Maximalism is making a comeback, and we’re all for it. Think rich colors, layered patterns and glamorous finishes—it’s this fearless mix that makes a room feel vibrant and enveloping. Interior designer Harry Heissmann shared with us the do’s and don’ts for achieving the perfect maximalist look in your home.
You have a very rich use of colors and textures in your work, what is your advice for people who like that look but are intimidated by it?
Start small and introduce color and texture in strategic ways, often relegated to a smaller space, to help acclimate clients to more substantial and bolder moves in the future. You can introduce color in a controlled manner by hanging a colorful painting or placing bright colored glass. Recently, I had a client start with their powder room, and I created a maximalist jewel box, and the owners loved the result. After the first few dinner parties, the guests continued to compliment them, giving the owners the validation and confidence to move more boldly through the rest of the home.
How can people pull a maximalist look in a small space?
I always suggest starting with a collection — either something people already own, or something we begin collecting together. For example, I love groupings of silhouettes or small paintings to hang on a wall painted in an intense color — then go with it and carry the theme throughout. Comfort paired with practicality is crucial; always have a surface to put your drink on, a lamp to read by or a desk to write notes.
Is there any absolute “don’t” when it comes to a maximalist look?
I don’t believe in steadfast rules, but I do believe in experts — hiring the best wallpaper hangers, the best decorative painters and, when hanging art, absolutely using a professional art hanger. Maximalism requires precision; all these seemingly different textures, colors and patterns go together when they are executed flawlessly.
What is your life (or design) motto?
My personal motto is “Live every day to its fullest, share and love.” My design motto is “client-centric interior design.”
Please choose five items from Sotheby’s Home that you would use to bring a room to life, and give us a short sentence on why each item was picked and how you would use them.
These vases are an instant conversation piece. Add peach or cherry blossoms. I like them for their sculptural quality and the fact they can stay out — even without an arrangement.
A piece like this can “start” a room — so make it look like you inherited it from a European relative. I see this re-upholstered in a modern fabric from Pierre Frey and used in a conversation area, paired with two super comfortable club chairs and a tufted leather ottoman with a tray as a coffee table.
A wonderful pair of paintings yet modern looking in their round frames. I see an entire color scheme here that could be implemented in a library.
This is a key piece to a successful dinner party; I love the color and the scale. Besides wine, it could hold a low arrangement or a fruit topiary. Set a table around it: yellow chargers with gold rims, fine porcelain and crystal with gold flatware.
Another “instant” room piece. I see this in a TV room, where a client still has records or DVDs to store. Add low slung, comfortable furniture to lounge on and a big wall-mounted TV.