How to bring maximalism into your home

Designer Abigail Ahern’s chic, maximalist home

Champion and connoisseur of the ‘more is more’ approach to interior design, ABIGAIL AHERN tells KATIE BERRINGTON how to make the magic of maximalism happen by breaking the rules

Ahern recommends mixing textures and collecting objects such as plants, mirrors and art

“Maximalist style is [about] breathing new life into interiors,” says Abigail Ahern, considering her preferred approach to interior design. “It gives you permission to take a chance and experiment, rather than staying within the so-called decorating lines. You get to move the borders, which is so much fun.

“It’s all about an artful placement of possessions, and a playfulness between objects and materials, finishes and patterns that read as relaxed bohemian… Think unexpected textures, tantalizing materials and a no-rules approach to bringing personality back into our homes.”

Practicing what she preaches, this is just how the interior designer has gone about creating the aesthetic of her London home. “My pad is probably the most maximalist space I’ve ever designed,” she shares. “I go about it, as I do every project, by drilling into a feeling or emotion – as opposed to a theme – and designing around that.”

Keen to share the fun and freedom of this attitude towards interiors, Ahern has released Everything: A Maximalist Style Guide – a must-read for those attracted to the ‘more is more’ mantra of design. “By decorating from the heart and stopping listening to the so-called rules, then something magical happens,” she says. “When you unapologetically color-mix, combine unusual textures, and become obsessed with materials, you create a home that you never want to leave.”

“For sure, it’s much harder to pull off, as you’re not decorating by numbers, but if you follow a few guidelines you can create a haute-boho and utterly charming space.”

To make a foray into maximalism less daunting, Ahern shares five key tips for bringing it home…

“In order to mix more things in, you have to restrict color palettes,” says the designer

Start with the small things

“I like to call accessories the five-minute face-lift of the decorating world – once you start adding and layering in books, plants, a few more cushions, a couple more objects, it will give you the confidence to keep building. Then think about rugs on the floor and some more lamps. I should point out here, though, that maximalism isn’t about just filling every nook with stuff – it’s way more curated than that. In order to mix more things in, you have to restrict color palettes and pull together finishes and textures.”

Ahern describes her home as “the most maximalist space I’ve ever designed”

Look for inspiration in all your favorite places

“Visual inspiration comes from everywhere. Travel was a big inspiration for me, pre-Covid – from an amazing restaurant I stumbled on in Singapore that had the most relaxed, incredible feel to it, to a hotel in Shanghai that mixed materials beautifully. I also get inspiration from Pinterest, magazines, walking in the park, museums – everywhere and anywhere, in fact.”

Lots of plants are always a must in Ahern’s book

Make a statement and layer it up

“Major features to incorporate into your design would be unique statement pieces, from a pendant [light] or chandelier to a swoon-worthy supersized plant – key focal pieces, basically. An interesting, compelling color scheme is a must, as is multiples of items, like books, flowers and objects. Layering is fundamental, as is the mixing and matching of varying textures and patterns.”

Bright pieces of art add pops of color to Ahern’s darkly dramatic bedroom

It’s all about breaking the ‘rules’

“The first rule to break is one I am passionate about, which is that ceilings and trim should always be white. In my world, ceilings and trim are always painted the same color as the walls – no matter how bold or dark that color happens to be – and it is game-changing. No one actually believes me until they do it and – I exaggerate not – I get messages every week from people all over the world who have converted and are telling me how life-changing it is.”

…and about how it makes you feel

“Maximalist spaces should make you feel grounded and feel comforting, tantalizing, intriguing, compelling and relaxing. You should put the key in the door and feel like you never ever want to leave – I know that’s how I feel in my pad. It’s complex and multi-faceted and expressive and I am obsessed.”

A statement light can make all the difference in more muted, pared-back spaces