To the max: Forget minimalism, maximalism is the interiors trend to watch
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It’s great news for those of us who love to have our ornaments and mementoes on show, as Richard Burton discovered.
What a summer we’ve had. A royal wedding, the best World Cup run in 28 years, and the sunniest weather most of us can remember.
And then came the gloom as temperatures dropped, the pre-Brexit economy stalls, and with it, the property market.
So how do we get the colour back? We throw caution - and conservatism - to the wind and start to big things up around the house, according to leading designers who know only too well the importance of lifting the mood.
And the word on their lips is - maximalism; an interiors trend that does away with the tradition of clean lines and muted colour palettes and celebrates exuberance, and - thank heavens - makes a virtue of clutter.
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The colour thing has been around for a few years but every now and then it’s shoved to the fore as a new trend when we need cheering up. Like now.
And colours do affect us. Just look at the psychology employed by football clubs who paint the visitors’ dressing rooms in colours that bring down the mood or lower testosterone levels. Sunderland’s is a sort of blue and yellow hue some interiors experts claim can make players feel ill and teams visiting Norwich are treated to a “calming” pink.
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A few years ago colleagues at the University of Westminster (full disclosure: I lecture in journalism there) produced a study on the role colour plays in our brain patterns and how that translates into home décor.
They noted that the colours people choose not only reflect the way they view life but the effect on anyone visiting can be dramatic, given the way the brain tends to process thousands of tiny details in a single glance.
“The first thing you note when you enter a house is the colour of the walls, and depending on whether you fancy it or not, you create a positive or sceptical perception of that house’s décor schemes,” they said.
“We then form perceptions based on these details and act accordingly.”
That’s one of the reasons makeover experts such as Sarah Beeny are so big on that first impression when it comes to selling. It’s one thing for an estate agent to tell a viewer: imagine it without the shades of hell murals and see the potential, it’s quite another to send them off feeling too dizzy to study the floorplan.
I found even more evidence of the mood-effect theory last week during a day in London doing the rounds of a few art collections. The rooms I visited ranged from the traditional and clubby to blank-canvas white. But the one in which I was most tempted to buy was a fabulously serene space above Connolly’s, Isabel Ettedgui’s iconic clothing store in Clifford Street, where the striking monochrome works of Spencer Fung were displayed on walls of yellow - a colour the uni researchers had described as “persuasive”.
All very fitting, given that the maximalism movement has its roots in the art world of the seventies, as neo-Expressionism began to react against sixties minimalism which saw simplicity and austerity give way to a trend for slapping it on thick.
In the property world, we’ve seen something similar with all those TV shows encouraging homeowners to keep their houses neutral and bland to widen the appeal should they sell or let before giving way to a trend all about personality.
A couple of things I’ve heard recently. If you want to make a room look bigger and lighter, use passive receding colours; light shades of blue, green, yellow and avoid visually advancing ones such as dark blues and greens, reds, oranges and dark neutrals such as brown and black.
If you want a quick fix that adds an instant, hassle-free injection of colour, try paining one wall of your living room to change the focal point. And, importantly, tell a story. Maximalism, I’m told, works best when there’s a theme.
It’s a trend promoted by the likes of Zoe Anderson, the owner of the Shoreditch Trouva boutique W.A. Green, who confesses to enjoying “colour and stand-out pieces” rather than making everything blend in. And the textiles designer Barbeline Lusandu has long taken pride in bringing fun to the forefront of the home with designs focusing on colours, patterns and textures.
The online interiors consultant Marilynn Taylor has described maximalism as “the epitome of the passion, power and joy” that can be expressed by a room, but Dawn Rose, the force behind the soft furnishing brand Ragged Rose, summed it up nicely when she told me: “Vibrant and colourful items in your home will naturally lift your mood because no one’s unhappy when they see a rainbow.”
Woodchip & Magnolia Have introduced a whimsical range called Land of Milk and Honey; wallpapers and murals designed to transport customers away from the real world, into what they call a pastoral utopia.
Director Nina Marika Tarnowski described it as “about as surreal as we’ve ever dared to go. I think it’s a natural reaction for creatives to provide escapism though design, and never more so than now.
“Particularly in the long winter months, interiors have the power to lighten the mood physically and mentally. Many of our designs quite literally bring nature and the outside world into the interior space, and this latest collection is conceived from idyllic childhood memories or an imaginary ‘perfect world’.
“And yes, when days are dark or during times of personal or political gloom, I do believe in the power of interior design to help you escape into a better, brighter world.
“The great thing about wallpaper is that it has the power to dramatically transform a room, at relatively little expense. We’re seeing more and more ceilings being papered as well, especially in bedrooms.
“We want people to have fun with wall coverings, and if our designs lift spirits as well as physical spaces, then we know we’re on the right tracks.”
And Rebecca Snowden, Interior Style Advisor at the online retailer Furniture Choice said: “Maximalism is all about expressing your personality and style with a mix of bold trends. It’s a perfect opportunity to experiment with colours, textures, patterns – you name it!”
Then there’s the clutter, although we’re really talking about busy-ness; surrounding yourself with everything you hold dear; books, pictures, ornaments, mementoes of various kinds and showing them off.
Organised chaos in other words - the sort artists and writers live in. Or just the well-travelled with memories to showcase. Just Google the homes of Patrick McGuinness or Beryl Bainbridge or even Eamonn McCabe and you’ll get a hint of what I mean.
There are even Instagram accounts to celebrate it: #maximalism #maximalistinteriors, #maximalistinteriors, #maximalist, to name a few.
In fact, the last one proves its own point. It has more than 30,000 posts.