Which Modern and Eclectic Styles are Similar?

In this second part to our design style series which answers the question: Which of the common interior design styles are most similar? we will be looking at the second and third categories on a spectrum between modern and traditional.

These are eclectic-modern, which is more on the modern side, and our middle of the road or ‘ground zero’ style, ‘pure’ eclectic.

An art deco interior is definitively early-modern but draws in the eclectic elements with its use of a more historical color palette and eclectic items of furniture.

Before we jump in, it might help to define what I mean by modern and eclectic.


Modern means:

Designed and made using the most recent ideas and method
Definition from Cambridge dictionary

Eclectic means:

Methods, beliefs, ideas, etc. that are eclectic combine whatever seem the best or most useful things from many different areas or systems, rather than following a single system
Definition from Cambridge dictionary

We get these two classifications, modern-eclectic and eclectic, from my five category system which was described in more detail in my previous article on this topic.

The five categories divide up the thirty most commonly used design styles worldwide, and organizes them into time periods ranging from late Victorian (the end of pure traditional styles) to the late modern and contemporary (right now).


The historical time periods incorporated into the traditional-modern spectrum are as follows:


Common style categories by time period of their origin

Contemporary and Futuristic StylesTransitional Styles Modern and Postmodern StylesNeo-Traditional StylesClassical, Historic, Colonial and Revival Styles
(2010s – present)(1910s – present)(1920s, 1980s – present)(17th century – present)(15th century – present)
(Please bear in mind that this is not representative of a complete history of interior design. 
Instead, it best describes in simple terms the designs seen today and aims to help identify modern design style origins).

Styles seen today by origin of influence

+2
Pure Modern
+1
Modern-eclectic 
0
Pure eclectic
-1
Eclectic-traditional
-2
Pure traditional
More futuristic styles Modern styles with accents of traditional Ambiguous and split stylesTraditional styles with some modern influenceVery historic styles
Instead of focusing on when styles orginated, this spectrum organizes styles being used today by their ratio between modern and traditional

interior of cozy vintage styled apartment with wooden furniture and comfy bed
A shockingly eclectic room like this one can be hard to pin down to a single style source
Photo by Charlotte May on Pexels.com

A note on eclecticism

Since eclectic can mean a mix or originating from diverse sources, I want it to be clear that the way I use the word is: to describe a perfect mix between modern and traditional.  

I believe some design styles to be very well balanced in their makeup of modern and traditional elements.  An element, remember, is the individual components that a style or ‘look’ is made up of. 

When the harmony between old world style and new is perfectly balanced to achieve a look of about 50/50 percent of each influence, the style can be said to be ‘pure eclectic.’

There is a style known as eclectic style, too. It falls, unsurprisingly, into the design style category ‘eclectic’. So yes, there is a category for eclectic as well as a style called eclectic within it.

The difference between the two is that the style is made up of numerous different elements. Eclectic style often originates and draws inspiration from more than a few styles, cultures or influences.

Eclectic is sometimes used interchangeably with ‘global’, when the eclecticism draws from several cultural sources.


Modern-Eclectic

white and brown sofa chair near white window curtain
This modern-eclectic room is softened by the traditional windows, baseboards and window treatment, while the rest of the room is clean, minimalist and mid-century modern inspired
Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com
  • Modern-eclectic is a look which is midway between the purist modern tradition, and the half traditional half modern style, eclectic
  • Modern-eclectic leans more toward modernism in its vibe, but can’t take credit for being totally modern,  because there are some slightly traditional elements to it
  • If we want to be technical, we could say modern eclectic is somewhere between 70-75 percent modern and 25-30 percent traditional

   


What’s great about modern-eclectic styles

A modern-eclectic style is predominantly modern, as you know.  As a modernist myself, I can appreciate pure modernism, but I’m a  lover of history too. 

When you want to have more fun as a modern-lover, this is the perfect arena to play around in. 

Picture a modern house with some cool traditional detailing.  It might be wood paneling, a couple of antique or vintage furniture pieces or even the inclusion of some unexpected color or pattern. 

This category covers styles that are influenced by something that is not pure modern, but works incredibly well with it.


Although I can appreciate every style or period category in its own right, this is one that I could see myself personally taking to easily and naturally. 

