More is more: Maximalist style and how to make clutter spark joy

High-impact lighting from hidden LED strip lights changes the mood of a home in an instant with maximalist effect. PHOTO: FREE SPACE INTENT

SINGAPORE – When everything you own sparks joy, you have to learn to live with all of it. Even if it looks a bit cluttered.

While this might sound like the new mantra of Japanese tidying guru Marie Kondo – now that she has confessed to having a messy home – it is the way of life for many who never bought into the KonMari Method of organising the home into neat categories.

Of course, there is a thin line between hoarding and what might otherwise be described as clutter chic, where prized possessions, collectibles and memorabilia are tastefully displayed to create a home that reflects the personality of the owner.

To achieve this look, The Straits Times speaks to an artist and two designers who believe that more is more. There is nothing wrong with the minimalist aesthetic, but when it starts feeling too sterile and generic, it is time to go maximalist.

Strategies to keep clutter looking chic

Designer Terence Chan in his studio with his collection of art and furniture. ST PHOTO: ARTHUR SIM

Designer Terence Chan’s large collection of art and furniture was amassed over 25 years.

He estimates that he has acquired works from at least 170 artists and designers. And he does not believe in storage. “All of it is on display,” he says.

His collection includes contemporary art by young artists, art toys, Asian artefacts and modern classic furniture. These are spread out over his home, his office and a studio space that he considers an extension of his home.

It is in his studio in Niven Road where his panache for clutter chic has played out over the past six years. And there is an underlying coherence to how the items have been grouped together for maximum effect.


Putting personality on display in DBSS flat

Hidden LED strip lights can change the mood in your abode. PHOTO: FREE SPACE INTENT

As an interior designer, Mr Leon Luo knows how to design a home that looks sleek and modern. However, his own home is anything but.

“It is nice to have a home that looks like a showroom, but it would not reflect our personality,” says the 39-year-old designer, who lives in a five-room Housing Board Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) flat with his wife Gwen Chiong, 38.

Mr Luo’s tastes are eclectic and he favours tactile surfaces and unusual colours.

His pinkish stucco wall and ceiling over the island bar counter certainly shout personality. “I wanted a colour that’s close to nature, yet not too earthy, so I picked pink,” he says.


Crafting character through curation

Art gallery owner Isabelle Miaja in her dining room. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Celebrated hospitality and residential designer Isabelle Miaja loves how pops of colour, textured textiles and decorative art come together in her maximalist home to create character.

“I don’t like clutter as it clouds the mind and, in that sense, I agree with some of what (Japanese tidying guru) Marie Kondo teaches,” says the French-Spanish designer, who is in her 50s and owns two art galleries in Singapore. She lives in a house in Bukit Timah with her son Julian, who is in his 30s. Her daughter Severine is married and her younger son Maxime is studying overseas. Both are in their 20s.

Ms Miaja opened her interior design practice, Miaja Design Group, in the late 1990s after the family settled in Singapore.

“My work oscillates between richness and calmness, depending on the purpose of the design and desired effect,” she tells The Straits Times in an interview at home. “This is the sweet spot between lavishness that sometimes can be perceived as cluttered for the purists and sterile spaces that are minimalist.”


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