Death of minimalism as home design runs wild and free

Maxed out: Ikea recently launched a maximalist home range, featuring ornate skulls and riotous colours.

For decades, fashionable homes have been styled in muted colours and minimal design. But is our anxiety about the modern world spilling over into bold, disordered self-expression in our homes?

Leopard-print cushions. Opulent-blue sofas. Neon walls stacked high with pictures, prints and plants.

Is this your idea of heaven or hell? It might come down to whether you are a maximalist or a minimalist.

Pati Robins is firmly in the former camp.

When she first rented her home in 2006, it was a “magnolia hell, all Scandi and Ikea, all white and empty”. Now, 50,000 Instagram followers fawn over her punchy black walls, heavy, fur drapery and DIY ornaments.

Led by designers like Luke Edward Hall, a growing number of people are turning to radical self-expression in an attempt to banish the darkness and anxiety of the modern world.

“Minimalism is a bummer,” says American interior designer Jonathan Adler. “When you’re about to kick the bucket, you don’t want to look back and see an endless haze of beige.”

It is not restricted to the home. The “more is more” philosophy is dominating catwalks with fashion labels like Gucci and Balenciaga. These styles are now trickling down to high street shops.

This was not always the case. When property prices boomed in the 2000s, home owners were encouraged to keep their homes bland to appeal to buyers. Ikea’s “chuck out your chintz” adverts from 1996 are credited with starting to simplify the era’s interiors.

However, as more and more people struggle to afford property, there is a greater emphasis on personalising the little space you do have.

But minimalism has survived in other forms.

American duo Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, known as The Minimalists, have attracted more than 20 million devotees with their offer of “freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around”.

“We tend to give too much meaning to our things,” the pair claim. They argue this materialism deprives our lives of true meaning and fulfilment. The solution is to strip away clutter and distractions.

“It has been a journey of discovering that the abundant life is actually found in owning less,” says minimalist Joshua Becker.

Is it better to be a maximalist or a minimalist?

Just be yourself

Maximalist, say some. It’s human nature to express ourselves and this kind of creativity is a joyful celebration of life and individuality: no two maximalists are alike. Besides, in our depersonalised, post-truth society, one of the most grounding things we can do is make a tangible mark on the world, in our unique way.

Less is more, respond others. Relying on external possessions for your sense of self is inauthentic and unsustainable. These objects are the trappings of a superficial, cluttered culture that contributes to stress and self-obsession. We need to ditch all that and reconnect with a life of simplicity and truth for fulfilment.

You Decide

  1. Are you a minimalist or a maximalist?
  2. How important are material possessions and keepsakes to a person’s identity?


  1. Design your dream bedroom. Create two drawings, one in a maximalist style and one in a minimalist style.
  2. Read about maximalism and minimalism using the links in Become An Expert. Write a page on why you think each style might appeal to people in 2018. Be sure to consider political and social factors.

Some People Say...

“Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

William Morris

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Maximalism is having a revival. Since the 1990s, it has been popular to decorate homes in simple beige and monochrome styles, but now there is a movement to inject personality into interior design. Commentators suggest this may be down to escapism during troubled political times, or an attempt to reclaim your own space when it is increasingly hard to purchase a home. However, others respond to consumer culture by living a minimalist life, stripping away possessions.
What do we not know?
Whether it’s better to be a maximalist or a minimalist. Both have their devout supporters, and a minimalist style can still be unique to a person’s taste. We also can’t know for sure what political and social influences might be driving the maximalist resurgence, or if it’s just a fashionable trend.

Word Watch

Styles inspired by Scandinavian countries, like Denmark and Sweden, have been popular in recent years. These often include muted, natural colours like brown and grey, and minimalist furniture.
Luke Edward Hall
A London-based artist and designer whose style is characterised by clashing pastels and bright primary colours.
In recent years, Gucci and Balenciaga have made “ugly” fashion cool. Their characteristic styles involve bold colours and prints and, most recently, very large trainers.
Fabric printed with elaborate, often floral, patterns. The style was originally imported from India and was popular in England for hundreds of years, but it became unfashionable in the 1970s.
Consumer culture
A society that encourages people to constantly spend money on material objects to support the capitalist economy.
A dangerous trend in politics that prioritises appeals to emotions like anger and fear over objective facts. For example, President Donald Trump’s angry dismissal of negative news reports about him as “fake news”.

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