I’ve used the term ‘eclectic design’ to describe several featured mobile homes over the last 9 years. I never gave the word much thought, really. I used eclectic design to describe a space that was unusual or unique or had a mix-match style.
Imagine my surprise when I realized that I had been using the word eclectic incorrectly all this time.
The Forbes article titled, ‘A Misunderstood Style: Interior Designers On What Really Makes An Eclectic Space’ made me realize that I misunderstood the definition of eclectic and that it isn’t just an adjective to describe unique decor. It’s a full style by itself and there are ‘rules’ for it in the interior design industry.
In this article, we’re learning what eclectic really means in interior design, how to recognize it, and how to create an eclectic design in our homes. I also want to learn the difference between Bohemian and eclectic cause I have I feeling I’ve been using the word bohemian incorrectly as well.
What Does Eclectic Decor Mean?
I love ragtag, mix-matched, and flea market finds all thrown together to make a beautiful mess but is that really eclectic or just hoarder chic?
The first definition of eclectic decor I found just confused me. Apartment Therapy, a popular blog that features mobile homes on occasion so they’re cool in my book, describes eclectic:
“Eclectic” is a popular adjective in interior design parlance, meaning a decor that comprises heterogeneous elements — a mixture of textures, time periods, styles, trends, and colors. There is a fine line, however, between a beautifully eclectic room and a room that is merely haphazard and chaotic, with no unifying themes or motifs.
Wait, what? “Eclectic” is a popular adjective in interior design parlance, meaning a decor that comprises heterogeneous elements..” What does that even mean?
No wonder we are so confused about the style, just look at the definition! Was I the only one that had to look up parlance and heterogeneous?
By the way, Parlance is the term or jargon used in a particular industry, and “comprises heterogeneous elements” doesn’t make sense because heterogenous means ‘originating outside the organism.’
Nader Bolour, the owner of a rug gallery told Forbes, “Do not mistake eclectic for anything goes. There’s a fine line between chaos and curated eclecticism.”
Other designers described an eclectic design as being intentional or having specificity to it. Amanda Lauren explains that “Eclectic isn’t a term to label the mismatched. True eclectic decor actually has cohesiveness.”
How do you recognize eclectic decor?
Since most definitions of eclectic decor are vague it may be easier to understand how to recognize an eclectic style instead of defining it.
DianneDecor.com has a sound opinion of what constitutes an eclectic design:
“….I would classify any interior featuring decorative elements from 3 or more diverse origins to be eclectic. Meaning, a living room with contemporary furniture mixed with vintage accents and modern lighting qualifies as an eclectic interior.“
She goes on to explain that even a modern sectional sofa could be considered eclectic. Combining its modern L-shape with vibrant jewel tones and a lot of ‘bohemian style textures’ can give you an eclectic look.
What is Bohemian and what is the difference between bohemian and eclectic?
Luckily for us, Vevano Home explains the difference between Bohemian and eclectic simply:
“Bohemian throws out all the rules, favoring personal taste above design principles.”
I think I’ve been using the word eclectic for styles that are actually bohemian.
“Eclectic, on the other hand, bends but doesn’t break the principles of design. It relies on elements such as balance, rhythm, and proportion, and scale.”
How to Create the Eclectic Design in Your Home
Eclectic design is appealing because it allows you to put the things you love out on display.
A truly eclectic space isn’t just jumbled or messy. It should have 3 different styles and use the same 4 interior design elements as every other style: balance, rhythm, scale, and proportion.
“While eclectic style seems to defy the rules, it actually is built on the foundation of good design.” – Gabby Home
Havenly describes balance perfectly, “…everything has its place–it’s the visual calmness in a room.”
There are two ways to create that visual calmness, symmetry and asymmetry.
Symmetry is using the same items on both sides of a space so they match completely.
Eclectic design usually doesn’t use symmetry. Instead, it uses asymmetry where two sides match but not as completely. Instead of using the same items, you can play with similar colors, patterns, or shapes.
Rhythm is repetition. You can create rhythm using just about anything in a room: light, color, pattern, texture, and decor.
Proportion and Scale
Proportion and scale go hand in hand and are often used interchangeably. Proportion refers to the balance in a space. Scale refers to the visual weight of a space.
Hatch Design describes scale and proportion:
“While the word scale implies the comparison of objects where the actual size of one object is known, proportion relates to the general size of two objects without information regarding their actual sizes (or scales).”
Easy Eclectic Design Tips
Combining the four elements above with the following tips can help you create an eclectic design in any room.
Remember, eclectic doesn’t mean unique or unusual nor does it mean you can just mix a bunch of stuff and styles together.
Interior designers describe the eclectic style as having intention, meaning everything is considered when designed a room, and even a few ‘rules’ that will help you achieve your own eclectic haven.
One interior designer shared her secret weapon for turning a boring space into a trendy eclectic style: modern artwork.
Whether ultra-modern or traditional, adding modern art and focusing on proportion, scale, balance, and rhythm can turn boring into an exciting eclectic design. Modern art can be just about anything from dog portraits to simple sketches.
Just Say No to Matching Furniture
While an Eclectic styled space should have balance it should not use symmetry. Instead, the focus should be on intentional asymmetry.
When someone looks into an eclectic room they should sense that everything has a history and means something to you instead of just being bought in a showroom on a rainy Saturday evening.
One designer recommends that you use two neutral colors as a backdrop and two accent colors to use throughout the space.
Color unity is important in an eclectic space. Using your two accent colors in different patterns and textures is one way to get color unity. However, you can go the other way and mix patterns in different colors.
Another good tip to create an eclectic look is to have one piece in the room that is unique and stands out against everything else, like the green fan in the double wide living room below:
Mix Old Items with New
Mixing old items with new is a given for eclectic design but it has to be done right. If you look at the photo above you see some old looking chairs and stand out piece but did you notice the very modern massage chair in the right corner? I didn’t either at first. The owner of this double wide used balance and scale and even rhythm in the room.
The Interior Designer’s Best Kept Secret
The last great tip to create an eclectic room in your home is to use a rug that is completely different from everything else in the room.
Rugs are important in interior design because they can do so much. A rug can ground a space or divide a space depending on how you use it. The right rug can pull a whole room together and give it that cohesiveness and balance that interior designers are always talking about. Just be sure you use a rug that is the right size for proper balance and scale.
The Right Word for the Right Style
So, eclectic isn’t just a bunch of cool stuff thrown together but an intentional design that needs to have scale, balance, unity, and rhythm.
Bohemian is the style where you throw a bunch of stuff together in no particular way. Eclectic design is planned out from rug to ceiling and usually includes items from 3 different styles. It has an asymmetrical balance and has the same accent color, pattern, or texture scattered throughout the room.
I promise to use the terms eclectic and bohemian correctly from now on.
As always, thank you for reading Mobile Home Living®!