Which Eclectic and Traditional Styles are Similar?


In this third part to our design style series which answers the question: Which of the common interior design styles are most similar? we will be checking out our final fourth and fifth categories on the Design Baddie spectrum between modern and traditional.

These are

a) Eclectic-traditional, usually a traditionally inspired interior which has up to 25-30% percent other influences (modern or mixed in some way)

b) Pure traditional, with less than 10-15% percent non-traditional visual influence.


A note on traditional style genres

By “pure traditional”, I am referring to historically-inspired styles in the traditional vein.

Sometimes called neotraditional, these interiors have been built in recent times, using contemporary and up-to-date building techniques and materials. However, the “soul” of these interiors is firmly rooted in the past.

Examples of traditional styles include colonial styles, revival styles and traditional styles of different eras, such as Baroque, Neoclassical or Georgian.

Give a thought for the many traditional building styles seen in other countries, such as a traditional Japanese style house, or perhaps a traditional farmhouse from Vietnam.

These all classify as traditional styles, even if they are not of the classic, western variety.

For our traditional section, we are going to go with interiors that were created with the goal of being historically accurate.  As such they should be faithfully recreated, or at the least, mostly accurate, historically-inspired styles.


Architects, designers and homeowners who are committed to preserving a historic building’s style and who want to keep the original look alive often have a tough job.

It can be challenging to find certain materials and textile patterns that were common a hundred years ago, and at the very least they are often sold at a premium.

Some styles (Japanese is a good example of this) depend upon the traditional crafts which the style was founded on, such as woodworking with traditional joinery methods.

Sadly, many of the last of the traditional craftsmen in Japan are passing away without leaving a successor, and generations of intimate human knowledge will be lost along with these living cultural treasures.


So, as you can see, historic preservation is important, as it secures what are becoming less-and-less common styles for present-day and future generations.

For many it is a flight of fantasy to an era which can only be otherwise visually appreciated through art, film and photographs, or by visiting museums.

I salute those who are up to the task of preserving or carefully emulating traditional styles.  Although I have mentioned before that I personally am a modernist, as a lover of history I can certainly appreciate the effort and care that goes into the fine details of these styles.


An eclectic-traditional interior might also be referred to as a new traditional or neo-traditional interior.  It may have some newer, and more stylized elements of old designs, or perhaps incorporate transitional furniture or decor into the traditional scheme.


The Big Five Recap

The “BIG FIVE” style genres have been covered in several of my other blog posts. 

This article is the last of a three-part series which discusses the thirty common interior design and decorating styles in use today, and categorizes these common styles into the Big Five genre system.

Further to this, I give a brief comparison of styles which fall into the same genre to compare which are most similar to one another.

This is to help those who are able to pick a genre to find styles in a similar vein for comparison when choosing a style of their own. 

I do genuinely hope that my style assessments and my style system is able to help you think of styles differently and get a  little closer to finding your own perfect style!


The Eclectic Traditional Genre

The eclectic-traditional decorator is someone who is very much interested in recreating a piece of history. 

The transitional style chairs are the eclectic touch to this Victorian style interior.

Often lovers of a particular style, they may also just love the look of traditional interior styles overall.  The eclecticism comes in when the style is updated in some way so as not to appear as a perfect rendition of the original style. 

In other words, it may have some extra personality or quirks thrown in. 

The bottom line is that whether by choice or out of necessity, the style has been adapted or altered from its original in some way. 


Fun fact: My 8×2 Style system shows that eclectic styles make up the largest group between modern, traditional and eclectic.


Eclecticism may be apparent with a) a more modern color palette, b) the selection of material finishes which are not quite traditional, or c) the inclusion of fixtures, fittings and furniture which is inspired by traditional furniture, but has been altered to make it more modern in reproduction.

Sometimes the architecture is modern, while the room is has traditional elements, though more frequently it is the other way around.

It is possible for an eclectic-traditional interior to bring in eclecticism through artwork or some other clearly non-traditional design choice. 


We can think of eclectic-traditional as being mostly traditional, but not perfectly traditional

Whether by design or by accident, the type of interior that falls into this genre is still going to read as pretty traditional.  It is also possible for the whole traditional look to simply be a softened one.


What’s Great About Eclectic-Traditional

This room is traditionally inspired, but lacks a distinct character.
The rug features a traditional motif, but it is oversized in a modern way.

Eclectic-traditional takes all the best parts of traditional, but it is not a slave to them. Eclectic-traditional remembers that we are living in a newer age and is not afraid to try a few new things.

