Eclectic design is best when edited

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Real Estate

Often defined as the style for those who love everything, eclectic design works best when edited.

"I think a common misconception is that eclectic means 'a lot,' " said Desire Green, interior designer and design blogger. "You can, in fact, have a very streamlined but eclectic home. It's more so about incorporating pieces of different styles and periods."

Blending styles, textures and period pieces requires knowing what works where. Green suggests using chronology when mixing furniture.

Resources
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"Since midcentury modern furniture was kind of a bridge between what we know as 'traditional' and 'contemporary,' it can be easily incorporated into many kinds of spaces," she said. "Mixing old with new naturally lends itself to an eclectic look."

Instead of throwing it all in together, however, she suggested some juxtaposition. Contrast old with new, wood with metal or the ornate with the simple.

"Intentional juxtaposition is also fun," Green said. "For example, pairing traditional art, like an old master replica, with modern furniture is an easy way to inject eclecticism. Mix it up. My favorite trend is using modern dining chairs with a rugged, wooden table."

In a modern space, another interesting look is using a few ornate pieces throughout, like a mirror or chandelier.

When in doubt, operate from the heart, adding those pieces that inspire.

"I often say that an eclectic home best reflects the person who lives there," Green said. "People are multifaceted, with many likes and dislikes, yet when we decorate, we tend to rein ourselves in and replace gut reactions and emotions with an overly critical eye. While restraint is good, I tell clients to never lose sight of their own personality."

For those less adventurous, Green suggested adding "the one fun thing." It's what many designers refer to as a conversation piece and could include a chair upholstered in a bold fabric, an antique cabinet or a pop of color, she said. "It gives the client permission to go crazy, so to speak, and adds some eclectic oomph."

Although eclectic design often bends the rules, interior designer Charles Almonte said the general principles of design should still be in force.

"Balance, rhythm, scale and proportion should still be in consideration when designing an eclectic space," he said.

This especially applies to world travelers who collect textiles, art and artifacts. "Too much stuff will make a personal living space feel like a retail store," Almonte said. "Show and highlight pieces that have stories to tell or a personal connection to the homeowner."

Interior designer Heather O'Donovan takes a layered approach to creating eclectic spaces. She recommended starting with a neutral wall color or upholstered piece to serve as a canvas. Then she adds layers of eclectic accent pieces and accessories.

For example, O'Donovan took a living room with gray walls, added cream-colored upholstery pieces, and then purple and chartreuse accessories.

"There are splashes of color, but not every color in the rainbow," O'Donovan said. "You have to show some restraint."

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