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Minimalism vs Maximalism in a creative workspace

There is some debate between minimalism vs maximalism as to which style fosters better productivity and creativity.

Does creation have more space in an environment where there is nothing? Does simplicity help our minds clear and prepare to accept new ideas? Or, does creativity thrive on chaos, drawing inspiration from the things around us?

In the past few years, the popular vote seems to have gone to minimalism. There are hundreds of Youtube videos, podcasts and books written on living with less. Without things running our lives and taking up our space we will be able to be more productive, happier and life will be easier.

Currently, with recent world events, people seem to be moving away from minimalism. People are at home more, both by choice and by necessity. Gathering things around us, both as inspiration for daily living and a reaction against possibly not being able to acquire them in the future is becoming more commonplace.

Take my apartment building for example. I’m seeing the normally spartan and empty balconies of my neighbours fill with things. Plants, furniture, knickknacks etc. This was simply not the case in previous years and seems to have happened in the last few months as a side effect of being at home more.

Like water, I think design seeks balance. I think our thoughts and minds seek balance. Therefore, I would argue that neither minimalism nor maximalism is the way to go. Both views have definite benefits but are somewhat extreme. It is better to live in moderation, somewhere in the middle.


The clear palette of minimalist simplicity allows the brain to rest. Minimalism reduces the load on our already overstimulated minds. This is part of why minimalism currently is so popular. Clean and clear environments help our minds to absorb all the input we receive through technology on an ongoing basis.

From a design perspective, minimalism at its best allows the limited materials that are used to be shown in their purest form in the best light.

From a practical perspective, having a clear area to work can help with focus and keeping on task.

Having less means less to maintain, store, and keep track of, reducing both our physical chores and our mental load.

On the negative end, too much white space can feel a bit lacking in warmth and emotion. It can feel clinical and cold. It can be a bit… boring.

Example of Maximalist space


Next, we explore the philosophy of more is more. Maximalism can be simply defined as a reaction against minimalism. I would agree that because minimalism has been popular for so many years now, people are starting to rebel against simple living.

Often, people want to reflect their inner individuality in their surroundings and maximalism can be helpful in expressing a unique personality.

Collecting things brings some people joy, and displaying and sharing their collections with others also can make them happy.

In line with the current minimalist trends, so many of us have cleared out our heirlooms and grandmother’s china. I’m wondering if our children and grandchildren are going to be mad about this someday when the pendulum swings and people start to collect again.

There are only so many beautifully decorated neutral and/or grey houses we can see before tiring of them.

One of my guilty pleasures is watching house tours on Youtube. Many of the homes look almost the same, despite costing millions of dollars. An exception is one of my favorite Architectural Digest house tours, this three-level apartment in Soho, New York. I would say this apartment is a perfect example of how Maximalism can be done in a tasteful way. You can watch it here:

Everyone knows someone brilliant who thrives despite the mess around them. Somehow they seem to focus despite the chaos surrounding them. However, the problem with maximalism is it can be used as an excuse to become a hoarder, which is an entirely different thing. If taken to an extreme, maximalism can also appear a bit tacky or overwhelming.

my workspace

Minimalism vs Maximalism – my perspective

Above is a tidied up version of my workspace, which falls somewhere in the middle of less and more. This isn’t my dream workspace (which would have a window, more space, and great light) but it is functional and works for me.

I do like having lots of books and art around me, usually art that I or my loved ones have created. For example, the birch tree painting above my desk was done by my sister. A mostly clear desk helps me to focus, and when working I only like to have one thing on the go at a time. Otherwise, I get very distracted.

What do you think about the minimalism vs maximalism debate. Is there are clear winner, or like me do you think that somewhere in the middle is the best choice?

What type of workspace works best for you? What kind of space do you aspire to?

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