Nobody wants to be slavish to an idea, so if you are a modernist this is the perfect way to be a bit of a rebel. 

The traditional flavor might be brought in through the medium of your art, the patterns of material finishes you like or the way you choose to display items.

There is an order behind the thinking of eclectic design.  It is restrained, but adds just the right amount of interest for most people without being overwhelming. 

A winning category for styles, in my humble opinion.

Find out which styles fall into this category below the note on eclectic which follows this.


Eclectic

This Parisian interior has a traditional neoclassical ‘shell’ but the central furniture arrangement, artwork and chandelier are modern.
Photo by yann maignan on Unsplash

Pure eclectic represents a mix of 50/50 percent modern and traditional style. 

This is often an interior that boasts an architectural shell that is very traditional, juxtaposed against modern furniture which work in the space despite the very different periods from which the style of the furniture and the architecture originate.

It can also be the reverse: a modern shell with some very elegant and traditional pieces.  These furniture pieces might be Baroque style or Queen Anne, but they are still historically inspired, even if they are current day replicas.

French modern classical is a great example of a style, which combines a very fairly balanced combination of traditional and modern elements. 

Eclectic is an incredible look when it is done right.  When not done right the style has the tendency to look as though it is not properly thought out, and of having inharmonious elements. 

This is most likely to happen when the desired eclecticism is not properly understood by the decorator or designer or when the style comes about ‘accidentally’.

The eclectic category in my spectrum will also include themes and adjective type styles which may be applied across periods.  The best way to think of these is:

  • as a way of decorating
  • an added modifier or influence on other purer ‘styles’


What’s great about eclectic styles

Eclectic can be a wonderfully balanced and harmonious style when executed well. 

The traditional influence could be Balinese, for instance, while the western influence makes up the modern part, making it an eclectic fusion style

This type of eclectic would maintain a lot of the traditional elements, but still allow some breathing space in the form of a monochromatic palette or minimal space design, which actually helps to better frame and enhance the traditional elements.

This is a style which is often done well in hospitality settings. 

If you are looking for inspiration, look into the world of hotel and resort design for both eclectic and modern eclectic as well as eclectic fusion styles examples which are sure to ‘wow’. 

A well-balanced eclectic room makes for a great design challenge for students of design, too. 

To get started, simply try toning down any look from history and seeing if you can modernize it. 

Being able to do eclectic well, is, I think, as important as being able to do both of the other extremes (uber modern or strict traditional) for the aspiring well-rounded designer.


Modern eclectic design styles from the 30 main interior design styles

Art Deco style

Industrial style

Maximalist style

Modern farmhouse design style


Art deco style

If I wanted to drop a name that would clue you in to what Art Deco style is and save myself having to explain any further, I would say, “The Great Gatsby”. 

Art Deco rose in popularity and prominence from the art nouveau movement which originated in France in the early 20th century between 1910 and 1940.  It was at its height in the twenties and best exemplified by the Chrysler building in the world of architecture.  

Art deco was unlike anything that came before it: Luxe, bold  and statement making, it was the look of the swinging twenties, bringing life to some monumental public spaces, jazz clubs and speakeasies alike. 

Glitz, glamor and over the top artistic decadence took center stage and the old ways of decorating were abandoned with relish. 

Time has passed, but we are still infatuated with the stars, styles and machines of the early modern era. 

Hollywood regency can be said to be very influenced by this period and style, though it is distinct from it, and falls more into eclectic.

Industrial style

Industrial style falls between eclectic and modern because of the industrial vintage elements of the style. 

These may be the original, worn red brick of the walls, the weathered iron beams of the ceiling or the industrial-vintage-look furniture and light fittings and fixtures. 

Industrial style has a natural charm to it, because it embraces its imperfections and allows the character of the materials and the story of the original space, i.e. a former factory converted into an open floorplan double-height apartment, to shine through.

It’s a look which does especially well in retail, hospitality spaces and restaurants. 

Going with an industrial vibe is a great way to welcome character and practicality in equal doses.  Industrial furniture is robust and often extremely memorable. 

The primary decorating style choice of hipsters, there have been entire companies dedicated to producing the furniture styles which are part history and part steampunk. 

If you love Restoration Hardware, you are almost certainly an industrialist style lover.

