We all gravitate toward certain decor schemes, whether it’s Mid-Century Modern, glam, traditional, or even Joanna Gaines-inspired farmhouse chic.
But what if you can’t be pinned down to just one look?
If you detest anything matchy-matchy and love to break a few rules when it comes to your decor, we’ve got good news: You’ve already got a good start on the fun and funky trend known as eclectic style. This decor option offers you a blank check to reject more traditional looks in favor of loosely arranging your assortment from different places and time periods.
“Eclectic style is definitely real—it’s literally a combination of a variety of looks that don’t necessarily match, but that certainly coordinate,” explains Justin Riordan, of Spade and Archer Design Agency.
Think: bold pops of color, a Mid-Century couch, and a couple of antique chairs. The look is casual, earth-friendly—and it’s riding a wave of popularity.
“With the influx in environmental design of late, we’re seeing the reuse of older furniture and buildings that mix new pieces and additions,” he explains.
And if you’re working on a budget (and frankly, who isn’t?), eclectic style fits the bill nicely, notes Beverly Solomon of the eponymous design firm. “This theme allows you to put together interesting and affordable art and decor that reflects your view and personality,” she says.
Origins of eclectic style
The eclectic look is hardly new. Even though it’s in the spotlight these days, eclecticism actually came about in the early 1900s, with the Arts and Crafts movement. “It became hip for progressives and thinkers to fit art and furnishings into their homes to achieve a more personal feeling, rather than one particular style,” Solomon explains.
Sounds familiar, right? Today’s homeowners are once again turning to eclectic style to show off a distinctive touch to their decor.
Just beware: Eclectic decor might allow you to break some rules, but it isn’t a totally lawless design scheme. If this style speaks to you, read on for how to make it work in your home—without veering into tacky territory.
Eclectic style embraces bold colors
Sure, we’ve long been told that a room’s colors should be cohesive. But with eclectic style, your shades can skew bold and bright.
“Don’t be shy about mixing yellow, pinks, emerald greens, reds and bright blues,” says Lisa Conley of 27 Diamonds Interior Design in Orange County, CA.
To pull it all together, use a neutral base, like white or a quiet gray, adds Barbara McInnis Hayman, owner of Decorating Den Interiors in Pottstown, PA. “If the look seems too ‘quiet,’ choose any signature accent hue for a pop of color.”
Use a variety of furniture styles
There’s no single line of eclectic furniture. (That would defeat the point, right?) But you can achieve the look by borrowing from a couple of styles—or just use a mismatch of things you already own, Riordan suggests.
“You could try a contemporary sofa with a Victorian table, modern lamps, and a Hudson River Valley-style painting,” he says.
Conley especially likes to combine Mid-Century Modern and shabby chic pieces. These pieces aren’t from the same time period, but if you consider scale and composition, the furniture placement will look intentional—and tell a story.
For instance, try using different kinds of chairs around the dining table. They don’t have to match, but they should have at least one aspect that ties them together—maybe they’re all rounded at the top or they’re roughly the same size.
Accessorize with flair
Here’s your chance to make your mark with eclectic style on the cheap: Pile on the pillows, hang up a funky wall gallery, create a jungle of succulents, or stack art books to use as side tables.
“Or you could hang collages that mix mirrors, art, and photos,” Conley adds.
Incorporate details from your travels or anything that speaks to you—eclectic style is highly personal.
Showcase a riot of texture and pattern
Not enough oomph from those accent pillows? Go wild with your look, by layering patterns.
“You might combine a geometric fabric with a textured solid, or a smooth, silky fabric with a patterned piece,” says Hayman.
But don’t go too crazy with stripes upon stripes, plus polka dots and plaids. Keep one thing solid, like the wall color shown above. This quiet, deep teal mixes nicely with the patterns in the rug and chairs.
Work toward balance when you approach eclectic style, Riordan urges. Each room should have old and new, dark and light, small items and big, without becoming overwhelming.
“The point of this look is to make the space easier to live in and live with,” he says. “It’s a home, not a theme park.”
Toe the line between ‘eclectic’ and ‘ewww’
Eclectic homeowners must edit ruthlessly, lest their rooms run amok. One huge sign, like the one above, is fine—but no more.
“The challenge here is to create a pleasant melting pot of elements, not a Balkan massacre,” Solomon says.
One way to know whether you’ve crossed the line with your decor scheme is by taking note of how friends and family react.
“Is there a look of horror when people enter your living room, or do you receive sincere compliments on your mix-and-match design?” asks Solomon.
Another sign is your ability to maintain the look. If you’ve got too much stuff everywhere, you’ll spend hours stacking books and layering throw pillows.
Instead, consider each new piece and decide whether it’ll enhance your look or ignite a hot mess. In the end, you want a room that’s carefully curated, not cluttered and chaotic.
Posted by Jennifer Geddes on realtor.com