The Eclectic Style Genre

Today we are going to explore yet another pillar of our five style genres, this time the Eclectic genre.

If you’ve been following my style series on this blog you will know that the Eclectic category falls directly in-between the traditional and modern design style genres. It’s what I call style ground zero.

It is buffered on either side by the Modern-eclectic (between Eclectic and Modern), and Eclectic-Traditional (between Eclectic and Traditional). In all, there are five style “genres” in our spectrum.

The purpose of creating the style genres is to help us distinguish between styles in the broader sense, as well as to help us find where we fit.

The Eclectic Style Genre

Ideally, Eclectic styles will make up about fifty percent modern and traditional influence.

We are not, however, fussy about how this happens.

-It might be that you start with a traditional building and architectural shell, or that you have a lot of traditional furnishings

Perhaps you like to mix everything up and don’t care too much about periods, preferring to decorate visually and tying disparate elements together to create a harmonious whole

Two points on eclectic styles that I’ve mentioned before:

1. Eclectic can be hard to get right

2. Eclectic is the most common design style genre in the wild

What does this tell us?

It tells us that Eclectic frequently happens by accident, not design.

Basically, anytime someone is not that concerned with sticking to a deliberate style type, and puts together either what is available or what they think looks good, an eclectic look can be the result.

Often times we inherit items of furniture, or move into a space that has strong architectural elements that we don’t know what to do with, so we work around them.

This is how so many “eclectic” rooms happen.

It is important to note, however, that when a room is well designed to be eclectic, it’s a completely different vibe.

Here are some good examples :

1. Bohemian Style

It’s been called everyone’s favorite style.

While that may be contested, Eclectic is a style that is at home across the globe. What makes it so great is that it embraces a vibe of joyful living, and is not that fussy about where it draws its influences.

That means that you can inject your own personal cultural preference into your Boho interior.

One Bohemian interior should never look exactly like another!

You will, however, always know one when you see it.

Confused yet?

Let’s consider the term, “Bohemian”. Also playfully known as “Boho”, the word is a synonym for “gypsy”.

Gypsies were highly adaptable nomadic people who picked up a little of each culture on their travels and were known for their musical abilities and artistic creativity.

It is from the idea of frequent travel that this Bohemian sense of impermanence is sensed in Bohemian interiors. Everything seems dual purpose or easily adaptable; the vibe is laid back.

It is easy why this style is often compared to “Global style”.

Bohemian tends to embrace color and pattern, especially in fabric prints and in rugs.

The architecture and furniture are not the mainstay of the style.

Instead, Bohemian comes in through the bold approach to mixing patterns and materials, as well as various periods and styles.

There is also preference for rich and earthy tones, and natural textures, such as leather, wood, rattan and wool.

2. Eclectic Style

When designers speak of Eclectic, we’re usually referring to a mix between modern and traditional, which is how I use the term.

There is also a style known as ‘eclectic style’ in decorating, which is more about mixing mulitiple style influences.

The board above shows just how much variation we can get with this style, since my only criteria is that it is about half modern and half traditionally inspired.

This mixing can be accomplished a number of ways, as you’ll see illustrated above.

From an industrial room with knock off period furniture to classical-type architectural elements paired with modern furniture, and rooms that combine furniture styles, there is no one “look’ with eclecticism.

My personal favorite is the French and Italian approach, which both tend to have modern furniture in subdued classical settings.

3. Transitional Style

Here is a great example of an eclectic style that looks fresh and elegant.

Transitional style describes a style which is ‘between’ the two opposite poles of traditional and modern.

Where it differs from Eclectic (above) is that it often incorporates furniture styles which could be regarded as new traditional and modern classical styles.

Instead of being perfect reproductions, these modern takes on traditional elements are simpler and sleeker. This style is to traditional what Neoclassical style was to Louis XV style. A new interpretation on an old idea.

Transitional style is done extremely well in the United States, as well as in England.

There are also incredible examples of this and similarly elegant Modern Classical style coming from Russian designers over the last decade.

If you are interested, check out Rihanna’s London home which is an incredible example of a transitional interior.

The beauty of modern styles after all, is that there isn’t much excess, at least not purely for the sake of it.

The beauty of traditional styles is that they show off the all of the gratuitous artistic embellishment which is possible through the work of master craftsmen.

I do hope that you enjoyed learning about the Eclectic style genre with me today.

Stay tuned for our Eclectic-Traditional and Traditional boards, coming soon!

Happy decorating!

The next installment in this “Big Five Style Genre” series is linked below:



Designer, writer & educator living in East Asia since 2001

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