Intriguing. Deep. Multilayered. Surprising. Yes, the eclectic design style evokes a whole host of superlatives that belie its wily nature. Sure, it's a riotous juxtaposition of color and texture, old and new, and high and low—a study in contrasts that allows one's unique personality to shine and the freedom to think outside the box. But if you think this freewheeling style of decorating is an "anything goes" free-for-all, then think again. It's also one of the trickiest styles to get right.
"It’s all about mixing, matching, and layering," says Decorist designer, Emerie Forehand. Although her sensibilities lean toward a no-holds-barred approach to home decorating (she sees potential in any object you love), "There is a method to the madness," she notes.
Meet the Expert
Emerie Forehand is a Chicago-based interior designer who works with the online design company, Decorist. She loves using vintage and reclaimed pieces in her projects, and she's always scouring thrift shops and flea markets for standout finds.
Not only does the eclectic interior design style embody richness and abundance, but it also delivers a pleasing unpredictability that's easily translated to every other style—but its flexibility can leave room for error. "Start by following the rules—until you feel comfortable," suggests Forehand.
What is Eclectic Design?
Eclectic design is a celebration of contrasts that embodies a dynamic marriage of furniture and decor from disparate movements, styles, and eras. Eclectic interiors are also highly personal, yet carefully edited and cohesive.
Create your own unique space: Apply the following 15 eclectic home decor and design ideas and take cues from these striking interiors.
Start With Neutrals
A neutral wall color—shades of white and whisper-gray—immediately sets one up for success, as seen in this whimsical, eclectic living room. Here, neutral white acts as a blank canvas against which one may freely add, subtract, and easily see results. Forehand proposes a "moody black, emerald green, and bright coral" palette, so "wood and brass tones pop." Stick to a core palette and introduce upholstery, textiles, and decor in similar, not exact, shades to promote cohesion.
To create an eclectic palette, pick one overarching neutral hue and weave in two more accent colors, says Forehand. They can be bolder or more subdued shades of your neutral base or different colors similar in intensity.
Represent Different Eras
Take stock of beloved pieces and shop for those with similar lines and forms; you'll achieve continuity, regardless of style or era. Forehand breaks it down: "Research three different styles you like, make one the dominant style, and pull from all three while looking for similarities." But, says Forehand, "Opposites also attract," as illustrated in this eclectic dining room which deftly juxtaposes a midcentury-modern Saarinen Tulip table with 20th-century French chairs. Sometimes, it's all about trying new combinations and seeing how they work.
Consider The Layout
No matter how congruous, a roomful of furniture laid out willy-nilly isn't eclectic, it's messy. Have a plan: Start with larger key pieces and build from there, and don't ignore key layout essentials, like optimal flow and somewhere guests can rest drinks, says Forehand. Think about what purposes pieces serve, where they'll go, and how they'll jibe with everything else. Although this midcentury-cum-70s-inspired living area is a melting pot of contrasting styles, each piece echoes the next—with room to breathe.
Match The Mood
The mood of the room also needs to match that of its furniture and decor. Match a formal dining area's conventionality with, say, a crystal chandelier—not a breezy rice-paper globe pendant. The same goes for informal rooms like the one above; straightlaced wingback chairs are eschewed in favor of fun, comfy seating that more appropriately sets the tone, like a relaxed vintage lounger and hanging bubble chair.
Make A Statement
A big, bold statement-making piece is typically the very thing that "makes" an eclectic room. Whether it's a largescale artwork or striking piece of furniture, no matter: It should have pride of place and be the only thing commanding the spotlight. Two showstoppers—unless framed within one vignette like the memorable modern-traditional settee and living wall, or inside a really large space—tend to compete and can negate the room's overall narrative.
Forehand is a staunch proponent of Jonathan Adler's motto to surround ourselves with things we love, no matter their style. But such lawlessness can backfire without thoughtful curation of the things you own and those you're bringing in, especially decorative items. By all means, display key objects you love, as Forehand says, "Sometimes, it’s fun to create spaces that push limits," but do so sparingly and deliberately, as was done within these artfully arranged built-ins. You can always add and subtract from what you exhibit, depending on the reason or the season.
Sometimes it's fun to create spaces that push limits.
