The Ultimate Guide To Eclectic Decor

An individual's choice of decor is a very personal thing. We're not all cut from the same cloth and neither are the tastes and preferences we use to dress our interiors. Although there is a decor for every individual and an individual for every decor, finding what suits our personalities to perfection is a tricky science to master. As in all things, experimentation is key. From the simple back to basics philosophy of rustic decor to the stately and regal grandeur of Victorian decor, there's a whole host of styles to choose from when it comes to transforming your home. Yet if the free-spirited and shambolic nature of Bohemian decor leaves you cold, and you find the imposing and classical designs of Gothic decor somewhat haunting, then where's a soul to turn? Well, the answer lies in a dusty back road that lies off the beaten track, and is signposted, "eclectic!"

Eclectic decor is the last refuge of the interior designer who finds all other decors somewhat uninspiring. Eclectic decor is old, it's new, it's classical, it's futuristic and its very essence is being redefined with every makeover. According to The Spruce, one of its primary characteristics is its unpredictability. Best of all, there are no hard and fast rules on how to get that electrically-charged eclectic look. Yet there is a guide to walk you through the glorious chaos, and here it is. Enjoy!

A short history of eclectic decor

The dictionary definition of eclectic translates as being influenced and finding ideas from a broad church of sources. Yet eclectic decor is far more than a hodge-podge of styles. According to House Beautiful, the Greek word eklektikos can be loosely interpreted as "to choose the best." The term initially described how philosophers would cherry-pick the most impressive doctrines from various schools of thought to create a new and improved hybrid. According to Ashley Homestore, German art historian and archaeologist Johan Joachim Winckelmann first used the word "eclectic" when waxing lyrical about Annibale Carracci. The 17th-century artist was famous for developing his own unique and dynamic style by borrowing and incorporating a range of historic influences and styles.

The term was later hijacked by 19th-century architects, who, after taking a sprinkle of Gothic Revival, a splash of Neoclassicism, and a hint of Byzantine, wanted a new name for the buildings they were creating. During the 20th century, the philosophy of eclectic slowly worked its way into our interiors and we've never looked back. The curious beauty of interiors that are mixed and matched has won over legions of converts in modern times. Leading art historian Piers Swimberghe explained, "Treasures discovered at garage sales, secondhand stores, or thrift stores can be guiltlessly displayed next to a very expensive designer piece. Mixing is not only allowed: it is a must," according to Architectural Digest.

Why go eclectic?

Incorporating various styles from history into a theme that is cohesive and not chaotic can seem an uphill struggle. Get it wrong and it can look like an army of hyperactive and enthusiastic toddlers have taken sole control of your interiors, but get it right, and you'll be the toast of the neighborhood. Eclectic decor is all about personal freedom and expression, and although it may seem daunting at first, the results are well worth it. Making order out of chaos, and seeing patterns where others cannot has been the pursuit of artists and writers for centuries. Applying it to the art of interior design is just as noble.

Eclectic decor breaks molds, defies definition, and keeps everyone on their toes. Going eclectic is exciting, and challenging, and will channel reservoirs of creativity within you didn't realize you possessed. It's all about thinking outside of the box, pushing the envelope, and being fearless in the face of interior decor norms. According to Decor Aid, transforming your home into an eclectic decor wonderland takes a great eye and plenty of verve, but it's also playful, fun, and offers unlimited freedom. If you're feeling restless with your current decor, and yearn for a dramatic change, then perhaps it's time to leap headfirst and without a second thought into the potential and possibility of eclectic decor.

Mix, match and go for broke

The longest journey begins with the smallest step and you should begin your journey into the uncharted jungle of eclectic decor by throwing caution to the wind and expecting the unexpected. According to Blue Dahlia Designs, one of the biggest enemies of eclectic decor is matching furniture. If you've always been the sort of person who prides themselves upon their floral-patterned, three-piece suite, then going eclectic may be a hard ask. However, if you love browsing stores for striking pieces of furniture that complement one another in unusual ways, then you were born to be eclectic.

