Guide: What is Eclectic Interior Design

How do you define eclectic interior design? Anything goes? Mix ‘n’ match? The best of everything? Whatever your definition, eclectic home design is a vibrant and expressive style, challenging the conventional norms of interior decoration by embracing a harmoniously diverse aesthetic. Here’s an indispensable guide to eclectic interior style.

6 December 2023

When it comes to interior design, just what is eclectic interior decor? At its core, it’s characterised by a thoughtful blend of different styles, textures, and periods, resulting in a unique and deeply personal space.

Can’t choose between Japandi design, French country decor or the Scandinavian aesthetic? Unlike more rigid design schemes, eclectic interior design allows for a playful and imaginative mix of old and new, classic and contemporary, and you can even throw in bits of Boho or a mix of Mediterranean broadly balanced with Bauhaus!

From the Greek word eklektikos, meaning ‘to choose the best’ or ‘selective’, it is believed that the word was originally used by philosophers to describe the process of choosing the best elements from a range of arguments or viewpoints in order to form your own. From eclectic arguments to eclectic interior style, a perfect example of the trickle-down effect.

The beauty of eclectic home design lies in its flexibility and the freedom it offers to experiment with various elements, making it a popular choice for those who prefer a more tailored, individual and distinctive look rather than a one-size-fits-all solution.

This is your guide to eclectic interior style.

What is Eclectic Interior Design? A Very Short History

Interior of a large living space, with a classic eclectic interior design. (Credit: Vostok via Getty Images)

Tracing its roots, eclectic interior design doesn’t stem from a single historical style but is rather a concept that evolved over time. It began to take shape as global travel and trade exposed people to a wide range of artistic and cultural influences.

Some suggest it could have been born from the Beaux-Arts architectural style which, while incredibly lavish, incorporated elements from French neoclassicism, Renaissance and Baroque fashions and used modern materials such as glass and steel.

Others say it may have emanated from the Victorian-era obsession with fashions and styles from around the world. It may also have its genesis earlier, perhaps as early as the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when upper-class young men would travel through Europe’s great cities such as Venice, Paris, Geneva and Rome on what was known as the Grand Tour, learning languages and culture. They would return with crates full of art, books, cultural artefacts, instruments of medicine and science and even fountains from town squares and altars from churches. These eclectic items were proudly displayed in purpose-built rooms and may well have been the precursor to the eclectic interior decor we recognise today.

The Principles of Eclectic Interior Design

Eclectic living room interior with comfortable velvet corner sofa with pillows. (Credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz via Getty Images)

The principles of eclectic home design centre around balance, harmony, and cohesion, despite the mix of different styles and global influences.

It’s a delicate balance between contrasting elements, where the juxtaposition of different periods and styles is done in a way that feels intentional and curated rather than chaotic and incoherent. Key elements include a varied but controlled colour palette, a mix of textures and patterns, and the strategic use of statement pieces to anchor the space.

This design philosophy emphasises the importance of a well-thought-out plan and a discerning eye for detail, ensuring that each piece, while different, contributes to a cohesive whole.

Central to eclectic interior style is the theory of ‘anything goes’, though this should not be mistaken for a lack of discipline. While it allows for great creative freedom, successful eclectic design requires a sense of restraint to avoid a cluttered or disjointed look.

Eclectic Interior Decor Characteristics

Eclectic and classic lounge. (Credit: ArchiViz via Getty Images)

The characteristics of eclectic interior decor aren’t governed by structure or specific rules. A guidebook doesn’t exist, but there are some overarching themes that may be useful as a starting point.

Visual Creativity

A thoughtful mix of textures, prints and patterns that add layers of interest is the cornerstone of eclectic interior design.

Modern & Vintage

Done right, vintage, upcycled or antique furniture can sit perfectly comfortably with modern steel and glass, G-Plan, mid-century Scandinavian chairs, or an Art Deco sideboard.

Colour Palette

By definition, eclectic interior style doesn’t adhere to a specific colour palette, however selecting a few core colours may be a good place to start in order to create a cohesive look and a sense of commonality. You can then curate your different elements such as furniture, textiles, and display pieces based around the principal colours.

Unleash Your Creativity: Eclectic Interior Design

Eclectic style kitchen in a Spanish home. (Credit: xavierarnau via Getty Images)

Eclectic interior decor stands as a celebration of individuality and freedom in the realm of interior design. It breaks free from the confines of traditional rules, inviting an exploration of diverse styles, periods, and textures to create spaces that are as unique and interesting as you are.

This approach is not just about blending different elements; it’s a testament to personal expression, creativity, and the joy of crafting an environment that truly resonates with your own aesthetic and lifestyle.

What is eclectic interior design? With its lack of strict boundaries and its embrace of the unconventional, it empowers us to tell our own stories through our surroundings, creating homes that are not just visually compelling, but also deeply personal and full of life.


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