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Eclectic Decorating 101

Posted on July 25 2013

Eclectic interiors are the hardest ones in the world to pull off. Firstly anything goes they pull upon many references, styles, time periods, textures, colours you name it. Secondly not so many of us get it right because there is a fine line between a room feeling bonkers and a space feeling crazy. It takes skill and it takes intelligence since absolutely nothing matches and yet somehow it’s all got to make perfect sense. This style of decorating reshuffles the rules, you can mix luxe and humble, trad with contemporary, old with new but it can’t feel like a free for all – or a hot mess. It’s tricky as we’re flirting with going over the top but we’ve got to somehow reign in the chaos.

The low down below on getting it right.

Colour, I say this a lot but reign it in. You don’t want every piece fighting for attention with a different hue; you ideally want a few bad boy colours and then go for neutrals. Neutrals help you out big time when decorating eclectically as they quietly do the job in hand, harmonising, unifying and letting those oddball hues I was talking about take centre stage!

Methodical Matching. In order for our spaces to feel harmonious we have to find some common ground between the pieces in order for the space to gel. Narrow the palette as I mentioned above but then also marry the proportions. I’m all for playing around with scale and creating a lively rhythm – but you have to pull back a bit. Take the dining room for instance; you don’t want 6 different chairs in 6 different finishes at 6 different heights – bonkers! You need the chairs to roughly have the same proportions and a similar silhouette. Make sense?

Create parallels. Juxtapose rough with glossy; traditional with modern, light with dark it will help anchor your space at the same time as creating friction. Friction by the way is good in interiors. The more friction the more intrigue.

Repeat. Having a couple of pieces that reiterate the same colour, scale or finish will help the space feel less crazy. For example I’ve got a circular mirror above my fireplace and then a big circular table below! Or I’ve got two blue armchairs downstairs and big blue angle poise – both different styles but both worth wearing the same oddball hue.

Balance – not everything can fight for the spotlight – do that and you’ll have on your hands a room akin to a garage scale. With so many disparate objects not everything can take centre stage it will feel way too crazy. So work out what’s going to be the star or stars (you’ll need more than one) and then everything else can just hold its own. Not necessarily fade into the background but also not have the same presence.

Black sheep. If you’ve got one item even a couple that don’t make sense with the rest of the space, or gel in anyway fab pop it in that space. Not everything needs to gel, blend, harmonise we need the odd black sheep in the room in order to throw it out of the park and make it feel unexpected!

Hope I haven’t put you off, as it’s a pretty long list, however eclectic interiors are the most memorable and intriguing when you get them right.  As I said earlier this kind of decorating reshuffles the rulebook and rules as we all know are made to be broken – yes!

All images by Graham Atkins Hughes taken for my book Decorating with Style

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