How to Do Maximalism without Looking Chaotic, According to Experts

maximalist bookshelves


We don't think of maximalism and moderation going hand in hand. "More is more is a maximalist’s dream," said Carrie Leskowitz, designer and author of Om for the Home. But the key to mastering maximalism is creating a space that doesn't feel too overwhelming—and yes, it definitely is possible to achieve the best of both worlds. "If done with a deft hand and a curator’s eye you can achieve a more harmonious rather than chaotic feeling in your environment," Leskowitz explained. "It’s an eclectic look that can feed a bold soul... Embellishments, flea market finds, family heirlooms, and luxe furnishings can all co-exist beautifully if you are mindful of a few guidelines."

Below, Leskowitz and other maximalist-loving designers share their tips for what to keep in mind when designing a maximalist space that is chic, not full of chaos.

  • 01 of 08

    Curate Your Colors

    blue and green maximalist bedroom

    Michael Hunter for Kim Armstrong

    Color lovers, you're going to have to make some tough choices! As much as you may love a wide variety of hues, there's no need to go overboard and incorporate the entire rainbow into your decorating scheme, noted Leskowitz. "Pick just a few colors—two or three—that coordinate, and keep them at the same hue or saturation point, and then you can add in pops with accessories," she advised.

  • 02 of 08

    Pick the Right Mix of Patterns

    bookshelves in maximalist living room


    While you'll want to pare down your color choices, you can shake things up by opting for different types of patterns in a room. Leskowitz shared, "Each pattern should be of a different scale. Small, medium, and big patterns in coordinating colors keeps interest high and anxiety low." So go ahead and scout out several that will make your space sing.

  • 03 of 08

    Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

    bedroom with graphic wallpaper

    House of One Interior Design

    Brittany Farinas, of House of One, who designed the space above, offers a trick to keep in mind when it comes to patterened wallpaper and illustrations. "Repeated graphic elements ... provide a maximalist look that does not come across as cluttered," she explained.

  • 04 of 08

    Work the Walls

    blue and white floral wallpaper pattern

    Michael Hunter for Kim Armstrong

    And designer Kim Armstrong is also a fan of wallpaper—here's why. "Maximalism without feeling chaotic is achieved through looking at every surface, and determining how to create the most visual interest in a room, while still maintaining a sense of order," she explained. "My approach to do this is through color and pattern, which most often shows up in the forms of fabric and wallpaper. Wallpaper is great, because it provides a foundational base of both color and pattern that you can layer upon." Just keep Farinas's tip regarding repetitive patterns in mind, and you can't go wrong with whatever design you choose.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Think About Texture

    bright pillows in living room

    JLA Designs

    Designer Carrie Livingston chose two eye-catching pieces to star in the above dining room.  "I took the De Gournay wallpaper and went for it. It’s a massive statement on its own," she said. "Then the rug makes another statement in a different pattern." But, she added, incorporating texture is also key. "The eye is getting major stimulation," she commented. "So for the rest of the room, there is texture, not pattern—leather chairs, a wood table, velvet drapery, and sculptural lamps."

  • 06 of 08

    Eliminate "Stuff"

    maximalist dining room

    Robb McCormick Photography for Carrie Livingston

    In the pattern-filled dining room, Livingston avoided small accents. "That’s important," she said, noting that she opted for a large credenza to house entertaining supplies, which are kept out of sight, and didn't overly style its surface. "Clutter that up with stuff and you run will have too many components battling for visual dominance."

    Designer Annie Elliott agreed. "Keeping surfaces organized and rather spare can take the edge off a maximalist room," she noted. "Straighten piles of books, display one large object rather than a collection of small ones, and make sure you can see some of the table or shelf surface. The room will look less cluttered and feel more restful."

  • 07 of 08

    Strike a Balance

    floral wallpaper accent wall


    It doesn't matter if items are all different sizes and colors, the key is artfully striking a balance with these pieces, Leskowitz noted. "Balance gives visual weight to a space," she stated. "Even if items in a room do not match, how they balance one another keeps things from looking off kilter and allows our eyes to rest periodically." And this means that not every single item can be a show-stopper. Leskowitz commented, "Our eyes seek out order, so you do not want everything vying for your attention."

  • 08 of 08

    Choose Complementary Items

    living area with green built ins

    Alyssa Rosenheck for JL Design

    Designer Jessica Davis of JL Design outlined another way in which balance is important when styling a maximalist space. "When I am styling a shelf, I will have several items that are all interesting and different in their own right, but each of these items will 'speak' to another in some way to achieve the balance needed," she explained. "It's always really important to balance patterns and textures in any maximalist space as well," Davis noted. "Maximalist style is a feast for the eyes, and the eye should be trained to dance around the room and take in all of the interest in doses. By focusing on balance, this 'dance' can be achieved."