We’re Calling It: New England Eclectic Is 2024’s Answer to Cottagecore

We’re bringing back cozy ‘90s classics

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Image by McKenzie Cordell

In today’s TikTok-obsessed world, it’s hard to remember that before there were FYP trends like cottagecore and Coastal grandmother, you could sort of lump interior styles into three buckets: traditional, modern and eclectic. Modern elements eventually spurred off into more granular terms, like midcentury modern, minimalism, or contemporary (any look that’s chic and sleek). Traditional, with its 18th- and 19th-century-rooted dark wood furnishings, ornate architectural moldings and chinoiserie patterns, largely stayed the same. But it’s starting to find a new niche—one that merges with that black sheep of the design family, eclectic.

Eclectic’s colorful, artistic spaces have been stereotypically misunderstood, often devalued as maximalist (cluttered) or kitschy. In reality, the term stems from eklektikos, a Greek verb that roughly translates as “selective” or “choosing the best.” It’s all about you and your interests, prioritizing your specific tastes and interests above common design principals. Why all of this matters, you ask? Because we’re seeing increasing interest in a niche, ‘90s-eclectic-meets-traditional style that we’re dubbing New England eclectic

Basically, the look pulls from traditional ‘90s interiors with an emphasis on sentimental styling. Think: cozy quilted textiles, bookcases on bookcases and lots of knickknacks on mantels, tables and shelves. This stems from a fixation with family films we loved pre-social media, including The Family Stone, Stepmom and Father of the Bride (which have all been referenced when trying to pin down this aesthetic). It’s another example of Nancy Meyer’s chokehold on current design trends, echoing our nostalgia for a slower period that emphasized togetherness and comfort over hustle culture and technology. 

“I see a house as a lead character in a movie. It tells you so much about a person,” Meyers says in a 2012 interview. “For example, if the kitchen doesn't have a thing in it, the character is not much of a homebody. If there is a lot of stuff around, and the olive oil looks like it's been used, you can tell this is somebody who cooks. They really live there.”

To that end, a big distinction of this look is the emphasis on heirlooms and American heritage pieces (which is what separates it from similar aesthetics, like dark academia or newstalgia). While New England eclectic skews toward walnut-, mahogany- and cherry-wood finishes, the recent vintage craze is more about antique and baroque pieces. 

It captures a specific, English-derived eclectic vibe, shying away from opulent weaves (like velvet or silk) and any kind of traditional glam (checkered patterns, faux fur, metallic finishes). Instead, it looks to more artistic details—like painted plates, hand-blocked fabrics, floral roll-arm sofas and frilled lampshades—that are brought to life by those who inhabit the space. All of the decor tells a story while playing off of memorable accents that remind you of waking up at Grandpa’s house on Christmas morning. 

How to bring all of these elements together? Below, a breakdown of our favorite New England eclectic looks, plus every item you need to replicate it at home. 

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1. Start with a Traditional Pattern

A unique aspect of this style is that you can make it as traditional or eclectic as you want through pattern. Unlike most interiors, which build upon a pre-selected color palette, this one asks that you start with just one printed, traditional item. It can quite literally be anything—a bordered wallpaper, toile chaise or pillow, damask rug (all of which you can shop below). You just want to make sure it’s an item you love, considering it’s the foundation for everything else. Then, you can pull from those colors and start to create cohesion in the space.

2. Create a Color Scheme

Once you have your item, hold it up to the natural light. What colors do you see? In the living room above, for example, designer Katie Rosenfeld pulled warm red and orange, earthy brown and pops of green and blue from Shumacher’s Gerry embroidery pillow. As for the walls, she went with Farrow & Ball’s Shaded White, which brought cohesion to all of the pattern in the sofa and rug. Finally, she tied in a chocolate brown coffee table with brass detailing for a just a hint of contemporary elegance. 

3. Select Decor with Sentimentality

At the end of the day, this look is all about family—and that’s your main priority when it comes to selecting decor. For some, this means rummaging through your parent’s attic for forgotten treasure—particularly anything that’s referred to as a ‘pre-historic’ or an ‘eyesore’ (aka something Grandpa made Mom promise not to sell). The goal is to find Christmas conversation pieces that will make Uncle Dan say, “Where have I seen this before?” To that end, it can also be about the family you’ve created. Whether it’s a tiny painting your BF bought for you on a day in Soho or a photo album your friends made on your 21st birthday, you want to select memorabilia that will remind you of a specific time, place or person. And of course, if you can always visit your local flea market (or Facebook marketplace) if you’re short on nostalgic knickknacks.

4. Warm Everything Up with Lighting

If the image above is any indication, lighting can go a long way here. Between all of the traditional motifs and dark wooden hues, bringing warm light in is the key to creating a sumptuous, lived-in feel. It can be anything from table lamps to floor lamps (the more the better), particularly ones with pleated shades or intricate designs. The only thing to note, however, is that bulb selection matters here. Be sure to select a light bulb with a warm color temperature (measured in kelvin between 1,000 to 10,000K). Bulbs under 3,000K produce warm light—what you want—and anything above 4,000 will have a more clinical, office-like feel. 

5. Keep Things Fresh with Updated Materials

While we all love the den from the Family Stone, no one’s looking to turn the living room into a time capsule from the ‘90s. So instead, you can finish everything with updated materials, like bouclé or rattan. In the bedroom above, the designer mixes old with new, keeping an emphasis on eclectic items. The traditional wallpaper is inspired by a gouache painting fragment (per the manufacturer), accented by a blue floral quilt and simple linen bedding. Everything is then brought into the 21st century with a bouclé bed frame, rustic rattan sconce and a Nordic jute rug. The end result? A design that maintains New England eclectic’s homey, classic appeal without sacrificing updated elements. 

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Assistant Editor

Sydney Meister is PureWow's Assistant Editor, covering everything from dating trends and relationship advice (here's looking at you, 'soonicorns') to interior design, beauty...

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