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Peek Inside A Fabulous Maximalist Living Room Design

JULY 25, 2019
Photo credit: All photos by Suzanna Scott

As one of Decorist's newer Celebrity designers, Jonathan Rachman recently brought his lavish touch to this year's San Francisco Decorator Showcase. The setting was a historic 1904 mansion known as ‘Le Petit Trianon’—named and designed after the original chateau at Versailles—located in the city’s tony Presidio Heights neighborhood. It was a homecoming of sorts for Jonathan, who debuted his first Showcase design back in 2012 and returned this year to outfit one of several large living-and-entertaining spaces inside the 18,000-square-foot home. 

In keeping with his fearless design sensibility, Jonathan opted for bold drama and grandeur. Inspired by England’s historic Houghton Hall, which was designed by William Kent in the 1720s, the living room is a maximalist haven that is at once extravagant and intimate, opulent and cozy. We sat down with Jonathan to talk about his show-stopping design and cull some gems of wisdom for bringing a vibrant maximalist look into the home. 


Finding Unique Inspiration

The starting point for Jonathan’s fabulous design for the room traces back to a magical evening spent at Houghton Hall. The marchioness of Houghton Hall, Lady Rose, had recently discovered several never-before-seen 18th-century wallpaper panels in the attic of the estate. She sent the paper to the famed textile atelier de Gournay, which then created replicas of the wallpaper in updated colorways. The reimagined wallpaper and the story of its discovery in Houghton Hall provided Jonathan with the perfect historical foundation that became his vision for the room.


Establishing a Unifying Element

Among the paper’s new hues was the brilliant cerulean that Jonathan used in his living room design. It made for a bold backdrop that ultimately set the stage for and brought together the room’s overarching palette, the mix of period furnishings, and myriad ornate details and flourishes. Jonathan says it’s essential to have a strong visual point of reference in a maximalist room. Choose something with history and significance, such as a beautiful fabric or painting, that you can always look to for endless pattern and color inspirations.


Balancing Scale To Create Warmth

Given the massive size of the room, one of Jonathan’s main objectives was to “make it feel less drab,” he says. To achieve that, he opted for large-scale furniture that would not be dwarfed by the space, starting with a 15-foot custom sofa that he placed across from the room’s 15-foot Calacatta marble fireplace. A substantive blue-velvet tufted ottoman became the centerpiece, flanked by four chartreuse Mid-Century club chairs, all of which transformed the main seating area into an intimate conversation spot.


Blending In Bold Modern Touches

While the fireplace facade served as a sleek counterpoint to the ensemble of traditional furnishings, the sculptural “Tree of Light” chandelier, despite its historical relevance, provided a touch of levity and played up a modern sensibility. “The light fixture is a larger version of one of the first chandeliers to be electrified,” says Jonathan of the statement piece. It hangs from a painted ceiling depicting a starry night sky, a scene that echoes the lighthearted whimsy of the wallpaper.


Adding Captivating Flourishes

To further add warmth, Jonathan layered in small unexpected embellishments and ornate details that cleverly command focus throughout the room. For instance, he strategically hung miniature portraits on the wood paneling just above the banquettes along the wall as a way to “cheat the eye” and give the illusion of higher ceilings. Similarly, he incorporated skirts, fringes, nailhead trims, and tassels with many of the furnishings, adding alluring visual texture and depth from the ground up. 


Embracing Colorful Contrasts

To set apart what Jonathan calls “the jewel box room,” he painted the space in a high-gloss cobalt blue that transformed it into an elegant nook for rest. The vibrant blue provides drama and contrast that lends a sense of ease to the main room. “I’m a romantic,” says Jonathan who favors the theatrical beauty of classic decorating tropes, such as bold-painted wood paneling juxtaposed with lyrical chinoiserie and feminine hues. 


Playing Up Elevated Comforts

While there’s certainly no shortage of pedigreed antiques and eye-catching decor, it’s all carefully balanced for both style and comfort. “The room has to be functional,” says Jonathan, describing the generous-sized club chairs and plush pink banquettes lining one wall. To create a sense of luxury and comfort in the jewel box room, Jonathan dressed a pair of wooden daybeds with silky pillows and blankets. Meanwhile, an elegant gold-footed breakfast tray ushers in a heightened sense of refined ease. Jonathan believes it’s these finer details that ultimately convey a feeling of lived-in comfort and round out interiors.


Jonathan’s Tried-and-True Maximalist Tips

When arranging different furniture

“There are no rules when mixing periods, but you should always have modern elements and accents or a modern statement piece.” 

When combining bold colors

“Have a reference point. Find something that you love, like a painting or a wallpaper or a pattern, and build from that. Stay true to the look you’re going for.”

When working with chinoiserie

“Know your pattern. Whether your chinoiserie is Indian, Chinese, or Burmese, understand the pattern you’re working with and its history and significance. And know when less is more and when more is not enough.”


Inspired by Jonathan's vibrant, maximalist design? Hire him now and collaborate with him on your own home for a look that's boldly you.  


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