Opposites attract: Minimalism vs Maximalism

Schenelle Dsouza
The aesthetic debate of our age minimalism vs maximalism has been raging in the design industry for the longest time now. And while each of these is subjective to one’s personal style, the eternal debate between less is more and more is more has left parts of the world divided and the rest unsure.
And so, we at LuxeBook called in the experts – Shreya Budhiraja – Founder, EyeInspire, Meenu Agarwal – Founder & Interior Designer, MADS Creations, Suraj Mittal – Founder and Principal designer, Future Concepts and Ritu Gupta – Director, Pramod Group, to share their thoughts on the conflicting trends of minimalism vs maximalism.  
Shreya Budhiraja - Founder, EyeInspire
Shreya Budhiraja – Founder, EyeInspire
Minimalism vs maximalism  
Two complete opposites of each other, minimalism and maximalism are defined by extremes. While minimalism focuses on simplicity, maximalism focuses on expression.  
Minimalism is mainly defined by simple forms, clean lines, and neutral colour palettes. However, the most important aspect of minimalism according to our designers, is the aspect of form and essential design. “The main focus of minimalism is essential design. The simplicity and beauty of the form, creating elegant and uncluttered spaces that may appear sparsely decorated, but not sterile.” says Meenu Agarwal 
Photo Courtesy: Unsplash
Building on the aspect of functionality, Suraj Mittal suggests that minimalism prioritizes core functionality more than anything else. It is all about the simple forms, which are defined by clean lines, a monochromatic palette and highlights as little as possible in terms of design.  
Shreya Budhiraja further connects minimalism with the feeling of calm and Zen. “I feel like if you were to walk into a room that is minimalist in design, everything within that room should make you feel calm, in the sense of order and symmetry. Every piece in that room should have a purpose to it. Everything in its most basic form needs to match and have a sense of symmetry going on. It has to be calm and provide Zen.”
MADS Creations
Photo Courtesy: MADS Creations
Maximalism on the other hand, epitomises expression with an eclectic mix of distinctive styles, bright colours, diverse patterns, varied forms, and shapes in a free expression of one’s style and personality. While minimalism is all about the less is more aspect of design, maximalism is all about more is more. The style is often characterised by a riot of saturated colours and patterns blended with multiple layers of details, plenty of artworks and accessories, that all come together in harmony to make a striking statement.  
Budhiraja defines maximalism as something that is stimulating. “When you walk into a maximalist space, your eyes should be intrigued; every piece of décor, every fabric should provide a stimulating experience. You are curious about everything present in the space because everything is expressive and bold.” 
Ritu Gupta - Director, Pramod Group
Ritu Gupta – Director, Pramod Group
Maximalism involves highly accessorizing a space with eclectic artwork and décor that tells a story about the space; where people are trying to emphasize intricate details like artwork and statement pieces. However, Ritu Gupta believes that avoiding clutter in maximalism too helps tell a story. “Maximalism is about colours, textures, finishes, and touches. But I believe there needs to be a focal point for its to seem enticing rather than just cluttered.” 
Passing fad 
Believing homes to be a representation of the owner’s personality, it can be difficult to choose a superior style. However, looking back at history in India, maximalism has always been a clear winner. “Maximalism has been the biggest trend in India since the ancient times. Look at our ancient Maratha palaces and Mughal aesthetics. Bright colours, over the top décor, patterned upholstery, antique statement furniture, it was all about maximalism,” says Mittal.  
Agarwal too believes that maximalism was the preserve of the wealthy in the past. “They had huge homes back then, which showcased a fine selection of materials, furniture pieces, artworks and decor accessories brought from different parts of the world, indicating a grander way of living.” And while the trend may have settled down a little, it still holds value in modern day homes, where people still want the wow factor. According to Budhiraja, it is not about the clutter, but about starting a conversation. “Your home should always be interesting enough to spark a conversation,” she says. 
Pramod Group
Photo Courtesy: Pramod Group
So, if maximalism is so important, where does minimalism fit in? And where did it originate from?
