This playful, personal home design style shakes up conventions and bridges the gap between different looks

There’s a method to the madness of eclecticism – a design style that combines many types of styles to a room leaving it inviting and appealing – forget the all encompassing same look. Styling a room with different furniture, colors and patterns truly reflects your personality. Not to say that a mishmash of clutter won’t work, but it’s better to choose only key pieces from different eras and design styles while keeping some unity either in form or color palette.

Eclectic decor and design has been around forever, however it’s only recently that it’s being embraced. Careful though, this style is not a free-for-all. If you toss a little of this, a little of that and a dash of ‘the other’ into a room at random, it’ll look like exactly what it is – a mess. The liberty and leeway that make an eclectic style so appealing can also make it tricky — you’ll need to be careful not to trip over the thin line between contrast and chaos.  This style secret can best be described as methodical mismatching. Eclecticism wears its lack of pedigree proudly and draws its energy from contrast. The trick is to find enough common ground to make a space gel.

Choose a few must-haves to anchor the space, then experiment with rugs, artwork, lighting, accents and other elements. Play light against dark, honed against glossy, rustic against elegant — but look for opportunities to create parallels. When you find the right balance, you’ll feel it instinctively.

Once you have your anchor pieces within your room, consider which elements you can repeat. An example would be to focus on a circle motif into the room, perhaps a round vintage mirror, an antique oversized railway wall clock or a large centered collection of colorful carpet boules. Be sure to add in a few contrasting shapes for balance and you’ve got a marriage made in heaven.

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There’s no other decorating style where you could make a pre-loved sideboard, an oriental rug and a collection of vintage ads get along. The beauty of eclectic style lies in the element of curiosity and surprise. This is the time to get personal: Showcase mementos from your trip to Cambodia last year; bring out your collection of favorite band prints; stack books inside your now shelved and mounted childhood canoe.

Play by the rule of opposites. If you have shiny pieces, add matte ones. Offset metal with wood and pair smooth silk with coarse linens. Use your sense of touch as much as your eyes to gauge the level of textural contrast you’ve achieved. Perfecting an eclectic look is like seating guests at a dinner party – put the rowdy loud ones next to the shy types and everyone’s happy. This style begs for a blend of strong, singular pieces, so keep the backdrop (walls, floors, windows) simple in order to avoid competition.

Keep the palate neutral and build the background from there. You’ll rarely go wrong with pure white walls in an eclectic space, but if they look too bland for you, use unassuming colors such as pale salmon, smoky gray or eggshell blue. Still not enough? Choose a color that’s already in the room and try it out on an accent wall or on the ceiling. Or you could just hang more artwork, mount colorful window treatments and add a vibrant rug or throw – all easily added that can be reversed as the room evolves.

If you have a old mannequin next to a vintage dentist’s chair, next to a totem pole next to a… well, you get the picture. Use really unique pieces as you would exclamation points: calculated. Juxtaposing them with a few simple, classic pieces will heighten the look without diluting its charm.

OK, so you have a piece that you love, but it doesn’t seem to gel within the room? The solution’s easy – give it pride of place. Don’t try to blend it into the background. Think of it as the room’s odd one out. You love it for its quirkiness, so why try and blend it into the background and hide it?

In an eclectic room, you almost have carte blanche with the color wheel. Conventional wisdom wags its finger at you? Bah, we say. Most importantly, the scheme needs to make sense. If you try to bring in every single shade you love, or if you pile up patterns with no restraint, you’ll be left with disarray. When figuring out your design style. Just remember your space should always be unique, individual and sometimes as mysterious as you!