I just came back from a two-day respite in a rural town in Western Massachusetts. The countryside was pastoral, with sprawling fields and gently undulating mountains. Much of the architecture was historic to the New England max. I would describe the municipality as rife with American colonial buildings that, while maybe not restored, could be considered preserved. The vibe was quirky, artistic, progressive, diverse and collegiate. Here’s what it wasn’t: polished. Living in the NY Metro area, I have become so accustomed to remodeled everything and granite-topped everything else, that once I was faced with a decidedly unfancy environment, I didn’t know how to react. To avoid falling into snobbery, I mentally challenged myself to think differently about how to approach a space if it wasn’t wiped clean for a fresh start. I am a problem solver by trade and so I simply had to make good sense of it. Was it “shabby chic” without the chic? Just “shabby”? No, the feeling evinced by the interiors I saw was eclectic. Everyone’s heard of “eclectic style,” but what is eclecticism exactly anyway?
“Eclectic” decor is a mixture of textures, colors, previous historical style periods and cultural references in the same room that hang together, creating a charming and original atmosphere. Eclecticism is really a very creative form of interior design—think collage, only in 3D. Putting things together that don’t necessarily “go together” is a fun and extremely personal way of expressing yourself. After all, none of us is composed of just one emotional or mental attribute. We are, in our essence, an oppositional mixed bag. But don’t go getting the idea that working in this vein is a visual free-for-all. The elements of a room must be chosen in thoughtful and logical connection to one another. That’s where the “hanging together” bit comes in. You don’t want to feel as if you’ve stumbled into the town dump.
Celebrate unexpected combinations! Juxtaposition means opposition, so no more matching bedroom sets! There is a formula, of sorts, to getting this right. In general, combine no more than two to three different styles at once. (Any more than that could become visually confusing.) With fabric, mix linear, graphic patterns with soft, rounded patterns (e.g., geometric + floral). With furniture, mix curvy antiques with straighter, more modern pieces (e.g., Bauhaus + 18th c. French). I also like to add something global like an British Union Jack pillow, a tribal African textile or a piece of Chinoiserie pottery (Chinese pattern and motif). Include quirky finds! All together, a purposefully “mismatched” look has a common thread while showcasing the element of surprise.
Please, I beg you, do not match the colors in the artwork on the walls to your sofa fabric! Keep color schemes limited to a two-color palette or even a monochromatic one. Three different types of furniture plus two colors are quite enough.
Don’t Forget Texture
Add chunky knits to the mix instead of going with all flat, woven pieces.
Balance Is the Key
High with low. Heavy with light. Straight shapes with organic ones. Pattern on pattern with a solid color thrown in. Combine tailored and comfy pieces together no matter what era they’re from. That’s what it’s all about! The proportions must work in concert and not lean too heavily in one direction.
Just because a space doesn’t look uniform, that doesn’t mean the layout shouldn’t function properly. All good design principles regarding spatial flow still apply!
Finally, the great thing about all of this is that your environment has a unique meaning that other people will recognize and appreciate along with you.
By Jane Morgan
Jane Morgan is President and Founder of Jane Morgan Interior Design. To see more of her work, go to www.janemorganinteriordesign.com.