6 Ways to Marry Minimalism and Maximalism (for Interiors or Visual Art)

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Both of these illustrations are by Adriana Vawdrey (me). The simpler collage on the left was an sketchbook / Photoshop experiment, and the very detailed tiger image on the right was a camouflage experiment I did earlier this year. The tiger, called “I Spy,” is available to purchase as a print here.

When it comes to planning the design of anything — (a painting, an outfit, a room, etc.) —  do you normally focus on achieving simple elegance and efficiency? Or do you prefer details, layers, and eclectic mismatched combinations? I have been thinking about this a lot! What are the definitions of “minimalism” and “maximalism”, and how can creative people meet in the middle? 

Minimalism

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1. Domino 2. HWorks (genius jewelry designer & also my cousin!) —- please check out her shop! 3. Apartment Therapy 4. Otto Truman (1948) 5. Who What Wear 6. Apartment Therapy 7. Ileana Hunter (gorgeous drawings) — please check out her shop! 8. Abduzeedo 9. Freshouz 

“Less is More”

Minimalism looks different to everyone. In The Minimalists Podcast, Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus talk a lot about how each person will have different minimalist tastes, but the underlying concept is that people are seeking to simplify their lives and their surroundings. In art, design, and lifestyle, minimalism means removing unnecessary visual or physical clutter and only keeping what serves a truly valuable purpose.

Maximalism

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1. cheapchiclife.blogspot.com 2. futuristarchitecture.com 3. trendymood.com 4. Kali Ciesemier (beautifully colored, energetic illustrations) — check out her shop

“More is More”

Maximalism is an extreme reaction to the goals of minimalism. In maximalist art and design, the goal is to create a sense of luxury using showiness & excess. Patterns, textures, and collections of all kinds are layered to create depth, and there is nothing simple about it.


I really like both.

I get excited by well-designed maximalist artworks or rooms. There’s such a fascinating nostalgia that exists behind collections. Collections and patterns are like mini museums. There are so many interesting details to look at.

I also appreciate efficiency, visual breathing space, ease of maintenance, and focus on the individual beauty of a few well-designed objects. Minimalist principles in art, design, and lifestyle are very attractive to me, too.

So… are there ways to design with both of these concepts in mind?

I think so! There are endless ways a person might try to do this, but if you read below, you’ll see a few interesting ways I’ve seen people achieve that balance.

I just happen to love eclectic design (and color), so I save a lot of bold inspiration. Some of the images I’ve included may seem a little crazy to you, or maybe you’ll love them all — I don’t know! I tried to include examples from all kinds of different rooms, and artistic style genres. Whether you love an image or hate it, try to see the design approach I paired it with and maybe it will make more sense.


6 Different Design Approaches for “Maximal Minimalism”

Idea 1: Reduce the number of actual layered items, but include one or more interesting patterns somewhere in the composition.

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   1. cotemaison.fr 2. Smilerynker

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3. Florence Broadhurst 4. The Guardian

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5. Hsiao Ron Cheng (beautiful, soft & sensitive work) — check out her shop!) 6. Andrew Holder (lovely and modern with a folk art vibe) — check out his shop!) 7. Amy Blackwell (I am CRAZY about her sketchbook patterns and painted jewelry) — check out her shop!

This approach allows for many interesting details to look at, but includes fewer objects to cause physical or compositional clutter.

Idea 2: Choose a base color and create flat space, then layer some funky details on top.

blogd.jpg1. Houzz 2. tinyme.com

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3. & 4.  Josh Cochran (one of my favorite illustrators) — check out his work!

This provides a chance for collections to shine, but choosing a flat (and large) color-blocked foundation simplifies negative space and creates breathing room.

Idea 3: Focus a room or an artwork’s composition on one HUGE, amazing focal point.

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1. SF Girl by Bay 2. House of Jade Interiors

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3. Wall Street Journal 4. Apartment Therapy

Adding a large-scale focal point makes a visual composition seem grander and can introduce a powerful pop of color, pattern, and/or texture. Because of that interesting focal point, it doesn’t feel necessary to coordinate a crazy collection of smaller details.

Idea 4: Display pretty collected objects, even practical items like books or furniture, as art.

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1. Refinery 29 2. House Beautiful

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3. Leah Goren (she makes all kinds of lovely things) — please check out her shop!

This idea applies more to designing a space rather than a piece of artwork. It follows the practical concept of displaying useful objects which are also beautiful, but also includes that maximalist collection vibe.

Idea 5: Simplify your color palette.

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1. Popsugar 2. Houzz

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3. Isabelle Arsenault  (her work has the most beautiful textures) —- please check out her website!

When you design with a limited color palette, you give your eyes a place to rest and everything feels in harmony. This is a very minimalist concept. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a lot going on in another area — texture, pattern, collections… whatever you want!

Idea 6: Paint large areas of bold color (you can use a variety), but balance by not layering too much on top.

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1. Lonny 2. House & Garden

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3. & 4. Pierre Mornet (his paintings are GORGEOUS) — please check out his website

This is a great approach if you love color and want a lot of it, but don’t want the loud details that patterns and collections tend to bring. More focus can be placed on the few beautiful objects in your composition or room.


Try something new!

The bottom line is there is not one solid way to design as a minimalist or a maximalist, but it can be super exciting to blur the lines between each extreme! I hope these ideas inspire you to try new things in your art and design practices.

Thanks for stopping by!

 

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