Maximalism vs. minimalism

November 14, 2022

Lately, while sitting and admiring my own rather over-decorated living room, I can’t help but take my eye away from the wall. There is this empty wall that haunts me at night, as I am rather stumped on what to fill the gap with. I have held every painting and mirror from my house in its place and still couldn’t find what was tickling my fancy, until I had this marvelously weird idea. “What if I hung this chair on the wall?” I asked my friend over the phone, pointing the camera at a small chair that has made a home in my basement. If there is no room for the chair on the floor, why not move it to the wall? He promptly said, “That’ll be… interesting.” and then moved on as if what I had just said was even remotely normal at all. 

 My house is not decorated for leisure in the least bit. I have no time for patience, functionality or even purpose when it comes to furnishing any space I am tasked to. Yes, it isn’t realistic for most home settings, but if I want to own a toille down feather couch covered in antique stuffed animals, I am going to have it. Something about being surrounded with stuff is so comforting to me, especially when it puts on display the brain of the individual and their life. 

Every month, I sit in anticipation of two things in the mail: my copy of Vogue magazine and a copy of Architectural Digest. Both magazines bring quite a bit of joy to my life, and I like to enjoy them in privacy to be fully immersed into the homes of celebrities and aristocrats that I have never even heard of before. I usually try to imagine myself in the space, walking around, running my hand across surfaces to really take in the textures, and feeling the warmth and love that most homes just radiate with. 

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I am usually all game for different home styles, as that is the dwellers personal taste and a direct reflection of what makes them happy, but every time that Kim Kardashian’s home is featured in any tabloid or television special, count me for closing the pages or scrambling to find my remote to turn that racket off. It isn’t because everything in the house is a shade of gray or white or that it doesn’t have a sink in the kitchen (which is a whole separate thing for me to grouch over); it is because she is pretending to be a minimalist living in maximalist proportions. 

Let me get this clear, I have nothing against minimalism; I just think it is tacky. Well, modern minimalism is. You see, I can get down with the mid century “minimalism” movement that swept the world in the 1960s, but I still wouldn’t even consider that as minimal at all, as there was still plenty of color, texture and lots of embellishment to go around. In recent times, minimalism has become a way of decorating to flaunt wealth. 

Many years ago, furniture and home decor was a privilege that only the rich could afford the best of. If you were well off, you wanted to show that wealth through your possessions, specifically through your home furnishings. The heavier the furniture, the better made it was, and the more ornate the detail on it was, the more money you are showing off. As time went on and these grand pieces of furniture became a bit more accessible to the middle and lower classes, rich people grew a disdain towards the maximalist style. 

A transition of ornate gold frames and big persian detail oriented rugs, to sleek lines and dull colors was fully fueled by the upper class and their discomfort with anyone “below” them being able to have the same things as them. In society, if you have very little stuff in your home, it is classy and minimal when rich people do it but trashy and sad when “poor” people do it.

Let’s be honest, it was never about design innovation, as it never is when things change. The only people who actually have a say in the world of fashion and architectural design are wealthy individuals who would rather not ever be comparable to the common consumer. The assumption that money equals taste is a crock of bologna and is really only perceived that way by other rich people with no taste. 

The most frustrating part about this design divide is the upsetting loss of detail. Somewhere along the lines of the last century, things simplified and yet somehow got more complicated than ever before. While the complicated part of decor is now the manufacturing part, the simplified portion is the product itself. With the loss of skill and the death of masters of crafts, things became less ornate. 

If you hold two basic pillars up in comparison, one from let’s say the Victorian era and one from today, there is a distinguishable difference. Of course, there is going to be a bit more than a hundred year difference, but they still have the same shape and the same purpose. They will not look the same, though. The Victorian pillar is more likely to be embellished with flowers and Ivy, with a boisterous capital on the top, showing weight and structure, or even covered in bulbous spheres cascading towards the ground. Today, you would really only find the basic styles, all in tin-like metals that ring if you even brush it. 

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We lost detail and quality when society made a switch to minimalist home decor ideas. We lost a big portion of our past when we swapped our family heirlooms for cheaply made products pulled from the shelf at Target. Nobody wants to be reminded of the past in their decor anymore, not for reasons of embarrassment for the atrocities that the upper class has committed against the lower, but because the line between their two styles have been drawn thin. 

All I am saying is that if you are discomforted by the sight of walls of books and cabinets filled with unnecessary taxidermy, don’t come over to mine.

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