Maximalist style

Maximalist style is a modern style variety, but it’s roots of ‘more is more’ can be seen in plenty of traditional styles, all of which were optically busy. 

From Baroque to Rococo, Victorian to Art Deco and Hollywood Regency, many styles have impressed their audiences with an assault on the visual senses.

Maximalist is the modern interpretation and expression of the love of excess that is seen in traditionally cluttered styles.  But where many historic styles relied upon ornamentation, that is not the only way that maximalist style operates. 

Color, pattern and scale in high modern expression all find their way into maximalist interiors, where the only concern seems to be that the look works on the grand scale.

Maximalism comes from the eighties and was a backlash against the mid-century modern style, which just wasn’t exciting enough anymore for the thrillseekers looking to give minimalism a run for its money. 

A pure decorators delight, maximalism can take a certain level of style mastery to get right

Martyn Laurence Bullard decorates wonderfully in this style. As the Million Dollar Decorator is also partial to moorish and hollywood regency styles, it makes for good reasoning that they are natural accompaniment styles to maximalism.

No one can say maximalism isn’t fun. 

Modern farmhouse style

Less is more in modern farmhouse style, which draws inspiration from rustic, country and farmhouse interiors, but keeps the palette minimal and the architectural elements clean. 

This look is more urban, whether the interior is a city apartment or a suburban home. 

Classic modern elements, clean lines and crisp tailoring are energised and brought to life with slightly rustic elements, such as exposed wooden beams, brickwork and worn, antiqued stone.

Modern farmhouse style welcomes dark accents and generally warmer tones against a neutral background. 

Some natural material patina livens up the modern, streamlined shell.  Furniture leans toward classic and toned down traditional. 

Slipcovers and tailored upholstery fit in well. 

The muted palette feels calm and serene.


Which modern-eclectic styles are similar?

Art deco and maximalist

Both art deco and maximalist styles are visually busy and include modern motifs

Although art deco isn’t nearly as crazy as maximalist, it does enjoy detailing and decoration for days. 

Art deco was always about making a grand statement, and maximalism agrees with art deco here.  Art deco is a more particular style than maximalist, as it is now a historical style, while maximalist is a contemporary one. Maximalist style can draw from many inspirations, but tends to be a little more ‘pop-art’ than art deco; which tends to read as more classy.

Industrial and modern farmhouse

Industrial and rural are not too distant, so Industrial will find things to talk about with modern rustic or modern farmhouse

Industrial is definitely a heavier style than modern farmhouse in terms of its color and material palette, as well as the heavier vibe of the furniture, but there are similarities with modern farmhouse; which can be seen as a lighter and more classically modern cousin of industrial. 

Modern farmhouse style is easily compatible with organic modern style, which is said to be an updated version of industrial, and falls into the pure modern style category.

Upon completing this article I’ve realized that my modern eclectic classification has the least entries, so the hunt will be on to find more styles which fall into this category in the future. 

Know of one that I have not included here?  Please give me a shout in the comments!


Eclectic design styles from the 30 main interior design styles

Biophilic design

Bohemian style

Eclectic style/Global style

Glamorous/Luxury

Modern classical style

Transitional style

Biophilic design

Biophilic is a philosophy or methodology of design, more than a look or style which can be easily imitated. 

Underscored by a belief that to be closer to nature is desirable in the interior, the style draws inspiration from, as well as includes, many natural floral and green elements into the space. 

Instead of naturalistic or simply imitating nature, biophilic relies on living plants and living wall systems and implements design strategies for incorporating more natural light and air.

There are fourteen patterns of biophilic design, as recognized and explained by Terrapin Bright Green’s paper on biophilic design principles.  The fourteen patterns are grouped into three categories.

Nature in the Space’ deals with connection with nature, ‘natural analogies’ references nature without being literal, while ‘nature of the space’ explores the humanity of our experience within what is actually an artificial (man made) environment.  

Bohemian style

Oh, Bohemian.  It’s secretly everyone’s favorite style; or at least, it is a style which will probably never die.

Just the right amount of devil-may-care, free-spirited throwing caution to the wind and embracing the pattern, the patina, the texture and the playfulness.

Bohemian manages to be relaxed while combining a lot of texture, pattern and color. 