“Minimalism mainly came to India from the West,” says Agarwal. “From the modern styles of design where straight, clean lines took over curved contours and ornate surfaces, for a sleeker look. Because of the influence from the West, and extensive travel, people were drawn to the refined and modern ethos of minimalism.”
Photo Courtesy: Unsplash
Gupta, on the other hand believes that minimalism is still to come into the country at a bigger level. “People in India mostly prefer maximalism but in the sense of a well-balanced space, that needs to have a focal point, otherwise it can end up looking cluttered and unattractive.”  
Switching to maximalism  
For a while minimalism as a trend garnered quite the fandom, for people who preferred a more serene space, that was clean and free of chaos. It was a lot more popular, not just in the west, but in India as well. However, our designers agree that the trend has shifted once again, with people being drawn towards maximalism, once again. 
Meenu Agarwal - Founder & Interior Designer, MADS Creations
Meenu Agarwal – Founder & Interior Designer, MADS Creations
“Maximalism has always been common in India,” says Agarwal. “We are a colour and craft-loving country. We have an enormous range of ancient art and crafts traditions that are rich, bright, ornate, and complex. When we design with these elements, the spaces lean towards maximalism.”
The shift from minimalism to maximalism has been heavily attributed to the pandemic. Post the pandemic, people have become more inclined towards maximalism. The style is believed to have a life-affirming quality, with its bold expressions, a quality that people have begun to appreciate now. “You only live once, so you want to go all out and that is the mindset that people have lived with for the past two years,” says Mittal. This very mindset led to plenty of experimentation, adding new elements, creating a different concept for different rooms. “People feel like every room in their home should have a different language, a different story altogether.”
Shreya Budhiraja
Photo Courtesy: EyeInspire
A known fact remains that Indians inherently like bold colours and decorative elements. The pandemic and the multiple lockdowns kept people confined to their homes. Seeking a change of view, and considering the amount of time spent indoors, people wanted their homes to be a space that was exciting and stimulating. And maximalism, with its profusion of colours, textures, prints and patterns offered that to them. Soft curved furniture replaced straight-lined furniture, as it seemed more inviting and comfortable.    
But it’s not just about feeling a sense of excitement in your home. Budhiraja believes that your home should have different zones that make you feel different things. Homes have become a sanctuary for people where they can feel a sense of calm, but it has also become a space where you work, and now a space where everybody wants their share of indulgences as well. “Your home has to have different zones that make you feel different things like your bedroom should be a space where you feel calm and relaxed, or your living room should be interesting enough to spark a conversation.” She believes that the space should be designed in such a way that you feel all your emotions. “Homes have become an important symbol of being able to feel everything in life because you don’t know what will happen. Your home cannot be a plain Jane, relax only space or you won’t be able to get any work done. More purpose, more expression, more stimulation. That is how maximalism is picking up.”  
Pramod Group
Photo Courtesy: Pramod Group
Fusion and overlap  
While half of the populace argues about their preferences for minimalism and maximalism, our designers agree that both trends have evolved over the years based on the client’s taste and preferences. Some of the new trends include experimentation with fusion and overlapping of both of these styles. Mittal adds that, “Designers are now trying to create a fusion between minimalism and maximalism, where minimalism is combined with like bohemian design or Scandinavian design. That is how it has evolved over the years.”
Gupta adds that one can easily enliven a minimalist space with a little more colour, or a statement piece like a painting or patterned cushions which create a beautiful fusion of the contrasting styles. “Balancing both styles is a new and exciting way to create an artistic space that is not too cluttered or too bland, and it has an interesting focal point as well,” she says. 
MADS Creations
Photo Courtesy: MADS Creations
Budhiraja believes that an overlap between the two designs was an inevitable evolution. With people constantly travelling, there’s exposure to new design trends. Social media too, she believes, plays a role in influencing them which is why sticking to just one trend is nearly impossible today. “There’s no space where everything is either maximalist or everything is minimalist. Everyone’s experimenting. In minimalism too, there’s a bit of experimentation. Patterns coming in, it’s not just plain solid colours anymore. And within maximalism too there’s symmetry coming in, it’s not just in your face décor anymore, their prints are a lot more formatted.”   
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