Mixing and matching furniture for that eclectic feel is all about identifying the proportions, scales, and shapes that will work well together, and with the wider room. Matching furniture sets have little personality outside of a show home and can send the whole room into a state of stagnant slumber. Eclectic decor is capable of evoking a myriad of emotions and feelings within a space, so use it wisely, to clarify and not clutter. Deco-Man reports that by mixing various styles such as French Country, Asian and Scandinavian, you can breathe new life into your interiors. So while a Chesterfield sofa mixed with some patterned deck chairs may not be everyone's cup of tea, it might work for you, and it'll be a talking point when the in-laws come calling. As will wallpapering your ceiling. Remember that, in the land of eclectic decor, anything goes.

Center yourself with a strong focal point

When you are busy expressing yourself with a rug from ancient Persia, a Samurai sword from Japan, some Victorian-style wallpaper, a Barcelona chair, a grandfather clock or two, and a table and chair set from IKEA, it's easy to get swamped by the sheer abundance of eclecticism. However, there is a remedy. By adopting a strong focal point in your living room, you can find the calm at the center of any eclectic decor storm. It's one of the first principles of design that, much like the desert needs the rain, every room needs a strong focal point, according to Ballard Designs

In any environment, our eyes are designed to seek out a safe place to land, and a strong focal point will help give substance to any room, particularly an eclectic-themed one. According to The Spruce, strong focal points come in all shapes and sizes, but as a rule of thumb, they tend to be situated opposite your living room's main entrance and dictate the placement of furniture. Fireplaces, windows, artwork, and bold wallpaper are all strong focal points. Yet so is a dramatic red brick wall, a sizable potted tree, and a grandly-designed light fixture. 

Having a potent combination of all styles and periods in your decor can be overpowering if not kept in check by a strong focal point. Make sure you identify yours and accentuate the positive.

Patterns are for playing with

For a long time, people were afraid to play with the patterns in their homes for fear of being considered at best, gaudy, and at worst, unhinged. If your patterns clashed you were damned for all time as someone with no aesthetic sense whatsoever. Yet trends change and the steadfast determination to keep the patterns separated has been consigned to history. More and more interior decor enthusiasts have become acquainted with the joy of playing with their patterns. Yet as Real Homes points out, ensuring that patterns clash in sweet tune and not in frightful discord is a tricky trend to master. Yet it is an essential one if you're looking to give your home an eclectic makeover.

A common trick for those with an instinctive flair for DIY is to use wallpaper that shares the same design but comes in two different colorways. This technique creates a striking and eye-catching look that adds funk and flavor to any room. The same rule applies to the holy trinity of blinds, curtains, and wallpaper. Keep the design similar but the colorways distinct and you'll be turning heads instead of stomachs. For those not perhaps ready to make such a leap with their pattern clashing, a good place to begin is in the boudoir. A duvet set with bold and blousy florals can be complemented sweetly by a bright and breezy watercolor hanging above the bed, or by a patterned headboard that boasts a contrasting floral design.

Combine those textures for a sum greater than its parts

Life is all about taking the rough with the smooth, and the same applies to eclectic decor. Mixing textures is considered a key element of going eclectic, and when you combine them successfully, it creates a whole that easily outshines each contributing element, according to Elle Decor. In addition, The Luxurist notes that any interior decor design that fails to plan for textures will fall seriously short in delivering the goods. This rings particularly true concerning eclectic decors, which thrive on the accents and the visual weight contrasting textures can create.

Using contrasting fabrics on everything from sofas to curtains and lampshades is a tried and tested technique to get that eclectic look, but you don't need to be so obvious in your approach. The texture of surfaces also plays a massive part. Smooth marble, rustic oak, and opulent velvet are all great ways of reinforcing the simple truth that without difference, there is no meaning. And if you're a big believer in keeping it natural, the verdant and vibrant textures of nature-inspired items will add plenty of green and life to your room. Last but not least, don't underestimate the power of lighting when it comes to giving the texture in your decor a more visual character. Pick the right light bulbs, and strategically place your light sources to create an illuminated waterfall of texture.