Whether by adding to or subtracting from the original, it is usually out of creativity that a slightly eclectic look will color the traditional original. 

Eclectic-traditional allows for all of the glamor of traditional style, but may help to bring it further up to date.

Examples of Eclectic-Traditional

In our list of thirty main styles, there are the following styles which may be considered to be of the eclectic-traditional genre:

Chalet

In this example it is the furniture which accounts for the deviation from traditional

Chalet style can appear more modern or more traditional, depending on what furnishings and decor are used. 

However, this style fits into the traditional side more than simply eclectic because chalets and log cabins have been around in the United States for at least four hundred years, putting them long before the modernist movement in architecture began around the turn of the twentieth century.

Add to this that early log cabins are credited to Finnish and Swedish settlers, and I’m sure that we admit that the style goes back way further on the European continent.

Chalets are not exactly what we think of when we think of classic traditional architecture, but it takes all kinds to make a world, and there are plenty of enthusiasts out there who’d agree that, despite their less than glamorous early history, a beautiful log cabin, (or better yet, a Swiss chalet) is a sight to behold. 

Swiss chalets are definitely traditional where they originate. 

I’m putting this one in eclectic, because it seems to me that most ski resorts and homes built in this style today are putting a more modern and sophisticated face on the traditional look.  

If you’ve never had  a good look at this style category before, get ready to be seriously inspired. 

For lovers of nature and the outdoors, this is a style that feels organic and at one with nature in a way that most architecture can only dream of. 

I have a personal love affair with A-frames.


Coastal

Image credit: One Kind Style Design

Coastal style can venture off into the eclectic, and there are absolute tons of examples of modern coastal styles (perhaps I should add a modern coastal), however, there is something about many coastal style interiors featured in magazines that hark back to a New England look.

This look comes from a fairly strong European tradition, even if it has been fully expounded upon in the United States.

While not exactly the same as “nautical” style (which is often included on lists of major interior design styles, but which I chose not to include on my list of thirty), coastal style seems to start from a traditional point and then eases up stylistically because of its relaxed location.

Baseboards, wainscoting and wall panels are common features in coastal interiors. 

The part where it gets eclectic, is where the floor treatment is often something like jute, and the patterns and decor throughout the home are often slightly whimsical and less serious than they would be in a traditionally inspired home away from the beach.

This is often for practicality, but it really adds a laissez-faire vibe that is both charming and attractive.


French Parisian

Credit: Emile Garcin Properties

This style has a lot in common with “modern-classic” and eclectic styles, but we’re putting this one on the traditional side because of the architecture. 

What it seems the French have done with this style, is try to modernize what was likely a pretty heavy traditional style originally. 

This is often done by painting out the architectural features in white so that they are less prominent. 

White is always a very safe modern choice, after all.

The eclecticism comes in with the artwork and furniture and often the fittings. 

Although it can seem like the modern influence is pushing past the 30 percent mark in certain examples of the style, there are still many more traditional examples to balance it out.


Hollywood Regency

Credit: Framed Art website

While this is totally a modern style period-wise and a definite contender for eclectic, Hollywood regency is classified as eclectic-traditional because it seems to be comfortable with an awful lot of traditional for any modernists to excuse as being only half of the story! 

It is also full maximalist and often features saturated colors or accents.

Where Hollywood Regency (also known as Hollywood Glam) differs to pure traditional is in the fact that it is very mixed. It also shuns symmetry, which is a traditional must-have. 

Hollywood has always made its own rules!

One of the things that I look for in interiors for the eclectic-traditional genre is the architectural detailing, and Hollywood Regency usually nods to the traditional here with the inclusion of classic moldings. 

While Hollywood Regency could unsympathetically be looked on as an unapologetic adultery of traditional styles with dashes of modernism, it is a style which often draws on classic historical interiors.

The caveat is that it is not always picky or indeed, faithful.

Throw in a ton of personality and it is easy to see why this lavish, over-the-top look is so adored in the style world. Not to mention, by the movie buffs!

While this categorization could change in the future, for now let’s just say that people who love Hollywood Regency love a lot of old world style.  


Fun fact: In our 8×2 style system we can see how Hollywood Regency falls into the same style personality profile as Islamic and Moroccan architecture. 

The decorative design of Martyn Laurence Bullard is beautifully inspired by both of these bold influences.  It is certainly where fantasy, imagination and opulence take flight.


Vintage and Shabby Chic

Fill a room with old things and you’d have a hard time calling it modern. 

