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Eclectic Style Defined

How to add eclectic design to your home

By Lisa Frederick

The first rule of eclectic style? There are no rules. This look, sometimes called collected, represents the ultimate in design freedom. You can juxtapose antiques with sleek modern pieces, brilliant colors with muted ones, and influences from all over the globe. Eclectic style places value on the unique and unexpected, and celebrates the art of surprise.

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Stately Contemporary Living & Family Room
Garrison Hullinger

The Basics

The visual tension that comes with mixing and matching is part of eclectic style's appeal, but all this leeway comes with one big pitfall: It's easy for the look to devolve into a mess. Principles of good design—scale, proportion, balance—still apply, so let those guide you as you decorate.

These designer rooms display eclectic design:

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• Mismatched furnishings. There was a time when full bedroom suites and dining sets were considered de rigueur, and that heyday faded just as eclectic style gained steam. Don't be shy about mixing a midcentury modern loveseat, a hand-me-down armoire, an antique coffee table, and contemporary side chairs in the same space; the collected effect is what you're going for.

• Quirky finds. If it speaks to you, there's room for it here. Combine artwork of different styles and periods with found objects, tchotchkes, and other accents to create a look that's uniquely you. Repurposing is a big part of the eclectic look as well (your college roommate was onto something with that cable-spool dining table). Consider old pieces with a fresh eye to see how they might work in novel ways.

• A mix of patterns. Modern chevrons, bold florals, slim stripes—combine prints of all kinds with abandon in upholstery and wallcoverings. Just be sure that the scale of each complements the others and that there's some common ground, such as a similar color or two. Pulling out a few hues from the patterns and repeating them in paint colors or accent pieces also helps a space gel.

Zig Zag Throw
Jonathan Adler

• Textural contrast. Even the most layered room can appear one-note if there's little variation in texture. Aim for a high degree of contrast to boost visual and tactile interest: shaggy rugs and smooth silk pillows, honed stone and shiny metal, organic wood and slick plastic.

• Common threads. Although it may not be evident on the surface, the most successful eclectic rooms have certain notes that tie the whole package together. Perhaps it's a few dashes of black to ground the palette or a series of objects with the same strong geometry. This type of cohesiveness makes the difference between a winning space and a mishmash.

If you like eclectic style, you may also like steampunk and modern style. Click to explore!

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