Base colors can lay a strong foundation to get creative

When you jump aboard the eclectic boat and set sail for brave new worlds it's easy to get carried away in all areas of decor, particularly color! Whilst it might be tempting to go Jackson Pollock on your interiors and create a psychedelic masterpiece, such indulgence will only lead to a desolate and lonely land called overkill! A spokesperson for mid-century modern furniture company Joybird explained to Elle Decor, "Let color serve as the great equalizer, pulling together the overall look." In other words, pick a couple of strong base colors such as olive green or off-white, and use them as a unifying factor to pull all the other disparate elements of your design scheme together.

Once you've settled on one, two, or for the truly adventurous, three base colors you've fallen in love with, or at least have a mild crush on, you're good to go. The trick is to keep the walls simple, understated, and unified. When you get it right, it serves as a sound launching pad to let your creativity soar in every other area from the Marilyn Monroe print cushions to the faux leopard skin curtains. Don't forget that dark neutrals can give your room a dramatic and intriguing aspect, and lighter colors will create a more calming and airy atmosphere. According to MyMove, room color psychology effects our mood and energy levels. For example, the color orange energizes, and green has a restful quality.

Nothing says eclectic like a customized gallery wall

Once your base colors are covering the walls in anticipation of something spectacular happening, it's time to get those creative juices flowing and create the sort of gallery wall that would raise Andy Warhol's blood pressure. Gallery walls have been all the rage for some time. They add depth, interest, and character to the ugliest plastering job. Yet when it comes to eclectic gallery walls, it's time to take the gloves off and attack that bare paint job like an avant-garde tornado. The keywords to remember when it comes to decorating a gallery wall in the eclectic style are character and personality. So grab a range of different frame sizes and designs, and get busy filling them with everything from pop art, to black and white photographs of windswept beaches, abstract expressions of existentialism, and cute kitten pics.

According to Construction 2 Style, an eclectic gallery wall should have an overriding theme. It could be art, travel, design, or family photos. Ensure your different sized frames are placed to allow the eyes to travel from one to another in a relaxed and effortless manner. It is a good idea to have an "anchor" point that initially draws your eyes. This is usually the largest and most striking image. Mix horizontal and vertical frames and leave ample space in-between. Two to three inches is usually the standard. Finally, let the pictures speak for themselves and tell some sort of story.

Show off your collection and hobbies

Too many of us are guilty of storing our records, books, old clothes, and other assorted memorabilia in boxes in the attic, on the top of the wardrobe, or under the bed. The decluttering and minimalist purge which has haunted modern times like an accusing God has consigned many a personal collection to the dark and dusty corners of our home. This is not the eclectic way. It's our personal collections, whether they be records, comics, stamps, toy cars, silver spoons, fridge magnets, collectible china, vehicle number plates, cuckoo clocks, Star Wars figures, or beer bottles from around the world that have all conspired to make us the people we are. So if you've spent years amassing a collection, or have a hobby such as a fly fisherman or butterfly collector, then flaunt it!

A coffee table littered with obscurities, a dresser full of unusual ceramics, a shelf full of vintage books, and a vinyl rack full of gems give character to a room and add a little eclectic flavor to any room. If you want to really push the envelope, you could frame some old t-shirts, concert tickets, seashells, trophies, or winning betting slips, and strategically place them around the home like a treasure map leading to the wonder of you! Real Homes suggests that hanging plates on the wall, and making a statement with some vintage mirrors and canisters can also work wonders. The choice is yours!

