With the onset of the 2020s, Gen Z is noticeably claiming their place in the world with bold perspectives and even bolder aesthetics. Gen Z proudly experiments with their identities, having grown up on an opinionated internet and through confusing lockdowns. They're bringing in a culture shift with organic shapes, colorful elements, and clashing patterns dominating art, media, fashion, and interior design. The trend is pushing away once-reigning minimalism, shouting Venturi's Less is a Bore.
A raucous design theme leaps over social media algorithms, collecting a growing following. Its features mark the resurrection of a recurring trend - maximalism. As the name suggests, maximalism is all about maximizing everything from shades and textures to materials and forms. In interior design, it manifests as a hyper-personal space that bursts with visual stimulation. Ms. Pink of Quirk & Rescue duly reflects the maximalist mindset by saying "You can never have too much of a good thing".
Maximalist interiors master the art of More is More by featuring contrasting elements in comprehensive palettes. An accumulation of plants, paintings, collections, and souvenirs polish off the look while adding a layer of personality to the space. Today, most eclectic rooms take inspiration from the Memphis movement and postmodern styles. Maximalism also promotes a decolonized view of design by bringing back elements that were too "kitsch" for those previously in power.
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Unlike cancel culture or viral internet trends, Gen Z did not invent maximalism. Much like the design style itself, the history of maximalism is layered with influences. The trend can be traced back to 16th-century Europe, when the wealthy made public their taste of excess through paintings of heavily furnished chambers. After a few decades of obscurity, the style reemerged in Victorian-era homes as a form of self-expression and identity. Maximalism continued to wax and wane along with its counter-movement 'minimalism', following economic booms and recessions, and the quintessential chase of the shiny new thing.
Maximalism is definitely one of Gen Z's many rebellions against the ways of older generations, like how they're disrupting architectural work culture. The lockdowns also pushed the pendulum away from minimalism, towards more vibrant and stimulating environments. Around this time, TikTok emerged as a window to diverse lifestyles, inviting people to sample interior trends. With more time to spare and online resources, DIY home renovations grew in popularity. Maximalism erupted through the walls of monotonous homes, their frustrated inhabitants craving visual excitement.
"Gen Z really embraces individualism, and social media platforms are a great resource to discover interior styles that speak to them" say TikTok-famous maximalists Josh and Matt. Without textbook examples, maximalism is an outlet for exploration and self-discovery. The style encourages a curated hoarding of meaningful elements and an ornate display of personality. Colors, patterns, and shapes are layered to create spaces unique to the individual. Through maximalism, homes become museums of personal interests, hobbies, and precious memories.
The maximalism we see today follows the blueprint of its parent trends with influence from contemporary societal values. Trailing an epoch of millennial minimalism, maximalism of the 2020s still carries the eco-conscious sentiments of its predecessor. Although the trend seems to glorify a materialistic lifestyle, Gen Z maximalists echo anti-consumerist philosophies.
An emphasis on sustainability makes the familiar trend seem refreshingly new, a result of online creators spreading tips on reducing, reusing, and recycling in style. Josh and Matt love sharing their vintage finds and upcycled decor for their maximalist Melbourne apartment. "In this critical period, we feel responsible to educate on ways maximalism can take on a sustainable and circular approach", the duo tells ArchDaily.
As long as each decor piece is consciously chosen with sustainability in mind, maximalists can maintain a low eco-footprint. Furniture and finishes should be able to last and stay in circulation, minimizing the amount of waste generated. TikTok maximalism glorifies repurposed items and online communities happily trade pieces with one another. Since maximalism has no rulebook, individual design elements can never go out of style.
"The idea of sustainability must not become attached to a type of interior style", Josh and Matt point out, "Rather than finding the most sustainable style, we should find ways of making any style more sustainable". Creativity is the core of maximalism. Its philosophy only motivates a new wave of maximalists to innovate sustainable alternatives. With more decentralized systems and access to information, Gen Z will surely advance the design industry with sustainability at the forefront.