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nieuws  11-04-2023 

Food for thought; Throw your knickers on the chandelier

With the first NOOK of this year, we kick off exuberantly. With extravagant, sophisticated, richly layered interior architecture and maximalist interiors. As a preview, we share the food for thought article from this NOOK’s issue here.



“The global pandemic has created a watershed moment in the downfall of modernism and the rise of maximalism,” argues Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. The author of the book More More More: Making Maximalism Work in Your Home and Life tells Thierry Somers that “Maximalism is the most subversive thing that could ever happen to the architecture and design industry.”

Throw your knickers on the chandelier

[food for thought]

There are two common misunderstand- ings about maximalism. One is the assumption that a maximalist room is an exceptionally colourful room, but a lot of maximalists use colour for its ability
to emphasise and enhance something. Colour is not necessarily the star of the show, but rather an important cornerstone that ensures the mighty maximalist edifice rises true and straight.
The other is that maximalism is a char- ter to clutter, but it’s not. You have to keep a level of thought and engagement with your interior, to the same level you would with a modernist or minimalist interior. Everything in that space has to be in there because you like it. The minute you start leaving things because they are conven- ient, that’s when maximalism evolves into a space of darkness and neglect. In the spaces I inhabit, I’m constantly asking the question to all the objects: Are you doing the job you should be doing?

Keeping people in their place
What I think is great about maximalism is that it’s not modernism. Maximalism is the antithesis of modernism. When modern- ism was created, it was this idea that you pulled up the ladder behind you. Bauhaus really focused themselves on this concept
of creating a perfect world in which no- body needed anything ever again. This is of course completely impossible in terms of human existence, in terms of biology, in terms of physics. You cannot actually put a full stop behind anything, because entropy takes over, evolution takes over. Everything has to either progress, to generate, or evolve. Bauhaus modernism had no ability to evolve at all, and they didn’t want to. It was about keeping people in their place and saying to them: This is what you should be doing, this is what you should expect. Le Corbusier said, “Never undress in your bedroom.” Sorry?! A maxi- malist would say, “Take your clothes off wherever you want in the house and throw your knickers on the chandelier.”

A valuable barometer
One of the big educational flaws is the way architecture and design is taught. It has been very 20th-century-centric for too long. Many architects, designers, or com- mentators know so little about anything pre-Bauhaus. The last generation who had classical training died out with postmod- ernism. The late Zaha Hadid was one of the few who understood that modernism had to evolve, had to do something to it- self, to make it much more attuned to how people wanted it. What she did with modernism was absolutely extraordinary. I think she was a kind of John the Baptist
to all of this. This is what architecture needs to do; to become as organic, as art nouveau, as decadent as Zaha was in the way that she made contemporary architec- ture into something that was curvaceous, feminine, and organic.
Design will always be an incredibly valuable barometer of what is going on in society. The Renaissance is a very good example, because we see the mindset of that period in the buildings, the arts, and in the music. In the same way you can see the mindset of the 20th century, with all of the dreadful things that people like Mies van der Blah Blah did. The horrid redac- tion of the organic, its ridiculous embrace of man-made technology. All of the things which were there to replace millions
of years of evolution. I think we got to
the end of the 20th century and started thinking, “You know what? It’s not really working.”

The global pandemic has forced every- body to re-evaluate a lot of what they think, what they like, what they ought to be doing. It led to an unprecedented level of people now working from home and re-assessing the spaces they live in.

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen in his bedroom.


Photo: Steve Thorpe

Social media starts doing its job properly with Instagram and maximalism: to enforce the idea that we are all different, and that is so cool. – Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen

The pandemic has given us a moment of tectonic social change.
We had a hundred years of asylum keepers that kept telling us what to do, but predominantly through the pandem- ic, people started doing things how they wanted to do it, because there was no one to check them. There were no estate agents, no mothers-in-law to come around your house. You just did what you wanted to do with your interior and you did it on your own terms. “Wow, that looks good!” So you took a picture of it, posted it on In- stagram, and that becomes a springboard, a virus, a glamdemic in its own right, that totally transforms the way that people feel that they can do what they want.

Innately democratic
Maximalism is therefore a lawless place for aesthetics. The idea of kitsch, the an- ti-taste, all of these things that are outside what everybody tells you is right or prop- er. These are incredibly important parts of you. The bits that are outside society. All of those should be actually celebrated. That’s why maximalism is as much about celebrating happiness and individuality as it is re-centring people back to who they are and expressing themselves. There is a fabulous witticism ingrained in maximal- ism that was never there in modernism.

Modernism was never ever funny. We’re looking to reboot the way we do things in a much more human-friendly way.

The absolute relative subjectivity of maximalism is what makes it so exciting. We are all now doing it in our way. And what is so brilliant and so unlike most social media is that we’re appreciating the way that the other person does it. We’re doing our own thing, we’re not judging the other person: “That’s not right, it doesn’t work, okay that’s not me, but that’s obvi- ously you.” This is a moment of enormous kindness that’s coming into our global society, which takes us all by surprise. After all those decades of slagging off, abuse, and rudeness that happens on so- cial media, social media starts doing its job properly with Instagram and maximalism – to start enforcing the idea that we are all different, and that is so cool.

It’s going to be very interesting to see how it’s all going to evolve professionally, because maximalism is innately democrat- ic. It has no leaders, it has no high priests. It wasn’t created by intellectuals sitting at a table thinking about where life should go, where society should go, where design should go. It was actually created by people, created by the end users. It is the most subversive thing that could ever happen to the architecture and design industry.



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