Despite Marie Kondo's decluttering prowess taking Netflix bingers by storm, there is a new design trend that flies in the face of everything the Spark Joy movement stands for: maximalism. This sometimes jaw-dropping design style is a feast for the eye, and for proponents of it, a feast for the soul.
Richly layered, eclectically patterned, and full of color and texture all in one space, maximalism design is to the office what the Red Queen is to Wonderland--an epic tale of different eras, styles, and tastes all rolled into one for an overall effect so astonishing, people stop and stare.
Several theories abound as to why maximalism is taking off. Some say it's the political and social climate, where many people feel the world is burning, so why choose one style in which to immerse themselves when they can have many? Others say our addiction to flat screens, phone screens, and computer screens means our need for the 3D is roaring back with a vengeance.
For office designers, maximalism offers a chance to get creative with design in a way that wows clients and customers alike. By playing with scale, proportion, perspective, texture, patterns, finishes, and art, companies embracing the maximalist style are making big, bold statements. They're saying, "We're not afraid to show who we are. All of who we are."
For companies in a crowded, competitive marketplace, their maximal offices could be the difference between attracting hot new talent and losing out to the boring corporate style the next generation of employees have no desire to immerse themselves in.
One thing is certain: working in a maximally designed office will never be boring.
Opportunities for Uniqueness
Maximalism is quite a statement in itself. By proclaiming one's company open to a multitude of design elements, maximalist companies are not afraid of ideas new, bold, and maybe even a little bit crazy. This tells everyone working there they have a voice, no matter how outlandish their idea may seem. It tells customers that company is willing to go beyond the norm to achieve success for anyone daring enough to take a chance with them.
There is functionality in the bravery of maximalism. With such uniqueness a possibility in the corporate environment, all bets are off with regard to how a space is normally used, which opens doors for how it can be used.
Many companies that jumped two-footed into the open office craze are now finding a single, open environment for their employees. They need to break up that space into smaller, more palatable and thoughtful design elements, such as team meeting areas, focus rooms for privacy and concentration, and nonrestrictive environments for collaborative efforts that feel less like work or home and more like a place for employees to scratch the next big idea onto a cocktail napkin, such as the Third Place.
Maximalism is a great way to section off space by type, need, and theme, and the over-the-top design style will actually serve to keep the overall design cohesive.
It's the very lack of singular patterns, textures, and colors that make one space roll into the next, no matter the individual elements. Each space, no matter its purpose or individual design, conveys the same bold attitude, the same explosion of bravery, and that is the central element that holds it together.
Many credit the strong economy with supporting this more adventurous of designs. After all, leaner times are when people choose more frugal, classic aesthetics to hold onto for years while finances and economics improve. But the market, at the moment, supports maximalism's more daring creativity, and it's a strong message to send to clients and employees alike.
The business that can afford maximalism is in no danger of wage stagnation, layoffs, or lack of expansion.
Let Your Décor Do the Talking
The collection and curation of artwork, textured pieces, sculptured lighting, and eclectic furniture is not a simple mish-mash of stuff, but a designer's practiced use of patterns and color, and within that creativity, there's a lot of room for company culture to be represented.
Diverse workforces are proven to improve the bottom line, and an equally diverse style is a way to honor that, particularly if employees are from all over the world. Selecting art pieces to reflect the far-flung corners from which your employees hail is like a welcome sign, one workers get to experience every day.
But is the overwhelm maximalism can create good for productivity?
Some might say the excess of pattern, texture, and color offers a buffer against distraction, where in a minimalistic environment, every bright color and pattern is obvious.
Much like background noise in a café can provide a soothing undertone for concentration while a single voice in a hushed atmosphere might as well be a shout, maximalism is visual background noise, and perhaps easier to focus in. It doesn't all have to be kitsch, and maximalism doesn't automatically equate to tacky. Natural materials such as horsehair, leather, or brushed materials can make up the texture differences, and contribute to the multitude of patterns and hues that define maximalism. Loud and bold can still be tasteful.
Is it extravagant.
But does its very extra nature automatically place it in the not-on-your-life category? People may not need stuff to feel connected to their environment, but is it wrong to be pleased to be surrounded by interesting stuff? If your company has the budget, maximalism is one way to bring your design into the future without having to decide on a single style or theme.