Mix a dash of the old with a sprinkle of the new

For a long time, many people viewed mixing vintage decor with modern as the culinary equivalent of ice cream and gravy — it just doesn't gel. However, in a post-modern home boasting an eclectic decor, such concerns are of scant importance. A subtle blend of the contemporary and vintage creates a unique look all of its own that can only be described as eclectic. According to Real Homes, the combination of old and new can create a room that appears as if it is a product of many years of evolution. A mix of modern trends and inherited items with sentimental significance can evoke a heady vibe of nostalgic eloquence.

Naturally, such a room can easily spill over into a domestic junkyard, so striking the right balance is vital. In a room that draws on both the past and the present, no one item or feature should overshadow everything else. Rather, you should be striving for a cohesive and distinct charm, such as an old Welsh dresser adorned with modern ornaments or some contemporary seating highlighted by vintage chandeliers. Re-purposing items is a handy trick for introducing a theatrical flair to your eclectic decor. Think a coffee table that was once a vintage suitcase or a dining table that was once an industrial workbench, and you're on the right track.

Empty space makes for a much-needed contrast

Less is more, and as all good dramatists know, it's not so much what is revealed but that which is hinted at that packs the most powerful punch. Therefore, it's integral you allow for some empty or negative space in your eclectic design scheme. Eclectic decor by its very nature makes for some extremely busy interiors. With all that visual stimulation, your eyes can get kind of tired, so it's important to give your overtaxed senses a sanctuary where they can take stock and recover. Sometimes, the most creative and effective designs are created by the empty space that lies in between. Think of the negative space as the oxygen needed to give your eclectic home the room to breathe.

According to Homes & Gardens, negative space is the energy that can make an eclectic room feel peaceful and balanced as opposed to being clustered and claustrophobic. There's no prescribed measurement for negative space. It all depends on the proportions of your room and its contents. When you have too much negative space, the room will feel empty and devoid of personality, but too little can make it feel overbearing and taxing on one's energies. Losing solid kitchen cabinetry in favor of a kitchen island is one way to create negative space. Adopting low furniture in the living room is another.

Make a statement with some unusual objects

No eclectic home is complete without an abundance of unusual objects littered liberally through its interiors from top to bottom. And the best place to find unusual objects is in every corner of the world! If you're a keen traveler or an enthusiastic visitor to various flea markets, chances are you've picked up some curious bric-a-brac on your wanderings. According to Elle Decor, souvenirs and global goods are tailor-made to style the eclectic home. 

Smaller items are brilliantly highlighted in eye-catching display trays because they organize the chaos a bit. Travel trunks and cartons can also be put to good use by re-purposing them as coffee tables or bookshelves to place your souvenirs upon. From wonky plates and global artwork to mismatched cushions, unusual objects made of driftwood, peculiar scented candles, and seahorses made out of glass, there's an infinite number of souvenirs out there to "eclecticfy" your home. 

Eclecticism is organized chaos, not a frightful mess

Many people are anxious about dipping their toes in the waters of eclectic decor because the current is strong and they fear being ripped from land and washed up in some strange place devoid of all sense, reason, taste, and style. Yet, fear not. Eclectic decor is all about taming the beast, capturing lightning in a bottle, and organizing the chaos that howls and claws at the edge of all reason and interior design. According to The Spruce, a common misinterpretation about eclectic decor is that it's a sort of "throw paint at the wall and hope some of it sticks" style of decorating. It's not. It has a purpose, and a plan and is extremely well thought out. The haphazard nature of it is fully intentional. 

In her book, "How To Do Eclectic: A Guide To Organized Chaos," author Gill Varle warns that restraint is necessary if you're to prevent your home from resembling the local charity shop. She writes, "Some interiors seem to have just evolved with little or no effort and are magically enchanting and comforting spaces. But random is never random in design – even if it appears so. Eclecticism, maximalism, whimsy – all need boundaries." Yet these boundaries remain flexible and the goalposts can be shifted. Remember, the first and only rule of eclectic decor is, there are no rules!