One of the most overused and misunderstood terms in design terminology is “eclectic.” The word is generally defined as “varied” or “diverse,” and in design means selecting from various styles to create an interesting space.  Nothing is lovelier than a well-thought-out room composed of unique and carefully arranged pieces.

Use of eclectic design is especially meaningful when combining much-loved family treasures or collectibles gathered during travel. It’s a wonderful way to express personality and life experience.

Eclectic, however, does not mean totally unrelated.  Sad to behold is a room of mismatched furniture, flooring and accessories which is proudly declared to be “eclectic.”

Every well-designed space needs common threads linking the pieces together to form a cohesive whole.  A perfect example would be dining chairs by Thomas Chippendale.  Combining Chippendale chairs from any of his three main styles, Rococo, Chinese or Gothic, works beautifully.  The wood, finish and shape of these pieces are similar and provide a joining link even while the carving and overall appearance are very different.

The simple elegance of Queen Anne chairs when placed with a contemporary table and linked by wood finish and appropriate seat fabric provides a very special look.

A particularly easy way to join disparate pieces is through the color scheme.  Where reupholstering may not be an option, coordinated toss pillows can go a long way to pairing unrelated furniture and providing a connection between styles.

The room pictured is definitely eclectic.  Black is used to join the Regency chairs and Deco table legs, planter and chest base.  The lamp, drapes and plants join the greens and splashes of red add zest.

The point is not to useeclectic” as a catch-all for mismatched.  Just about any collection or furnishings can contribute to a beautiful room.  All it takes is a little thought and imagination.

Post by Interior Designer Jacqueline Moyer, ASID, AIDP