Abigail Ahern's brain-tricking technique will make your small room feel larger

This is how to use maximalism as a size-enhancing tool, from the undisputed master of eclectic design

Gold and brown wallpaper with golden accessorises
(Image credit: Future / James Merrell)

Maximalist advocate Abigail Ahern is an ambassador of daring deep hues and decor pieces – but how would this style look in your home? 

When planning modern home decor ideas in a small space, maximalist interiors can feel like a bold move. Will it overwhelm your space? Or make the room feel cluttered? Not according to Abigail. 

Instead, the designer explained that maximalism will not only work in a small space – but it will accentuate it and trick your brain into believing the area is bigger. In an interview with Livingetc, Abigail revealed what you need to know about the maximalist mind game – and why moody decor is a small home's best asset. 

Abigail Ahern for Freemans

Abigail Ahern for Freemans

(Image credit: Abigail Ahern for Freemans)

'In small spaces, it's even more important [to embrace maximalism] because if you don't put a lot of things in them, then you walk in, and the eye automatically sees them as small. Whereas, if you put more things in them, your eye doesn't know where to look first,' Abigail explains. 

The designer continues, in the discussion of home decor ideas: 'Rather than your brain thinking 'this is a small room,' your brain says 'this is a cool room' so you're not really thinking about how bijou the room is. You're thinking about how beautiful the room is, and the smallness doesn't come into it.'

Blue wallpaper with maximalist design

(Image credit: Future / James Merrell)

One way to ensure your room showcases maximalism without looking too overwhelmed is to create a 'harmonious' flow by combining tones that work effortlessly together. If your colors do not clash, your space will maintain its style whilst embracing maximalism, whatever the size. 

'That means the home doesn't feel jumbled or too eclectic but super sophisticated and really harmonious,' Abigail says. 

'The more you put in a small space, the more you trick your eye and the brain, and it doesn't even register that it's small. It just registers that it's cool. It's really subconscious. You walk into a room filled with a lot of beautiful things, and the first thing the brain thinks is: this is cool.' 

Abigail Ahern

(Image credit: Secret Linen Store x Abigail Ahern)

An example of harmonious maximalism is seen through Abigail's collection with Freemans that launches on October 21. The collection features a selection of moody maximalist decor that is at the center of our modern living room ideas. We thank you, Abigail. 

Megan Slack

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team.

Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US whilst studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site.

Megan currently lives in London, where she relocated from her hometown in Yorkshire. In her home, she experiments with interior design trends and draws inspiration from the home decor ideas she observes in her everyday work life. Her favorite pieces include her antique typewriter and her expansive collection of houseplants. When she isn’t writing, she is browsing London’s coffee shops and bookstores to add to her ever-growing library, taking over the open shelving in her apartment.