Decorating with Antiques: Eclectic Decorating

By Wendy Keenan

Creating an eclectic room is more impressive than other kinds of decor. An eclectic look is all about combining different furnishings, fabrics, finishes and objects from any number of periods and countries, and it is achievable to arrange a totally exceptional scene. When this type of design is used, it is a cost savings because items already on hand are used. In addition, it becomes your own one-of-a-kind design.

Of course, in order to be successful, you will need to keep within all the principles of design concerning form, scale, composition and proportion. Yet, the more original, the better. You must follow these rules, for if you do not, the guaranteed result will be a messy overload of styles.

While decorating the dining room in the photograph, we found that our client had many pieces that came from many different times and styles. Working within a tight budget and with the items the client already had, we began by choosing the colors we liked for the walls. We painted them in today’s popular colors of a light tangerine and camouflage green.

Then, we went to some estate sales and found some very funky window treatments that seemed to have a mixture of traditional fabric, bordered by a very cool African tiger-look. After a trip to the window treatment workroom, the window treatments were cut and resized to fit the room. This was my focal inspiration that set our imaginations free and allowed us to create an eclectic, warm and wonderful room.

At a local fabric and hobby shop, we found a coordinating fabric, a gold-and-black tiger print that matched the border of the window fabric, and we used this fabric to cover some very old and traditional Duncan Phyfe chair seats. We then added a very stylish multi-colored, striped wool rug found at an auction house, which created a colorful, unique, yet very balanced, look from floor to ceiling.

A double pedestal Duncan Phyfe dining table was placed on top of the colorful rug. At the largest window, a drop-leaf claw foot table was centered, and a very interesting Art Deco lamp was placed upon on it, creating a warm and soft welcome as you enter the room.

At the back wall, a very striking breakfront with an Art Nouvea-style glass cabinet was placed against the wall. Inside the glass became a wonderful collectible area with striking pieces of old clear crystal and colorful pieces of art glass.

For the walls, we selected Impressionist-style paintings by the artist Barbara A. Wood. Each piece had different colors within the art itself, but the framing was all coordinated to blend within the room.

To finish the look, we placed a 100-year-old Victorian lemonade set atop an antique Italian leather-and-wood cabinet from the 1930s.

Finishing the look, a handkerchief-topped art glass vase that mimics the animal print on the chairs and in the window treatments was placed on top of the table with the vase filled with wood reeds. To blend in a touch of safari, we then added some rattan place mats and a table runner that created a funky jungle theme to the mix.

The room has a fun yet relaxing feel to it, filled with different styles and a hint of safari. It is most certainly an entertaining room for guests, and the look creates a great deal of interesting conversation.

A few more tips for your eclectic project:

*Eliminating wallpaper and decorative finishes for a neutral palette is the safest route.

*Various styles mix congenially when the background and furniture forms are simple, but do not be afraid to mix some soft colors.

*If whites and creams feel boring, choose a more contemporary color like pale oranges, greens or taupe, introduce accent colors that complement the rug, the dishes you are displaying in your china hutch, art or the fabrics on your chairs and windows;

*Think about using fair amounts of colors or patterns around the windows and on the chairs;

*Add unique accessories that tie in with the theme that you have now created, and make it your own interesting area. Adding accessories will help unite all the elements so make sure you do not skip this part;

*Carpeting—sisal being a most pleasing and inexpensive host of all—also pulls things together, and it is safe and always works due to the natural color and texture.

*I prefer to find a more interesting and dramatic look for the floors and like to add color to a room this way. Consider using a colorful wool rug or perhaps a bamboo rug instead. 

An eclectic-style room can incorporate the dissimilar goods you have collected, as well as those pieces you have never known what to do with. Utilizing furnishings in unique ways allows you, the decorator, a way to include pieces that have meaning to you, but are not functional in their current locale. For example, take a small chest of drawers from an underused area and place it in a small space within the dining area. Now appreciate it as a sideboard or a small desk for a serving table. Add an old or modern pedestal under the window or in the corner and place a statue or flower arrangement on the top. It will not matter if the pedestal is new or old; make your statement by what you choose to put on the top.

As always, think outside the box and make it your own, but if you need help, we are always here to help.


Wendy Keenan is the owner of Circa Style Antiques and Interiors, 770-317-7479.

The Duncan Phyfe table
with striped art glass vase
and rattan mats.

A very traditional chair with
a funky seat cover.

A 100-year old lemonade set on top of a mahogany-and-leather cabinet from the 1800s.









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