For years Marie Kondo told us to throw off things that don’t spark joy. But now décor enthusiasts are increasingly veering away from this Kondo-inspired minimalism. Instead, they are embracing nostalgia and curating homes with a bit of chaos, creating a joyful mess with knick-knacks that are comforting and very individualistic. This maximalist style that fosters organised abundance is fast making its presence felt in the design world. Here you throw away the rules and be authentic; it could mean displaying decor that is close to your heart or going all out with bold colours including DIYs and extensive gallery walls which in the end all add up to create aesthetically eclectic spaces.
The pandemic too fanned the love for maximalism among homeowners as they wanted to surround themselves in a familiar haven with objects that made them feel safe and ignited their happy memories. Friday steps into three such homes to give you a sense of what it means to embrace creative excess.
Petra Kaltenbach’s Villa in Umm Sequeim, Dubai
From the soothing pink painting of butterflies fluttering around a pomegranate in the entryway to the pale orange walls in the living room, Petra Kaltenbach’s home is a reflection of her artistic aesthetic for colour and texture. Decorated in her favourite combos of pink and orange, Petra describes her home as "an oasis of calm".
Colour is a significant aspect of her decor choice as are unique artefacts casually placed across the house – a pair of impressive metallic angel candle holders with bright pink candles, a giant ceramic teddy bear, in a stunning bright red pattern, smiling at visitors or a pink-headed rhinoceros, sitting smugly among rows of books on the wall shelf. This home reflects her love for colours, displays cherished gifts from friends and striking souvenirs from across the world.
"One of my favourite eras is Art Nouveau, but I am also a big fan of kitsch, by which I mean things that are over the norm, where you really don’t know if they are beautiful or terrible, the pink cuckoo clock in my dining space, for instance. My husband is from southern Germany, where wooden cuckoo clocks are traditionally built, but I could never get used to a typical one. Instead, this bright pink version really excited me," she says.
Well-known as the curator of World Art Dubai, Petra had been in the UAE since 2004 and has been living in this two-storey villa since then. She admits to not following any interior styles and, is in fact, addicted to bright colours and unusual combinations that rule her design ethos. "When I came to the UAE all the sunlight really warmed my heart, so did the representation of different cultures and colours in everyday life here. This inspired me to take this lived-in colourfulness into my home," she shares.
Also a graphic designer and energy healer, Petra is drawn towards pomegranates, which feature predominantly in her artwork, adorning many of her walls. A huge fan of British designer Tricia Guild, she has also incorporated different patterns, strong and unusual contrasts in her home. "I could have expressed my creativity more intensely but I have chosen calmer elements such as white sofas in the living room to bind the different woods and colours together," she tells.
Several nooks in Petra’s home are decorated with souvenirs and gifts bought from her travels or presented to her by friends. Then again, she says, everything has been a spontaneous purchase. "I would never not buy an item just because it might not fit into my home, rather I eventually find a good spot for it somewhere," she reveals. A fuchsia feather wreath gifted to her during Christmas housed four big white scented candles and now forms the backdrop for a bunch of flowers on the dining table. "I am a self-confessed collector. It is impossible for me to resist buying a unique decor item I lay my eyes on. You can say, from my joy and love for buying such items was born my interior style."
Himala Palni’s House in Gurugram, India
A giant blue dream catcher sways gently as a draught of wind flows in through the sheer curtains. Across the room sits a sunny yellow sofa with a bunch of mismatched cushions bathed in sparkling daylight. On the wall are a set of wooden masks and patterned mirrors. All around the three-seater are several planters with leafy tendrils sprouting out of them. Scrolling through these visuals of Himala Palni’s home, casts an instant magical spell on viewers. Her home, an eclectic mix of colours, textures and patterns blends together to create a very personalised space, giving us a peek into her whimsical way of living.
A lover of maximalist aesthetics, Himala’s home amalgamates various styles, she says. "Though not done purposefully, over the years, I happened to follow an eclectic style of home décor. I use a mix of contrasting colours, styles and even time periods, and of course, a lot of plants, to bring some character and life indoors," she tells. Her 1,800 square feet first floor space, in a three storey house, she shares with her parents-in-law and two rescued dogs is in Gurugram, close to the capital city of New Delhi in India.
