Everything You Need to Know About Eclectic Decorating, California-Style

Updated 03/14/18
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It's hard to capture the energy of California in just a few words, but you recognise and feel it immediately, especially in the artistic movements and design spaces. Indeed, when the innovative yet laid-back Golden State is reflected in interior design, the result is eclectic and distinctly Californian. The West Coast is surprisingly sophisticated and always inviting, and rooms designed with the same mentality are some of our favorites. The state's signature eclectic decorating is definitely having a moment in today's design world. To help you snag a similar boho-luxe aesthetic, we've broken down the key elements of California style so you can incorporate them into your home. Read on to learn some eclectic decorating ideas and shopping tips that will bring the California dream a little closer to home.

Ingredient #1: Worn Leather

Eclectic Decorating Examples
JH Interior Design

Age-worn leather works perfectly in these laid-back spaces because it exudes a touch of strength and offbeat beauty. Whether it's a small side chair, cozy lounge chair, or a full sofa, vintage pieces add warmth and wisdom to any room. They also work well with the other essential elements of this style (more of that to come) since they're bold, functional, comfortable, and totally unpretentious.

Ingredient #2: Large-Scale Photography

California Interior Design
Commune Design

There's something fresh and innovative about California style. For a modern edge that breaks up the vintage pieces in the room, opt for hyper-realistic paintings or large-scale photography. Landscapes, portraits, color, and black-and-white pieces are amazing additions to California-eclectic spaces. Depending on the subject, these art pieces can add humor or drama, and no matter the scene, it's essential to go large. A simple black or white box frame is a contemporary, formal take that balances the nostalgic feel and more casual aspects of this aesthetic.

Ingredient #3: Bohemian Textiles

Bohemian Interiors
Commune Design

Whether it's a Suzani, a Turkish kilim, a Mexican serape, or a Navajo weaving, beautiful original textiles are a must. These pieces inject a collected, bohemian vibe into these spaces. Don't be afraid to mix all different types: the more, the merrier. If you aren't sure where to find great pieces, it's always a good idea to dig around flea markets and look in unexpected places. They don't need to be incredibly expensive antiques, but authentic textiles will make your home feel thoughtfully curated and one-of-a-kind. Plus, the beautiful array of colors and prints invite optimism and play. 

Ingredient #4: Sumptuous Layers

California Style Homes
Amy Bartlam ; DESIGN: JDP Interiors

When the sun goes down in the Golden State, it can get chilly, so dressing in layers is essential. Yes, we have to throw on our parkas every once in a while just like the rest of the country. And the same can be said for your home. Incorporating furry throws and sheepskin rugs gives off a cozy, warm vibe in the evening, but their bright white color keeps things airy in the daylight. They're also well-suited for eclectic California homes that take a more neutral-hued approach to the style, which makes them incredibly versatile.

Ingredient #5: Midcentury Lines

Midcentury-Modern Living Room Ideas
JH Interior Design

While there are definitely some regional differences up and down the coast (we see you, San Francisco Victorians and Los Angeles Art Deco spaces), California is the mecca for midcentury-modern furniture and architecture. This is partially because it was a hot spot of activity and a favourite vacation destination in the '60s. Pieces with sleek lines, wood frames, and tapered legs can be found dotted in these rooms in the form of dining chairs, sideboards, nightstands, and coffee tables. Avoid a time warp by balancing these elements with more hefty furnishings like worn-leather pieces or strong industrial-inspired items. Throw pillows can also be truly transformative.

Ingreident #6: Mixed Patterns

Eclectic Decorating Ideas
Commune Design

For the most part, California is casual and relaxed—or at least we try to exude that mood through our interiors. Taking risks and keeping things playful is part of the design M.O.; you'll often notice rooms playing with different colors and patterns and scales. We promise it's not scary at all to incorporate a variety of designs, colors, and prints by way of throw pillows, bohemian textiles, floor poufs, and graphic art. Starting out with smaller items makes it feel less permanent, too, if you decide you'd like to opt for something more minimal or less bright.

Ingredient #7: A Dash of Industry

Living Room Chairs
Catherine Kwong Design

We love how this San Francisco living room demonstrates a slightly different take on California-eclectic interiors. Patinated metals, iron details, and pieces that add a subtle industrial texture to these rooms, and help balance out the more delicate textiles and features are a small but crucial part of eclectic decorating. Add industrial touches to your rooms through metal light fixtures, raw coffee tables, vintage side chairs, or reproduction furniture with exposed nuts and bolts.

West Elm Slope Leather Bar and Counter Stools $599
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The iron-and-cognac leather seat make this stool a quintessential California kitchen essential. 

Ingredient #8: Organic Materials

Luxurious Bedrooms
Amy Bartlam ; DESIGN: JDP Interiors

Californians spend a lot of time outside and often embrace an organic lifestyle, which often translates into their interiors. Seagrass baskets, sisal rugs, woven rattan, and raw woods bring a sense of that nature-oriented mindset indoors. It can even be as simple as a nature-inspired color palette or soft organic shapes reminiscent of naturally occurring patterns and landscapes.

Large Black Braided Jute Pouf
CB2 Large Black Braided Jute Pouf $214
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When decorating and eclectic home, jute is always your friend. Opt for an inky hue for a more formal, mature aesthetic. 

Ingredient #9: Indoor Plants

Indoor Plant Ideas
Katherine Carter

Though incorporating natural materials is essential for this look, there's no substitution for the real thing, which is why the vast majority of these spaces feature a houseplant or tree. We suggest selecting an indoor tree that crawls all the way up the ceiling. Those sprawling branches add drama and life. We love the idea of placing it in a reading nook. Or if you don't consider your thumb green, a more understated tabletop plant can also add liven up your California-eclectic room with color and energy. The hassle of upkeep is minimal compared to the aesthetic reward.

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