In Defence of Maximalism

Texture, comfort, warmth – just a few reasons why I prefer more over less.

One of the most disconcerting aspects of getting older, particularly when you reach north of twenty-five is the growing number of friends (most commonly those in couples) getting on the property ladder. It is a strange experience to realise you are now at the age where interior catalogues and shades of wall paint have become acceptable pub conversation. In my younger days of student house-shares, how your house looked was largely left up to a combination of free-for-all of shabby posters, carpet stains and detritus of uncertain origin. This is not to register disapproval towards those for whom interiors are an important consideration, I actually relate to it a great deal and place a lot of stock on getting my surroundings into a state that satisfies and comforts me. Furthermore, one of the advantages of reaching the property-owing age is that you can learn a few things about your friends you might not have known before by the type of environment in which they choose to live.

A cause of minor disagreements in some of my first post-student house shares is that I have never bonded much with the minimalist idea. This is not to say I am the sort of person who adorns shelves with glass figurines and has wooden ducks nailed to the wall, but I like my surroundings comfortably occupied. Bare walls and a lack of soft furnishings has always left me rather cold. Which is something I get enough of by virtue of living in Britain as it is. After a day of commuting through a rain-lashed big city, I like to come home to a sense of warm security rather than the set of Gattaca. This manifests itself in less extreme ways than it did five years ago when I insisted on hanging drapes all over the walls in what must have seemed like an attempt to disguise the living room as one large four-walled bed.

Psychologically, it seems that many people derive a similar sense of comfort and security from bare walls, hard lines and clean surfaces. The logic of this is not hard to grasp: a lack of clutter nurtures the feeling of control, an ordered and neat sanctuary from the chaos outside, as embodied in many art deco interiors.

But at this point in my life, I have begun to find that a rustic aesthetic is the most profoundly comforting of all, reminding one of childhood and home comforts in much the same way old buildings and architecture do. Additionally, for those of us living in England, the soothing quality of the rustic is evident to anyone who has spent any time in the English countryside. Old weathered buildings, stone walls and ancient hearths convey endurance, longevity, continuity and all the security of age. The deco movement arguably arose out of a desire to grow out of that, to pursue efficiency and basic functionality without the need to pay any homage to the past.

The work-life balance also doubtless plays into this. Those of us who work in offices in London spend most of our week surrounded by trendy sleek interiors, unobtrusive ceiling lighting and plain white walls, so one of the most reassuring things about coming home from work is the feeling that you have entered the opposite of your work environment, the world of generous central heating, hot showers and home-cooked meals. Maximalist and rustic aesthetics then perhaps betray a certain sentimentality towards the inanimate, a tendency considered superfluous by many who prefer to strip their surroundings of distractions.

 

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