Art is an integral component of eclectic design. Fortunately, it's now easy and affordable to build a diverse collection. Combine framed and unframed pieces, intriguing objets, and sculptures, too, as showcased in this artfully abundant, 18th-century townhouse. Vary scale and proportion and seek correlations in color, theme, and motif.
Source original artwork from sites like The Artling, Everything But The House, Invaluable, Saatchi Art, Artspace, Natural Curiosities, and 20x200, and peruse flea markets and thrift shops for interesting finds.
Arrange A Gallery Wall
The eclectic "salon-style hang," or gallery wall layout, is an eccentric, incongruous, yet aesthetically pleasing arrangement that's easily replicated in your own space. Hang largest works first and build outward, allowing visual distance (how much is up to you) between each piece. Further unify works by framing them similarly, say, in black, like this still-life gallery wall, or group arrangements by color, genre (landscapes, portraits), medium (photography, oil paintings, prints), and era (abstract, Surrealist).
Unify Via Repetition
Extraordinary eclectic rooms convey palpable balance and order; nothing looks out of place, rooms easily flow from one to the next, and even the most discordant items seem to coalesce. But how? Via repetition. In this folksy living area, shades of blue are echoed throughout, the gallery wall consists wholly of framed works, and graphic throw pillows duly parallel the sofa's upholstery. "Repetition breeds comfort," says Forehand, who recommends mirroring a home's era, period details, and finishes in your chosen furniture and decor.
Mix Patterns & Finishes
Like texture and form, patterns, too, can be copied and repeated for maximum impact. And slight variations create ever more striking results, says Forehand. The trick, she says, is to find similar patterns within the same general palette, vary their scale (from large prints to medium and small), and add layers of solid, tactile textures to create requisite visual distance. To wit, this eclectic guest room's pillow and bedspread are uncanny matches to its wallpaper.
Tinker With Texture
Repeat and alternate textures to create an eclectic home that's visually and tactilely stimulating. Pair smooth with rough, hard with soft, and coarse with fine and look for interesting ways to contrast patterns, weaves, and surfaces. For example, this eclectic rowhouse bedroom, with its rustic metalwork cabinet and soft, touchable bedding, is an ideal, captivating juxtaposition of texture and pattern.
Create Interesting Groupings
Interesting groupings are integral to every eclectic space, and Forehand subscribes to interior design's rule of three, which favors odd-numbered groupings (they're more appealing and memorable) over even-numbered arrays. Always group like items together by size, color, and/or purpose for maximum visual impact. Not only does this bookshelf vignette share the same Southwestern motif, but each shelf also features an odd number of decorative objects.
Experiment With Scale
Variation in scale, or the size of one item in relation to another, ensures that eclectic rooms never look boring. Forehand recommends shooting for the most striking contrasts by alternating height, width, diameter, and length. Despite their distinct statures and dimensions, the furniture, artwork, and lighting in this luxuriously eclectic living area seem to exist on a different, albeit the same, spacial plane—and look custom-made for the space.
The eclectic design style celebrates dashes of the unexpected and idiosyncratic as they relate to objects themselves and how they're displayed. "If, for example, an ultra-traditional room looks too stuffy, add quirky Pop artworks and edgy, graffiti-printed throw pillows," says Forehand. Case in point: A beguiling folk-art seashell mirror adds requisite quirkiness, breaks up monotonous rows of books, and makes use of an otherwise underutilized space.
Take risks you’re unaccustomed to taking: Combine dissimilar colors, finishes, patterns, and materials that may seem "out there" at first. Who could have expected the disparate, patterns, artwork and eras represented in this Victorian-era living room would go so well? But trial-and-error pairings might just be the ticket to creating your own standout space. Compose an arrangement and step back: If it looks "off" then it probably is. Trust your instincts—and keep going until you love it
Bring Eclectic Design & Home Decor Home
Ready to create an eclectic space that's uniquely you? These products will help get you there.
Instant Gallery Wall
Eclectic art collection? Check! These nine works each feature different Classical Roman heads set deep inside graphic Op art mats.
Create a varied arrangement in one step with these eight stoneware bud vases of mixed heights and silhouettes.
The size and scale of these long, skinny gilt mirrors are hardly the status quo and help add new/old dimension to staid walls.
Vintage Modern Chairs
Chairloom put an eclectic twist on midcentury-modern bucket loungers: They're covered in blue velvet but backed in a fun, unexpected graphic fabric.