It is usually very layered and it’s always interesting and fun. 

Bohemian draws inspiration from various cultures, but especially mediterranean, middle eastern, and central asian.  Textiles and rugs from Marrakech, Persia, Turkey or Mongolia are all welcome here.

There is a distinct global vibe which comes from the continuously evolving gypsy tradition, which Bohemian or ‘Boho’ style is influenced by.

Eclectic/Global Style

An eclectically-styled room is every designer’s best challenge, because it can be difficult to get right. 

After all, eclecticism draws from myriad design periods and styles and is often unified by a core color or material palette to tie it all together. 

Because it is essentially the art of the clash, it must be thoughtfully planned and carefully pulled together to produce a successful outcome. 

When this happens, however, it can be striking and quite simply, amazing. 

Eclectic and global may draw on periods or on cultures.  The only rule is that there are no rules, so long as you really mean it! 

This style is for the world traveller, the quirky artist and the restless romantic at heart. 

No eclectic room, it may be said, should ever exactly resemble another!

Glamorous/Luxury

This one doesn’t need much explaining.  The higher the price tag, the glitzier and more sparkle it has, the more glamorous it must be, right? 

Wrong. 

Although it is true that there are some examples of this style which could be considered in poor taste despite all the money thrown at it, good examples of this style are also readily available. 

Look at the world’s most luxurious hotels and casinos for inspiration.

People who go for this style have money and are not afraid to show it.  Others want to live a glamorous lifestyle and put their efforts and attention into their living environment in order to achieve that.

Quality is the hallmark of this decorating theme, and it is possible to have a glamorous element to other distinctive design styles

It’s all about material finishes, ornamentation and detailing. Gold, crystal, expensive stone, and luxe materials make the occupant of the space feel like they are a king or queen.

Modern classical style

This style can be a little difficult to pin down, but it is essentially a modern and more pared-down and minimalistic version of what may be considered classical traditional style.  Sometimes the architectural elements of the building are painted a uniform color in order to make them less obtrusive and the art and furnishings are kept clean and contemporary. 

Other times the architectural shell may be more simple, but classical motifs are brought into an otherwise clean modern style (as seen with the baroque elements in the modern bedroom, above). 

Either way, there is always an element of restraint and a considered approach to this style, the results of which are often simply beautiful. 

The French do this especially well in a style known as Parisian.  It’s the perfect blend between classical and modern.  Eclectic done right!

Transitional style

This style literally means, ‘between style periods’. 

Transitional styles are those that fall into the range of looks which draw from both modern and traditional inspiration or happenstance. 

True transitional should be, as eclectic, at about a ratio of 50/50, but styles which are said to be transitional could be many, so this may be more of an overarching theme or design story than an actual literal style. 

Transitional styles are most likely to stretch between my modern-eclectic and eclectic-traditional categories.  In any case, while transitional certainly does exist, it is probably safe to use it interchangeably with eclectic. 


Which eclectic styles are most similar?

Transitional style, eclectic styles, global style and bohemian styles

Transitional and eclectic can be used almost interchangeably. 

Transitional is a little broader of a classification (between 50:50 and 75:25 percent  ratio of either modern/traditional or traditional/modern) than our “pure eclectic” (50:50 – 60:40).

Global styles are inherently culturally eclectic and often period-wise as well.

Global and bohemian can be quite similar, with Bohemian telling a bit of a looser story than the carefully collected global.


Modern classical, eclectic and glamorous/luxury

Modern classical style is a very good example of a perfectly split eclectic style which keeps a clean aesthetic. 

It’s very restrained traditional with a lot of space and the modern, almost minimal aesthetic, and some romantic elements thrown in. 

Modern classical often does have metallic gold, silver, brass and crystal elements, and elements of luxury are definitely not out of place in modern classical.

A note on biophilic design

Biophilic design can be applied to all of the thirty styles, although it might be said to suit some more than others. 

I think it looks great with both modern and traditional styles and plenty of the eclectic shades in between.

Styles which I’ve seen work incredibly well are contemporary, organic modern, modern classical and also with tropical and colonial styles.

Do you have a favorite modern-eclectic or pure eclectic style?  I’d love to hear about it!

vonsassy

Designer, writer & educator living in East Asia since 2001

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