Each decor item in her home tells a story and invokes memories. A wooden trunk in the living room with a pothos plant in a brass pot was a gift from Himala’s mother. The pot itself was part of her wedding ceremony. A few masks that adorn the walls are from her honeymoon trip to Mauritius. Two other sturdy wooden chairs in the living room are family hand-me-downs from her mother-in-law who in turn received them from hers. "Most of the items in my home hold a sentimental value for me. Instead of putting them away in a box, I chose to display all of them, because of the wonderful memories they evoke, as I walk past them every day, reminding me of the good times, of friends who went an extra mile to bring me a gift. These priceless memories are all spread across my home," she shares
Himala, a former HR professional, and currently a small business owner of handmade bath and body-care products, is also mindful of not burning a hole in her pocket for home décor. A fan of DIY, she tries to make the best use of things available around her. "We had a 30-year-old wooden cabinet at home. It was a boring, old-school looking, white piece. So, one afternoon, out came my box of colours and a bottle of wine. Using my bare fingers, I gave the old cabinet a facelift and now it occupies a prized spot in my foyer," she reveals.
Incidentally, decorating her home has also been extremely therapeutic for Himala, who suffered a series of tragic life events – her father’s paralysis in 2018 followed by the loss of her son and her best friend. "Colours became a therapist and fuelled my passion for interior styling. I am grateful that I could find the strength in me to channel all my negative emotions and turn them into something beautiful," she shares.
Layered with contrasting colours, frames, fabrics and plants, Himala’s home is bursting with warmth; a space where you don’t have to think twice, before putting your feet up on a comfy sofa – just do her dogs, who often perch themselves on the furniture around. "I am greatly inspired from nature. Take a walk in the forest and you will be amazed to see the amount of different shapes and colours and how they all come together to create a beautiful mess that is unmatched. This is exactly, what I have tried to do indoors," she says.
Daniel Mathis’ Oklahoma City Apartment
This home is a collector’s paradise with 20 feet high living room walls stacked with frames in all shapes and sizes, offset by shelves overflowing with rocks, keyrings and vintage finds. In his own words, Daniel describes himself as an ‘exclectic’ maximalist. Sure enough, his Instagram handle, @notaminimalist, sums up his passion well in one word. A lawyer by day, Daniel loves unwinding by decorating his two-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot apartment in Downtown Oklahoma City in the US.
"My interior decorating and collecting hobby is definitely the creative yin to my professional yang. My job can be stressful at times, so collecting and designing gives me a much needed artistic outlet," he tells Friday.
A collector from a very young age, Daniel enjoys scouring through flea markets, antique stores, estate sales, thrift stores and online auctions for unique pieces. All of these find creative spots at his home. A large collection of over 50 vintage portraits bought from an estate sale in 2020 in his guest bedroom set against a bright blue sofa, for instance, make for a striking maximalist interior statement. Many other nooks and corners are adorned with racks brimming with pottery, shells, ceramic plates, brass candle holders, religious iconography and rugs.
"I usually strive for balance over symmetry while displaying. I have a few traditional touches such as a pair of symmetrically placed lamps, that help anchor the space and provide a canvas for my maximal designs and collections," says Daniel. Naturally inclined to a ‘more is more’ aesthetic, he points out that there is an intentional order to his clutter. Every object has been deliberately placed to achieve a certain visual balance in the whole decor.
Daniel’s apartment is a store house of vintage pieces he has purchased for a song, then cleverly juxtaposed with modern items. He also tends to group all his collection together, rather than scattering them across the house. "In this way, I feel each collection reads as a single installation, otherwise it could be chaotic and less pleasing to the eye. It is equally important to find the right way to display a certain collection. My vintage swirl pottery, for example, is displayed in a modern sleek metal cabinet – a nice contrast to the busy pottery," he explains.
Some of his furniture is there for its sentimental value. The wooden desk in his living room belonged to his grandfather. "When I moved into my very first apartment after college, my father stripped of its old paint and refurbished it in its current form," he says.
Growing up in Mississippi, Daniel, was a voracious reader of design magazines. Today he takes inspiration from a wide array of contemporary designers and from photos of old world interiors. A very organised person who sways towards simplicity, yet when it comes to home interiors, Daniel confesses, a sparsely furnished home does not make him happy. He is currently renovating a house which is nearly four times the size of his current space. "Home decor can be a great stimulant. I am very excited to display all my collections in my new space," he says.