Introducing 'Modern Eclectic,' the Funky Design Style That TikTok Can't Get Enough Of
Between Willow Smith shaving her head during a live performance and the anti-bra movement, one thing’s for certain: Unapologetically being exactly who you are is the theme of 2021. Sure, it might have taken tie-dye and bird-watching to get us there, but spending the past year and a half in quarantine provided us with the space and solitude we needed to explore interests we never knew we had. That said, it makes sense that we’d want our post-pandemic decor to reflect more meaning and personality than a “live, love, laugh” sign can offer. It’s only fitting then, that a hybrid approach to design is trending, particularly on TikTok: Introducing Modern Eclectic, the curated, modern-meets-vintage aesthetic that we can’t get enough of.
While similar patterns, colors and textures distinguish most design styles, Modern Eclecticism is characterized by the fact that it’s *not* a particular style (Aquarians, you’ve reached interior-nirvana). In the book, Think Eclectic, art historian Piet Swimberghe explains: “Today, we are back to eclectic interiors happily filled with unique findings. You simply stow them with your favorite objects, considering only the value that they have for you.” Unlike Japandi or cottagecore, Modern Eclectic style uses your preferences and interests as the core design element. It’s all about mixing pieces from different periods and origins with modern accents to create a unique, blended look. “Treasures discovered at garage sales, secondhand stores or thrift stores can be guiltlessly displayed next to a very expensive designer piece. Mixing is not only allowed: It is a must,” according to Swimberghe.
Below, find everything you need to know about “Modern Eclectic” style—and how to nail the look.
What is Modern Eclectic Style (really)?
When defining this style, our celebrity crush and ~cool mom~ idol Kelly Wearstler is *the* designer to explain. Wearstler’s design philosophy embodies the foundation of modern eclecticism, where she “[mixes] styles, eras and mediums, bringing together the stars of the past with today’s emerging artists to create environments—indoors and out—that are at once inviting, comfortable and evocative,” according to her website. Whether it’s through artwork, decor or furniture, this look is all about showcasing your culture and passions without limitations.
While we’re all for self-expression, there is the concern that your finished “modern eclectic” space will actually look like something out of Hoarders. For this look, you want to *curate* your space with intent and finesse (not inundate your walls with meaningless crap). When you’re bringing everything together, you want to weave an invisible thread between simplicity and the sublime. It’s not about how much “stuff” you have; it’s about what each piece means to you and how it stands out from the rest. That’s where the modern part comes in—its clean lines and tendency toward minimalism keeps things from looking too cluttered or fussy.
HOW TO GET THE LOOK
1. Include Multiple Styles and Influences
So you get the whole mix ‘n match thing... but what exactly are you combining? “The goal of the [style] is to bring together furnishings that are ostensibly far apart [but] enhanced with the right treatment,” writes Laura Calligari, a blogger for esperiri.com. Think mid-century modern chairs next to a postmodern coffee table or an Art-Deco floor mirror above a Victorian fireplace. It’s all about playing up the existing features of your home with your interests to create a distinctive style. If you’re feeling stuck, refer to the three C’s of modern eclectic decor that always seems to work: curves, color and character (examples below).
After you’ve found your wow pieces, fill the space with modern furniture and decor to give it some balance. “Of course, these combinations do not have to be random. The selection of products and finishes must be made very carefully, trying to find harmony between the various elements,” Calligari explains. To do this, look for items with similar finishes, colorways and textures to the pieces you’ve already selected. Wearstler suggests juxtaposing contemporary, vintage, raw and refined objects with a classic mix of historical designs, “like the Scarpa Soriana Sofa, Mitchell Bobrick Control Lamp, and a George Nakashima inspired live edge table,” according to Instagram. Similarly, Calligari recommends other designer trademarks like the wheeled table designed by Gae Aulenti for Fontana Arte and the Cactus coat stand by Drocco and Mello for Gufram. However, if the idea of spending thousands on a cactus coat stand gives you hives, have no fear. Here are a few similar pieces (that won’t bankrupt you):
2. Collect Unique Pieces with Meaning
Not sure where to start? Begin with what you already have. Take a look around and see if you’ve already got a theme going — what do your existing pieces have in common?: “If you have a love of fashion, that's a great place to start,” Wearstler explains in her masterclass. “How do you want to showcase that? Maybe you want to build a shelving unit in your bedroom and showcase all of your amazing shoes. Maybe you have a chair fetish. I do. Let your curiosity guide you.”
3. Balance Things Out With a Monochromatic Palette
When we hear “eclectic,” it’s usually followed by an explosion of color and pattern with very little room for clean sophistication. Again, this is where the ‘modern’ part of this style steps up. Here, it’s less about the actual color you choose for your backdrop and more about what you surround it with. While the primary function of your artwork, decor and furniture is to draw visual interest and reflect individuality, the main color palette is there to bring balance and cohesion. Don’t worry about it being boring — your artwork and vintage decor should have more than enough drama for everyone.
“Contrary to the impression they give, monochromatic environments can also require a good measure of creativity,” Wearstler told Architectural Digest. “It’s important to establish a hierarchy among the different hues to set a harmonious tonality. Add a few sharply contrasting elements to create drama, and the result is a beautiful, sophisticated and timeless space.” Whether you’re keeping simply white walls or bringing in various shades of a singular color, maintaining a monochromatic background will allow your carefully selected decor to speak for itself.