Credit: Rachel Ashwells “The Prairie”, by Sotheby’s International Realty

When it comes to vintage interiors, we are drawing on a fine distinction between heritage or period interiors (which must be at least one hundred years old, and depending on the period, often many more hundreds) and vintage ones.

Houses in many parts of the world are often old, but we don’t necessarily think of them as “vintage”. 

We reserve this mostly for furniture from earlier decades, of which Americana vintage is a fantastic example. 

Singaporean and Malaysian vintage as well as Taiwanese vintage interior design is rustic and charming. 

It might not be way far back history, but it still tells a story that is all its own, and will always be a little bit mysterious to us.

Homes with vintage influence are often not perfect historic recreations unless they are bordering on being museums, so it’s fair to call most vintage inspired home eclectic and leaning more to the traditional side because of all that yearning for the past. 

Hey, why not still celebrate it?


Which Eclectic-Traditional styles are similar?

Chalet and Coastal

Though of distinctly different character, both styles share an appreciation for nature and a look in keeping with the natural landscape surrounding them. Wood is commonly used in both styles.

Hollywood Regency and French Parisian

Luxurious opulence is expressed in both Hollywood Regency and French Parisian style. The color palettes are very similar, as well. Hollywood style is bolder and more graphic, while Parisian is more soft and romantic.

Vintage and Chalet

Just about the same level of rustique, but the shabby chic side is the very feminine version, making you want to get your dolls together for a tea party, while the chalet style is decidedly masculine. It’s about as close as the average person can get to a fort, after all.

The Traditional Genre

History buffs, fans of period dramas, fantasy novels and lovers of Disneyland get this one. Let’s throw in some Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings fans, too.

The traditional genre encapsulates all classically-inspired and historical styles that came before the advent of modernism, which happens to follow the industrial revolution. 

I’m sure enlightenment had something to do with it over the long term, as well. 

Many classical styles were only available in their grandest forms to the wealthy

There are exceptions to this, as the Victorian age saw a lot of middle class people able to buy furniture and inexpensive items for the home, and there are many places in the world where the traditional architecture was a widespread vernacular, such as in Japan or Indonesia.

However, for traditional interiors the big test comes when we look at what is placed in these modern day interiors which are either a) preserved or b) built to match historic designs. 

If the furniture is careful reproduction and the decor is in keeping with history, it can be said to be a fully traditional style. 

This is a pretty strict category, and not for those who want to get super creative. 

The traditional genre covers neo-traditional, which implies modern building methods have been used, but overall, the look is still one of historical accuracy. 

An example of this might be Mediterranean-style colonial architecture, which can swing toward eclectic when furniture choices are more contemporary, or simplified.


What’s Great About Traditional

There are so many beautiful traditional styles to choose from, and it would certainly be sad if we lost any of the ones we have. 

For this reason, I think that even though I would probably never build a new residence and then fit it out in a historic style, I do appreciate that there are those who think that wisdom lay in the past. 


The beautiful examples of traditional interiors offered to us by these enthusiastic patrons of past design will continue to inspire us as we continue to adapt and push modernism forward into unknown territory.


Examples of Traditional

Examples of traditional genre styles include:

Medieval revival styles, such as Gothic Revival


Classical Styles, including Greek and Roman Revival, Empire, Neoclassical, Baroque and Rococo


Period styles, including Tudor, Edwardian, Victorian, Queen Anne, etc.


Colonial styles, such as British, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese, among others.


Special mention should be made of traditional architecture from around the world, including adobe mud constructions, stone constructions and timber constructions.


Which Traditional styles are similar?

As we get down to the end of the third part of our series on the big five style genres and which common styles fall into each part of the spectrum, we’ve come to which traditional styles are similar.


Colonial styles and period styles


Gothic Revival and some traditional architecture

Modern day Gothic Revival and Moroccan traditional

All classical styles

A modern day Neoclassical interior and a modern day Baroque interior

In conclusion

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at our final installment of our Big Five design style genre three-part series.

Stay tuned for our up and coming 8×2 Style reveal over the next few months.

If you happen to have missed the earlier two installments of this style series, you can find them here.

Introduction the the Big Five Genres and Pure Modern Styles

Modern-Eclectic and the Pure Eclectic Style Genre


I’d love to know which of the five genres you think describes your home. 

Remember to look at the architectural details as your first clue when deciding whether a more commonplace “mixed” interior is more modern or more traditional.

Let me know in the comments what you’ve learned about your style!

Happy style hunting.

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vonsassy

Designer, writer & educator living in East Asia since 2001

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