Design Styles of the Month: Minimalism & Maximalism

Industry pros Anne Newman and Gladys Tay share a closer look into the two extremes

Whether it’s a neutral, organized kitchen or a colorful, eclectic living room, the design of a house’s interior typically reflects the owner’s personality. Home design can take myriad forms, but maximalism and minimalism are two popular (completely opposite) styles worth considering for your next remodel or new build. Here, we dive into the ins and outs of the two aesthetics.


When one takes a simple approach to design, a space can easily come together. The combination of less clutter, neutral color palettes, and lots of organization can create a modern, minimalist home. Anne Newman, an interior designer at Partners 4, Design, describes minimalism to be “clean, very open … and not a lot of decoration.” Furnishings are simple and commonly geometric, sitting in the openness of natural light. Minimalism also suggests quality over quantity: a few high-quality items rather than a constant flow of pieces coming into the house.

Photo by Gilbertson Photography

Newman says the reason for minimalism growing in popularity is because people are “letting go of things they don’t really need.” This recognition of the importance and use of an item is key to minimalism, she says. Organization of these kept pieces then becomes a huge component in the design process. Newman focuses on storage and cutting out unnecessary things. “It’s sort of about paring down on cluttered spaces,” she says. For instance, Newman likes to clear off the counters and relish in the resulting openness.

When all is decluttered and simple, the interesting features appear. In kitchens, Newman chooses a slab front for cabinets to continue the clean, fresh look. Her favorite way to use minimalism is to have a monochrome color palette and then carefully select pieces to be a pop of color. It could be a red couch among a black-and-white color theme or a large piece of art above a fireplace. “Choose a piece that is certainly bold,” she says.

Newman also loves to bring in plants and flowers to usher a warm feeling into minimalist designs. There are some that might deem minimalism as too industrial or uncomfortable, but Newman wants the opposite to be clear. “People don’t have to feel like it’s extremely stark or institutional,” she says. There are easy ways to bring comfort into a minimalistic home. When deciding if minimalism is for you, it ultimately comes down to personality. “The people very comfortable with this look are very organized people,” Newman says.

Photo by Gilbertson Photography


Gladys Tay is a designer and vintage dealer who loves to decorate her Shoreview home with uncommon and eccentric objects. She uses maximalism in every way possible to express herself and create a home she loves. “Currently it’s this Snickers bar sitting right in the living room,” Tay says, laughing. A human-sized Snickers bar, formerly used as an advertising technique filled with tons of candy, is currently her favorite vintage object in her home, she says.

In Tay’s words, maximalism is “surrounding yourself with things you love, things that bring you joy.” She is an advocate for using lots of colors, layers, and textures to create a story. Filling up a wall with artwork or adding unique objects to a coffee table are simple ways to show your creative side.

It may seem daunting and impossible to create a cohesive space if there is a constant flow of objects and décor coming in, but Tay is reassuring when she gives her recommendation: “Buy things that matter to you, don’t just buy [them] for a certain trend,” Tay advises. “When you start buying things that speak to your heart, it will naturally create a cohesive look.”

Photo by Gladys Tay

According to Tay, the easiest way to start out with maximalism is to start with a clean slate. “For me, I love to keep the walls and floors neutral—whites and creams,” she says. Then, the sky is the limit for decorating. “Playing with color is very easy,” she says, especially when you have a neutral base. Tay also recommends layers, saying, “Sometimes I think people are afraid of layering. Introduce lots of blankets, pillows, throws—things that bring personality.”

The most important piece of decorating in a maximalism style, according to Tay, is to have fun. She tends to drift toward humor, pop culture,  and “things that remind me of when I was a kid,” when choosing vintage objects for herself, she says.

Despite Differences

Even though it might be difficult to achieve, there is a middle ground between the drastically different styles. In both design concepts, neutral colors play a role in creating your ideal space. Whether it’s to provide a blank canvas for all your colorful pieces or provide a cohesive color palette for a modern, geometric space, neutral colors are your friend.

But which style is right for you? Your personality is a huge factor in deciding which trend to follow. Both minimalism and maximalism all depend on how you want to express yourself. If you enjoy organization and a satisfyingly simple look, then minimalism might be for you. But if you like to surround yourself with color and live among your creativity, then maximalism might be calling your name.

There’s no wrong way to design a space, but there’s a wrong way to design your space. Pay attention to yourself and how you enjoy living.

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