Move over minimalism. ‘Clutter core’ is the latest iteration of maximalist interior design here to help you love your mess.
Photo credit: @tsubakiroom
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Consider the Clutter Core trend: the latest sub-genre of maximalism – one that encourages you to embrace your mess, rather than hide it away.
Found in the intersection between Design Tok and Gross Girl Tok (a TikTok subculture dedicated to normalising the messy parts of our lives we often hide), I recently stumbled across this chaotic yet approachable interior design method.
And to say I felt seen is an understatement.
Since as long as I’ve been curating share house rooms and shared apartment spaces, I’ve forever felt alienated by the always popular minimalist approach, often putting it down to the sheer amount of *stuff* I had in my arsenal.
I’ve never had a strong tendency to keep my living spaces pristinely clean, I simply tidy up when I have the time and energy.
Largely due to this attitude and other elements of convenience, I’ve always erred towards a slightly messy interior vibe, one I rarely ever see on social media.
So, jumping down the virtual rabbit hole of deliciously chaotic but still beautiful rooms á la ‘Clutter Core’, it became clear that I wasn’t alone in my clutter. That organised mess could be elevated and chic too.
Photo Credit: @hattienixon
Also known as bricabracomania, the style – like any design style – differs from space to space, but as a rule can include clashing patterns and textures, a range of colourful pieces and small décor pieces that all stick to some sort of theme.
Interior expert, stylist and decorator Michelle Hart of Bask Interiors likens ‘Clutter core’ to “a type of organised chaos.”
“The name brings to mind overcrowded spaces with loads of ‘stuff’ in every corner of each room - a bit like a vintage bizarre market,” she said.
Although the clutter design aesthetic may be undergoing a resurgence with many of us experiencing its popularity for the first time, in a historical sense, we’ve been here before.
This more-is-more approach to interior styling is just part of the never-ending trend cycle.
For example, throwing it back all the way to the Victorian times, reputation and status hinged on what you owned, and it was commonplace to collect and display a range of shiny and colourful wares.
However, this time around, the modern tendency to collect and display á la ‘Clutter Core’ is less fuelled by flaunting wealth and more to do with creativity and individualism – the general appearance of the aesthetic style remains largely unchanged.
If you’re like me and you enjoy an eclectic and slightly messy space, using the design principles of ‘Clutter Core’ to your advantage can enhance the feel of your spaces.
Acknowledging the fine line between beautiful clutter ad disorganised chaos, Michelle explains that there “needs to be some sort of organisation or theme threaded through everything displayed.”
“For instance, items in a collection could be grouped together by colour, texture, material or style, and pieces on display should be meaningful to you,” Michelle said.
“Having things styled on shelves at a single depth could mean a more structured display and keeping floor space or walkways clear of items also helps with making this style appear more organised.”
Photo credit: @tsubakiroom
Rather than purchasing and quickly disposing of trendy items as soon as they become out of fashion, Clutter Core encourages us to cherish and display our favourite pieces.
“If you collect items that are on trend then you might be more likely to dispose of things as new trends emerge,” said Michelle. “Clutter core is more a mixed collection of new and vintage pieces that hold stories and sentimental value and are of more timeless pieces that aren't conducive to trends or fashion.”
In contrast to the Marie Kondo ethos, Clutter Core empowers us to not only love and keep possessions, but to visually appreciate and display them.
The key here is embracing what you already own and not purchasing anything in excess.
In stark comparison to the minimalist styles favourited by millennials over the past ten years, this new eclectic approach could be linked to the maximalist Gen Z movement.
Although the generational feud between Gen Z and millennials may be a contributing factor, the act of cultivating spaces that radiate chaotic-good energy had a real resurgence during the pandemic.
When we found ourselves with a wealth of the time at home, there was a clear push to get creative and experimental in our living spaces.
The lack of guests and access to furniture and homewares stores also meant we had the opportunity to turn inward and create spaces that were solely for us, and us alone.
When the world was so bleak, finding comfort in rearranging and displaying our most treasured items was a fleeting moment of fun and happiness.
Michelle explains that although many believe cluttered spaces would elicit feelings of overwhelm, out-of-control or disorganisation, it can sometimes have the opposite effect.
“For some, a messy space can inspire creativity and comfort being surrounded by sentimental things,” she said.
Though much of pandemic life is behind us, many of us have continued to embrace the beauty of our messes beyond lockdown. Because who really has the time to clean?