disposable income, collecting objects of interest, traveling more, and populating their homes with meaningful and significant art and accessories." - Dawn Cook, co-owner of BLDC Design. [2]

Today's maximalism -- also called cluttercore -- may have the same objective as the past incarnations of showing off, but there's a twist. Instead of accruing items to prove you can afford them, modern practitioner use decor and designing fundamentals as a way to express personality and values.


Decor Tips[]

  • One or two anchor furniture pieces
  • Coordinate your wallpaper
  • Don't forget to use the ceiling
  • Play with furniture shapes
  • Add well thought out pieces, not ones just to fill space
  • Layer to unite color schemes, patterns and themes
  • Shop for vintage pieces or decorate with family heirlooms
  • Try using house plants in your design
  • "Moments of “high impact” like a wall mural, neon sign, or an oversized light fixture"[3]

Fashion Tips[]

  • Wear what you love
  • Mix and match colors, patterns and prints.
  • Don't forget to also play around with textures (ie: velvet, corduroy, silk, satin, linen, etc.)
  • Don't just layer clothing, but accessories too.

Notable Figures[]

  • Iris Apfel
  • Madeline Castaing
  • Jennifer Oseh
  • Helena Bonham Carter
  • Bea B Åkerlund
  • Junstina Blakeney of Junglow
  • Joy Cho of Oh Joy
  • Kelly Mindell of Studio DIY
  • Kanye West (2009-2011)

Creative Arts[]


Considered an abstract concept in Post Modern Literature, the American Fiction: A-Z, Volume II describes the term The term "“maximalist fiction,” or maximalism, meanwhile, denotes fictional works, particularly novels, that are unusually long and complex, are digressive in style, and make use of a wide array of literary devices and techniques."[4] Maximalist literature lavishes their text with descriptions and information, and borrow from various techniques and genres to tell their story.

Notable Maximalist Authors & Works[]

  • Thomas Pynchon - 'Gravity’s Rainbow', 'Inherent Vice'
  • David Foster Wallace - 'Infinite Jest', 'The Pale King'
  • Zadie Smith - 'White Teeth'
  • Nicholson Baker - 'The Mezzanine', 'Room Temperature'


Notable Maximalist Musicians & Works[]

  • Kanye West - 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy'
  • Frank Zappa
  • Charles Ives

Visual Arts[]

Notable Maximalist Visual Artists[]

  • Dieter Roth
  • Ding Yi
  • Julie Verhoeven
  • Li Huasheng
  • Kam Tang