Yesterday, I was over on Houzz for a Live Chat where readers were able to ask me questions about bringing personality into their homes. It was totally enjoyable and there was a great variety of different questions asked about all different aspects of design – from creating wow factor to getting over beige to compromising on design with the other half. One of the questions, however, really sparked my excitement and I thought it definitely merited it’s own post seeing that somehow, I’ve never discussed it in depth here on Swoon Worthy – which is pretty weird considering it’s one of the most consistent elements of my own personal aesthetic – eclecticism.
The question was, if you love lots of different styles, what’s the best way to create an eclectic style that works together?
Well, let’s first start by talking about what Eclectic style is. Essentially, it’s mixing and matching from different eras and styles to give you a completely and utterly unique look that intrigues the onlooker, that makes them want to take it all in, that tantalises and surprises and showcases you as an individual. I’ve used eclectic style in my own home throughout but it hasn’t been without making a few mistakes along the way. Half the fun in decorating in this style is the trial and error required to ensure the look is harmonious. However, I’m finally at the point where I make more good decisions than bad and my home is shaping up to be quite an interesting mix of styles.
One of the reasons I love it is because it creates a timeless interior. Why do I say ‘timeless’? Well, I read a quote long ago that said that nothing dates a room faster than everything being of the same era. That quote has stuck with me for YEARS because it was like a light bulb moment.
Think of it this way: Let’s say you pop into Next Home or any other home store where their products are laid out in a mock up of a ‘room’ – you have a sofa, coffee table, lamps, rug, cushions, accessories – the whole shebang. Let’s say you have a big wad of cash in your hands, you see a really nice set up and say, ‘Yep, I’ll have ALL of it.” * Well, it may look great in your home for a year or two, maybe even 3 at a push. But I can guarantee you that 4 years down the line, it’ll all look dated. Why? Because everything is from the same era – 2016 or whatever year you bought it.
*Please, don’t ever EVER do this. But you knew that, right?
By bringing in elements from different eras, there is no real way to date a space. This is why you can look at rooms designed in the 60s or 70s and aside from the photography not being quite what it is today, you’ll be hard pressed to know it was 40 or 50 years old. Timeless.
So what is it that I love about eclectic design? Well, there’s a very no-holds-barred sort of feeling about it. No worrying about something not matching, something being a little off kilter or having to stick to the same era in your furniture and accessories.
In fact, that tension of something not quite sitting with everything else and yet still somehow working – well, it’s certainly a challenge but it’s one I love to rise to. In fact, many will tell you that decorating in an Eclectic style is the most challenging of them all – but in my opinion, the most rewarding.
Obviously, mixing styles and eras in design to create a new and different look can easily look quite chaotic. While it may be tempting to just throw everything you like from all different styles together in one space, the resulting feeling will be one of over-stimulation and confusion. So the secret of this seamless integration requires creativity and some self-imposed boundaries. It is actually much more considered and purposeful then it may look to the casual observer.
Your colour palette will be the most obvious place to start. Sticking with a structured colour palette will give the room cohesiveness without making the room flat and uninteresting. Start with a neutral base for your larger pieces, your paint colours and/or your flooring as a means of grounding the space.
Like in any decorating project, scale is important. One oversized piece is absolutely fine but 3 or 4 will make the room look cluttered and uncomfortable. Despite using mid-century hoop chairs along side a more traditional chesterfield in my own living room, the backs of the chairs are of similar height to the low-lying sofa back. There is continuity of the eyeline and nothing jars too dramatically.
Of course, decorating rules are meant to be broken so if you do decide to overscale a few items, ensure your room has the scale to handle the look.
Pay attention to how pieces relate to one another and how they relate to the room as a whole. You really should do this with any style but it becomes even more important when you have lots of disparate pieces in one space. You can’t have lots of items just fighting each other for attention – they need to work together, to have some commonalities, to ‘speak’ to each other in some way – whether that’s through scale or colour or finish.
Consider the contrasts as well (as this is really the hallmark of eclectic design) – if you have a lacquer table, consider bringing in a mongolian rug, if you have a stone topped coffee table, consider bringing in a soft leather sling chair. A rough sisal rug? Combine it with a plush velvet sofa. Rough with smooth, shiny with matte, hard with soft. You get the picture, right? These contrasts should compliment each other rather than each screaming to be heard – ying and yang.
You also want to ensure that when borrowing from different eras, you mix and match throughout the space – having a mid-century console table with art of the same era hanging above it and then a Victorian style fireplace with an ornate mirror in a different part of the room is going to look ‘off’. Take that artwork and hang it above the fireplace instead and perhaps use the more ornate mirror above the console table instead.
The most important aspect of eclecticism is ensuring that every piece you surround yourself is something you love, something that speaks to your heart. Trust your gut instincts but also know that there are times when you will need to try a few different pieces in a space before you find the mix that gels perfectly together. It can be incredibly fun finding the pieces of the puzzle and transforming a space that’s entirely and uniquely you.
So are you as enamoured with Eclectic Style as I am? Have you considered eclectic style for your own home and if so, what challenges have you had to create a cohesive space? I’d love to hear from you!