Tuesday 21 May 2019

Meet the Maximalists

Move over minimalism - bright colours and bold patterns are about to take centre stage

Leighton Ochre velvet cushion from The French Bedroom Company
Leighton Ochre velvet cushion from The French Bedroom Company
Pink velvet headboard from Dust. Photo: Ruth Maria Murphy
Helix coffee table from Audenza
Japan citrus lacquered wallpaper with Edmund Chairs in pelham raspberry with apple contrast piping from andrewmartin.co.uk
The Churchtown Project by Lisa Marconi from Dust
Major Mitchell's cockatoo cushion from The French Bedroom Company
Lisa Marconi (in foreground) and Sarah Drumm
Pretty in pink: Flapper stool from Dust. Photo: Ruth Maria Murphy

Minimalism says: "Less is more."

Maximalism says: "More is more."

Minimalism says: "You can have enough of a good thing." Maximalism says: "Oh no you can't!"

Lisa Marconi's bedroom ceiling is going to be pink velvet. If she sounds nervous talking about it, it's not because she's scared of pink - or velvet - it's because she hasn't told her husband yet. But, despite this minor detail, Marconi is very, very excited. Velvet wallcoverings are a new thing. They come from a Dutch company called Kingdom, but she spotted them in Paris and it was love at first sight. She came straight home to tell her business partner, Sarah Drumm, that they were going to be selling it in their shop. Marconi and Drumm are interior designers and owners of Dust, an online homeware boutique with a really distinctive aesthetic. Let's call it maximalism.

Helix coffee table from Audenza
Helix coffee table from Audenza

If you had to pick an interior design trend for 2018, it would have to be maximalism. The trend has gathered strength all year and shows every sign continuing into the future. There are many different ways of interpreting maximalism but, basically, it's a backlash to minimalism. Remember minimalism? Stark empty homes with almost nothing in them? Maximalism is what happens when decoration fights back.

One thing, though, it's not a trend for scaredy-cats. "The main thing about maximalism is being brave," Marconi says. "If you have two options - a safe one and a not-so-safe one - do the thing that scares you a little." Just now, she's scared of telling her husband about the pink velvet ceiling. I suggest, very gently, that reading about it in the newspaper might not be the best way for him to find out. "Oh that's ok," she says happily. "It'll be done by the time you publish."

The walls of the bedroom are already pink, painted in the Orchard Pink from Fired Earth (around €62 for a 2.5 litre tin). "Even old apple trees, tired out with age, gnarled and knobbly, are, each spring, adorned with soft sweet blossoms tinged pink: a colour for gentle revival and a sweet soft tone for bedrooms," says the brochure. "It's my favourite pink in the whole world," says Marconi. She describes the velvet wall covering, which goes on like wallpaper, as a really dusky soft grown-up pink with silver grey tints. "It's so beautiful," she sighs. "I'm really obsessed with it. My husband - not so much - but then again, he doesn't know about it yet."

The thing about velvet, and the reason that it works so well in a maximalist interior, is the colour. Because the fabric is structured with a soft, dense pile, its colours seem more vibrant than those of any other fabric apart from silk, which tends to be expensive. The velvet wall covering isn't astronomical and costs €50 per metre from Dust. Or, for €45 per metre, you can buy a textured wall covering from the same supplier in manly suede.

If Marconi's dastardly plan succeeds, the pink velvet will cover the entire ceiling and also the extended headboard of the bed. She's introducing the concept slowly, by bringing in fringed velvet cushions, one at a time. "There are four of them on the bed already and he hasn't noticed," she says. "But only one of them is pink." The Flapper cushion (€54 from Dust) doesn't just have fringes around the edges. The whole thing is covered in fringe, but then, fringed things are the essence of maximalism and Dust has fringed everything. A Flapper stool in pink velvet with long flirty fringes costs €675 and the fringed table lamp in the same range is €260. "The table lamps are next," she says. Like the cushions, they'll be snuck into the bedroom when that poor man is out at work.

One of the popular misconceptions about maximalism is that it involves having lots of stuff, to the point of clutter. Maximalism can be that, for certain, and there's nothing new about it. There have always been people who can make their home look amazing when stuffed to the gills. But it doesn't have to be that way. "Maximalism isn't really about stuff, it's about colour and pattern," Marconi says. "It's about the wow factor, the impact you get when you step into a room." She has just finished decorating an open-plan living space in Churchtown (above). All the walls are covered with Birds n Bees wallpaper in garden green from Timorous Beasties (around €340 per roll); the bright orange velvet sofa comes from Love your Home; the yellow chairs from Swoon Edition; and the electric blue rug from West Elm. "But in terms of the amount of stuff in the room it was fairly pared-back," she says.

Lisa Marconi (in foreground) and Sarah Drumm
Lisa Marconi (in foreground) and Sarah Drumm

For an Irish home, this is an adventurous ensemble. "My client said that she trusted me," Marconi says. "And she still does. She's coming back for more." And, while we're still a conservative nation in terms of our interiors, there are clear signs that the Irish, if not exactly embracing maximalism, are dipping a toe in the waters. "I'm really noticing that people are getting braver in terms of what they're asking for," she says. Irish people, for example, are no longer leery of wallpaper, and that's a fairly recent thing.

Because she's a clever designer, and maximalism is her natural habitat, Marconi's designs don't jar the senses. But it's easy to see how the juxtaposition of bright colours and bold patterns could come to a sticky end in less expert hands. "It's easy to make mistakes with high velocity decorating, and that's why people are scared of it," she says. "Mixing deep colours and patterns isn't as easy as painting a whole house grey." Her advice is to plan the overall scheme very carefully and think about how the individual pieces are going to work together before you commit. And, when you get scared at the last minute, don't cop out. "People think: Will I get the bed in that crazy colour that I really want? No, I'll go for the grey one. They always regret that."

See dust.ie, timorousbeasties.com, love-your-home.co.uk, swooneditions.com, and arnotts.ie for West Elm.

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