Can’t decide between having your home exude rustic chic or contemporary minimalism? Love classic furniture but also bold abstract patterns? Wondering how to incorporate trinkets from your travels or quirky cushions into the decor?
The good news is that not adhering to one particular style is an acceptable style in itself. So discard those notions of organised chaos or mismatched madness, and welcome an artfully-arranged assortment of contrasting styles, textures, colours and patterns, or better known as eclectic style.
How ever it may be defined, this home decor approach is generally loved by those who veer towards the unconventional and relish the liberty to mix and match, allowing all the things they adore to come together in a completely unexpected and unique way. But, combining various design elements that are seemingly uncoordinated can be a recipe for visual chaos.
Eclectic style is often misconstrued for “anything goes” when actually, true eclectic style is rather purposeful and cohesive. If carried out successfully, the results of an eclectic space will appear curated like a gallery than haphazard like a junk shop.
Of colours and texture
I feel the effect of the former the minute I walk into the home of Kevin Goldman Abdullah whose living space doubles as a display space for his home furnishing business. Splashes of colour interweave with differing textures while cross-pollinating with furniture in opposing styles. Still spellbound by the artful combination, I’m compelled to park myself in a fabric armchair upholstered in a colourful patchwork-style design.
While swivelling in this funky one-seater, I listen as Kevin explains that mixing and matching things together in a way that’s still tasteful is challenging but it appeals to the non-conformist part of him. “I’m not a rebel but I believe it’ important to have the ability to bring out your own creativity,” opines this marketing man-turned-local entrepreneur. “I’m not creative. I can’t draw or paint for nuts. But I love art and I have the eye for art.”
Since young, Kevin has been drawn to colours and to unconventional decor, a passion that ultimately led to his venture into eclectic Moroccan home furnishings. “Colours allow me to be creative. Monotones are monotonous!” he declares, chuckling.
Not all of us have a natural eye for putting an eclectic home interior together but there are easy guidelines out there that involve the fundamentals of good design.
Kevin advises rookies of eclectic style to start with a piece that they truly love or that’s filled with exuberance, “...something that the in-laws will question yet your inner self says that’s really who I am”. Whether it’s a furniture item or a work of art, the object should be big enough to stand out and become a focal point. It could even be two pieces. Be comfortable with it, defend it, then start building on it with complementary components to create subtle pointers to that item.
One example of a statement piece that Kevin loves to use is a colourful rug. Whether you’re just starting to decorate or have already furnished your home, the rug is easy to incorporate. “It’s almost a talking piece and somewhat anchors a room. Once you have the rug, it changes the whole look and feel of the room, adding warmth and character.”
I look around at the vibrant rugs occupying various parts of the floor in his home and have to agree that these extroverted pieces do brighten up the space and create a balance to counter the more sedate elements. They certainly make a statement too because most of them are Boucheroite rugs from Morocco, handmade by Berber tribeswomen using rags in such an artistic manner that galleries apparently clamour to have them. Now there’s an interesting talking point when visitors descend.
It’s also good to start your foray into eclectic decor by ensuring a neutral background that presents a kind of blank canvas to let your design elements pop without distractions. “Stick with simple, solid colours for walls, floors, and windows that will serve as a backdrop for the artistic furniture and decors” recommends www.freshome.com in their tips for successful eclectic design. It adds that keeping the background simple is crucial to letting your unique or whimsical items speak for themselves.
A neutral setting doesn’t just refer to paint colour. Natural materials like wood and stone provide a suitable backdrop with enough texture and variation to prevent flatness. As examples, think wooden flooring, marble countertops or bamboo blinds.
Once your neutral background is ready, you can focus attention on your collection of display items, whether it’s teapots from your travels or pencil sketches of iconic buildings. If you appreciate handcrafted or found objects, then you’ll be well suited to an eclectic style that allows you to freely exhibit your unique taste, ideally in a coordinated manner in one defined space rather than spread out. Group framed pictures together or set aside a plain shelving system to showcase your assorted ornaments.
Despite the mish mash misconception, successful eclectic design hinges on having a sense of cohesion and employing coordination. Kevin likens this challenge to managing an orchestra. “You need to make things work harmoniously for a symphony. If someone is off, the whole thing will sound a mess. So I’m like the conductor.”
The key to harmony is commonality. Design experts say it’s crucial to create a common thread throughout the space or to find a unifying element that will bring the whole room together in a subtle way. Colour is an easy tool to use for this purpose.
Choose a particular hue or a colour scheme that can be repeated throughout the room. For example, take a classic Asian-inspired armoire, a contemporary armchair and a colourful geometric rug. Binding this unusual mix are the red tones, from the tassels on the cupboard doors to the chair fabric to parts of the rug.
To rein in multiple hues within a room, a tip from freshome.com is to remember your colour theory basics and maintain colours with a similar vibe. So if you’re going with warm shades, keep to colours of that temperature family. If you’re going for muted tones, stick to that tone palette.
Aside from colour, other common threads that can weave your random look together include patterns, textures and shapes. For shapes, if your dining room chairs feature curved lines, then a rounded mirror or rounded light fittings offer the same recurring shape to link pieces together.
Going eclectic means it’s perfectly acceptable to mix differing design periods and even patterns. If you have a room that is one part traditional, one part modern, and one part vintage, remember to forge connections and practise restraint. Better Homes and Gardens advises to “limit your colour palette, fabric patterns, and themes so period patinas and vintage silhouettes claim the spotlight.”
A trademark of eclectic style lies in unexpected combinations. Forget about trying to match your sofa to the side tables or the wall art. Opposites are far more interesting. Try East meets West; bright and dark, showy and quiet, soft with hard, modern and vintage. But when you’re playing with contrasts, be sure to seek a balance between the extremes, advises home improvement site modernize.com. “Maintain a roughly equal proportion of each type of aesthetic for an appealing, symmetrical look.”
One of the best things about eclectic decor is that it won’t go out of style. It’s a style that you can try any time. Plus, it will be totally unique and not resemble something found in a catalogue or showroom. If you love to express your individuality, eclectic style could be your match.