The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we think about our home. What was once a place to relax and unwind is now an office, a gym and a solo rave cave.

It’s created an opportunity for many of us to rethink our home decor and invest in good vintage furniture or trendy pieces like those sunset lamps.

But the harsh reality is that it’s not so easy for a majority of young Aussies who rent and live in sharehouses to reinvent a space. The pandemic has disproportionately impacted our generation because a lot of us work in industries that have been hit hard by outbreaks and lockdowns.

Since the pandemic began, Instagram famous queer designers Josh and Matt have gradually turned their home into a maximalist dream. The pair’s pad is full of whimsical and comically colourful pieces from a Mojo Jojo street art painting on a door frame that leans against a wall to a white marble coffee table surrounded by lounge chairs of varied sizes and colours.

If you’ve been on Instagram in the last 12 months it’s likely you’ve come across their videos about their thrift finds or home decor hacks.

So, how can you create a space you want to live in that feels like you if you’re short of cash? Well, here’s what the maximalist kings of your Insta feed recommended.

Taking advantage of the space around you

Before you move into a property — whether you’re signing a lease or moving into a pre-existing sharehouse — look at the floorplan.

Think about what you can do with the space. Is there much natural light? How can you maximise all of the space available to you?

“Our apartment is 80 square metres which is quite small still for a three-bedroom place but we actually use every single square metre,” Josh explained.

The couple lived in a one-bedroom pad in Sydney before moving to Melbourne last year because the rent is cheaper.

“It wouldn’t work for everyone if you’re share housing but for us personally we basically ripped off all the doors and put them in storage.

“It’s crazy how much the door, doorway and opening a door just blocks so much usable space. We’ve been able to really have a lot more freedom with the floor plan doing that.”

The pair also recommended replacing the door with something like beaded curtains because they don’t require you to physically open them to get into a room. Note: you might need to get permission from your landlord before doing this.

Fuck overhead lighting, me and my homies hate overhead lighting

We’ve all tried to take selfies under overhead lighting and know the risks. Do yourself a solid and invest in some ambient lighting.

“I do not understand people who defend overhead lighting,” Josh said.

Josh and Matt recommend investing in ambient LED lights or smart lights — and no, they’re not just talking about those trendy sunset lamps. It’s best to place them in parts of your house you frequently occupy like a corner.

“We’d say just think about where you gravitate to in your apartment or where you’d like to be. It’s usually a corner or a wall that will kind of send the light to an area that you like to hang in or read or watch TV.”

It’s also best to utilise the natural light from windows or glass walls in your home which might require you to move some things around. The pair said they spend less money on electricity bills because they take advantage of the natural lighting that enters their apartment and only use ambient lighting.

Ambient lights don’t have to be expensive either. If you’re on a budget, the pair recommended investing in one of IKEA’s $15 FADO table lamps. They customised it with a wall of air-dry clay as a decoration around the lamp.

“The way it disperses light is so nice,” Matt said.

“We were surprised that you can get so much light from a very affordable light.

“And it’s such a great starting point for upcycling or creativity as well,” Josh added.

Fact: maximalism can still be sustainable

A common misconception about maximalism is that it’s inherently unsustainable. It’s easily confused with hoarding and some reckon that the short lifespan of everyday furniture items means that if you buy a lot it’ll all end up in landfills rather than storage.

But Josh and Matt said there are ways around wastefulness. Buy second-hand goods and think about the quality and longevity of the pieces you’re buying. A good quality vintage coffee table off Facebook Marketplace will most likely last longer than a new table from a furniture chain.

If you want to design your home like a maximalist then think about the “quality rather than quantity”.

“We just found items that really like spoke to us and that we would want to keep forever,” Josh said.

“That’s like a really big thing. When you’re shopping for secondhand items, make sure they’re [made of] really good quality materials [and] are something that you can keep forever.

“And if you want to do a DIY on it you could still change the look. But the actual piece itself will last forever.”

Ultimately, it’s about buying pieces that mesh with your interior style and can evolve with it.

If you want to mimic Josh and Matt’s home but don’t know where to start, the couple said a pair of blue lucite chairs kicked off their maximalist journey.

Think of your home as a mood board

“We’ve spent more time in our homes than ever before in our lives,” Josh explained.

“And it’s just made us realise how important reflecting who you are is. It’s not about following trend cycles. It’s really just about ‘what do you want to be surrounded by for a long time?’

“You kind of need to create a mood board of yourself that you can then reflect into your house because I think it’s really important especially with maximalism that can often be quite negatively looked upon in terms of being bad for the environment.

“But I think we’re really trying to show that you can kind of decorate in an apartment in a maximalist way that is still sustainable and conscious.”

You can check out more of Josh and Matt’s design work here.

Image: Instagram / @joshandmattdesign