What Exactly is Eclectic?

 

Courtesy of Anne Sage

If I had to define my style as an interior designer, I’d say I’m eclectic. But what does that really mean? In my mind, eclectic design is a colorful mix of periods and styles with the unifying themes being comfort and interest. To me, an all white home cannot be eclectic, but others would disagree. I also don’t think bohemian and eclectic are interchangeable words or styles because a bohemian style feels very ethnic or very period – say, 1960′s or 70′s. However, an eclectic space will have touches of bohemian in it. It will also have industrial, traditional, modern, contemporary, and ethnic in the mix but it will rarely be minimalist, although I’m sure it’s possible to do an eclectic-minimalist home.

Courtesy of Living Pod

I love this room. To me it’s fresh and eclectic without being overdone or overwhelming. livingpod.com has some amazing photos of beautiful, eclectic interiors done right.

A lot of people call their jumbled mish-mash of objects and styles “eclectic.” Unfortunately, most of the time it’s really just a mess of things and there is no cohesive design plan going on. Furniture you had in the college dorm mixed with something from IKEA is not usually an eclectic design style but it is sad.

Many people believe that they want an eclectic space when what they really want is warm modern. What’s the difference? Warm modern is generally clean-lined furnishings that are more on the contemporary or “new” side with luxe fabrics and textures. Less is more but not so much less to make it minimalist and not strictly white, chrome and black. A little color is okay, but not too much.

Eclectic is:

Courtesy of TM Magazine

You can pinpoint a few themes in this room, elegant (red and black), mysterious (almost boudoir style), and refined (vintage lounge chairs, plush fabrics). However, nothing really matches and there is no period constraint. The space moves from the 1930′s to the 1980′s but it all makes sense. To me, this is a sexy room, save for the Mad Hatter’s lamp in the corner. I’d take that out.

This is also eclectic:

Courtesy of Anne Sage

It’s a bright, vibrant mix of vintage, rustic (older and more worn) and industrial (the pendant lamps). It feels like Mexican folk art to me or even really fun Swedish. It’s not for everyone but it’s definitely not a sobering space and it was done with thought. The design elements and details are planned, thus, it doesn’t have an overly cluttered, chaotic feel.

I feel like eclectic can be defined as almost irreverent and whimsical. It could be dark whimsical, like mismatched taxidermy or assemblage boxes made of skeletons and insects, or tongue-in-cheek whimsical like the amazing dining room at the Rough Luxe Hotel in London:

Rough Luxe Hotel UK

It can be hard to know if you really like eclecticism in your own home. It might be that you appreciate it, and find it interesting, but you need a more calm, serene palette or you feel most at home around antiques. I always tell my clients to look through books and magazines and mark the images that speak to them. After collecting 25 or more images, you can see a pattern. You get a sense for what color schemes resonate, what sorts of furnishings and objects are interesting and what sort of space plan feels best.

Courtesy of Style of Design

It can be confusing navigating all of the different design styles and terms that are out there. Admittedly, eclectic is a totally overused word. Not everything is truly eclectic and not everything should be! There are homes and spaces that just aren’t conducive to that kind of style. As much as a design plan needs to be about you, it should also be what works best for the space. Above all else, it’s the harmony, the feel of a space that matters.

Best,

Melisa

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About Melisa

Interior and garden designer, owner of Apartment 46 design studio, mother, friend, adventurer and explorer.
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