Decorating 101: Eclectic

Author: Alecia Pirulis  

eclectic window

It’s the most difficult style to pull off. It’s also the most fun, and the most personal. Designers fear it, but when it is done right, it dazzles. That style isn’t art deco or modern – it’s eclectic.

Eclectic decorating is basically a free-for-all: a mixture of styles and textures from all of the other design styles. The trick is getting them to work – if it isn’t done correctly, your room will look like a jumbled, discordant hodgepodge.

While eclectic decorating is all about creating a look that is all yours, there are a few tricks to making it work. Here’s what you need to remember when decorating in an eclectic style:

First, choose one neutral color that will tie the room together. If, for example, you choose cream as your neutral color, look for ways to pull that color throughout the room: pillows, artwork, throws, a chair, etc. Having a common color weaved throughout the space will help connect your pieces – even if you do choose to hang a Japanese print over an antique Victorian sofa.

While your furniture can be very different – sleek, lacquered modern chairs mixed with a rough farm-style dining table, for example – you don’t want them to be disproportionate. Make sure your furniture is on the same scale – no gigantic, wall-devouring bookcases next to tiny little parson’s chairs. Having furniture proportionate to each other will give your room balance – an important factor in getting an eclectic style to work.

But while you want the scale right, you don’t want groupings. Eclectic is a unique, playful style – don’t try to force a unity that isn’t there. Instead, celebrate the contrasts. Don’t “group” your shabby-chic mirror and end table in the entryway – instead, mix it up – hang the sleek modern mirror over the curvy, shabby-chic end table, instead.

Blend and connect – this is very important in eclectic decorating because everything is so different. Great-Aunt Sue’s floral loveseat from the 1960s, a terrific 19th-century curio cabinet you found in your favorite antique store, the ornate, mirrored art deco table you just couldn’t pass up – in theory, these items shouldn’t go together. But by pulling the same color, fabrics, and patterns though the space, it will all come together.

Be sure to edit. Eclectic doesn’t mean cluttered, so don’t try to bring everything into the room. You want to carefully select interesting, unique pieces that contrast (and yet still work) with the rest of the room – you don’t want to fill the room so full that it ends up looking like a rummage sale gone wrong.