Skip to main content

Minimalism vs. maximalism: Which is more stylish?

Most of us have spent more time in our homes in the past 18 months than ever before. Because of this, it’s crucial for these spaces to not only be a sanctuary from the outside world but a reflection of who you are as a person. When embarking on your remodel to transform your home into your oasis, you’ll likely have to choose between two main design styles: minimalism vs maximalism. Minimalist designs are clean and simple when it comes to color, furniture, and overall decor, while maximalist enthusiasts love colors, patterns, textures, visible decor, and unique pieces of furniture.

While one isn’t necessarily better than the other, the two styles have come and gone in popularity over the decades for different reasons. To decide which is right for you, here are a few things to consider.

A white couch sits in a greyscale living room against a cream wall

Why minimalism has been so popular

If you love everything Marie Kondo has to say, you may sit firmly in the minimalist camp. The design is meant to keep things stark and blank to elicit a feeling of calm and peace. A busy, cluttered area can bring on anxiety, so the “less is more” mentality is a key tenet here. This means clean lines, no fuss, and only keeping what you need. Minimalists tend to stick to white and ivory and accent the space with simple decor on the walls and neutral tones in textiles. Adventurous decorators may include pops of color in the wall art, textiles, or appliances to break up the white scheme. In a world that often feels chaotic, minimalism is meant to bring joy through focusing on the few things you actually need and love.

bright pink chair and printed wall art in maximalist room

Is maximalism better than minimalism?

Minimalist design, while popular in the late ’90s and ’00s, is starting to wane in popularity. Many people, especially those who spend a lot of time at home, have decided to make their home cozier and inviting as opposed to posh and sophisticated. Maximalist designers forgo the starkness of minimalism in favor of bolder design choices—be it paint, furniture, wallpaper, and other elements that make a home feel, well, homey. People, now more than ever, need connection, and that often comes from being surrounded by family pictures, travel treasures, and other items that remind us that, even if you can’t be with family, they are not really so far away. Minimalism will never go away, of course — but maximalism is having a bit of a moment.

clean and minimal open space living room layout

How to decide whether you are minimalist or maximalist?

The design you choose largely comes down to fashion, not function. If you feel much more relaxed in a space that doesn’t have a lot of frills and enjoy the beauty of natural tones and clean lines, then the minimalistic design may be right for you. However, if you enjoy color and feel content with books stacked on tables, prints on the walls, and 20 colored pillows on the couch, you may be leaning more toward a maximalist style. The key is not following some trend for the sake of it, but really leaning into what makes you happy. For some, that means having a lot to look at when you walk into a room. For others, you may want those treasures tucked away.

If you are stuck somewhere in the middle, know you are not alone. Many people like elements of both designs and incorporate them into their daily lives and decor. For instance, keeping everything in the kitchen tidy and stored away can actually reduce stress by giving you a clean and open space to work with. Then, you can fill the living room with pictures, keepsakes, and cozy pillows and blankets to make friends and family feel more at home.

The bottom line is that you want your home to feel like home — whatever that might look like to you. If you’re new to homeownership and aren’t really sure what you want, take time looking online and in stores to find inspiration. Look at minimalist artwork, furniture, and color palettes and see if it fills you with a sense of peace. Then, do the same with a more maximalist style and pay attention to your emotions and comfort level. When you visit your friends’ homes, note what you like and dislike about the decor, then ask yourself why that may be.

After a little bit of research, you may find yourself leaning toward one side or the other, or maybe you’ll realize that you’re somewhere in between. Either way, trust your design instincts and have a little fun.

Editors' Recommendations

Julie Scagell
I am a freelance writer based in Minneapolis, MN. My passions include my dogs, talking about my dogs, and taking pictures of…
Don’t over-theme your beach home. Here’s what to do instead
Prevent your coastal decor from going overboard by balancing nautical and sophisticated design
Beach-themed vacation home decor

Decorating a beach home so it doesn’t look over-themed and kitschy can be challenging. While it’s easy to gravitate toward the oversized conch shells and the nautical life buoy decor, doing so can make your home look "theme" and lack sophistication. However, it’s fairly simple to create a chic look without making a beach home look like a tacky seaside tourist trap. After all, we’ve all been to one of those pirate-themed fish restaurants with the netting on the ceiling. The last thing you want is for your home to look like it’s gone overboard!

So today, we’re giving you some ideas on how to find a balance between your nautical sea decor and a sophisticated and modern look.
Less is more
The main issue many homeowners face when styling a beach home is adding too much to the coastal design. From shells to furniture, it’s easy to get carried away and add an excessive amount of decor. However, too many decor items quickly make the design feel overwhelming, cluttered, and super cliché.

Read more
Looking for unique nursery ideas? These Instagram-approved designs are incredible
These Instagram nursery ideas are ultra cozy and unique, perfect for your little bundle of joy
Nature wall art in simple minimal nursery

When you’re a parent, there's a tendency to go into full-on nesting mode before the baby’s arrival. This means you’ll be thinking about redecorating your space and looking for the perfect setup for your little one. So, if you’re looking to spruce up the nursery before you bring home your new baby, we’ve gathered some stunning Instagram baby nursery designs that may inspire your new setup.
The grandmillenial room
Grandmillenial decor has taken off as one of the trendiest interior styles in the past few years. And while we often think of this grandparent style as reserved only for antique-loving family members, it can be a great decor choice for a baby nursery!

Read more
These are the top home design trends, according to Zillow listings
These are the must-have designs according to Zillow
indoor outdoor decor ideas patio area

If you love looking at homes (whether you're in the market or not), Zillow is one of the premiere sites to do so. Not only does it give a good idea of what's available and coming available in your area, you can get home prices, up-and-coming neighborhoods, and plenty of design ideas when perusing homes. According to a recent study of millions of active for-sale Zillow listings, they even help to identify this year's most sought-after design trends. Here's what they had to say.

Outdoor spaces
Gorgeous outdoor spaces are having a moment, and for good reason. People are still spending more time at home post-pandemic, and having space outside to soak in the sun and be in nature is important. Backyards were mentioned 22% more often in for-sale listings last year when comparing them against the year prior. "The rising popularity of outdoor features suggests the pandemic has changed the way we want to live for good, priming the backyard for a 2023 evolution,” said Amanda Pendleton, Zillow’s home trends expert. “When the pandemic forced all entertaining outdoors, homeowners reclaimed their backyards from the kids or the dogs.”
Mirror, mirror on the wall
While outdoor spaces make sense, this next one may surprise you. Mirrored walls, like those that were popular circa 1970-1980s are coming back. "Mirrored walls and even mirrored ceilings have been showing up 12% more than the year before," according to the study, but with a bit of a twist. This time, more antique or vintage-inspired mirrors are on trend, especially when they make a small or dark room feel more spacious and bright.
Other notable mentions
Other trends rising in popularity over the last year are private nooks in a home, even in ones that are more open concept. Think reading nooks, private yoga spaces, or just a quiet, well-thought-out space where you can spend some time alone. Another mention is continuing the use of vintage materials like wood and muted metals to keep a home feeling warm and lived in. Finally, kitchen islands are continuing to stay popular as we use our kitchens for entertaining, family dinners, work, and play. The bigger, the better, and the use of color that offsets them from the rest of the space are still very much trending.

Read more