Eclecticism: A Liberating Approach to Design

I loved interviewing Elle Greene for this article and getting some great advice from a pro on a more liberating approach to design:

“The cool thing about Eclecticism is you don’t need the giant apothecary jar of lemons to be living the well-decorated life.” So says Elle Greene, owner of Austin Modern (, a very hip online collection of Mid-Century modern furniture, art, lighting and accessories. She practices Eclecticism, and freely mixes genres to achieve a refreshingly original look. Instead of pigeonholing your home into one rigid style full of catalogue clichés, simply introducing a few affordable accents into your current décor allows you to customize your living space. Following are several of Elle’s imaginative design suggestions on how to do just that.

The main question you should consider before you spice up your place is “What kind of lifestyle do I lead?” Many of us have flipped through home-style magazines and felt envious of the gloriously staged photos; sure, a sparkling, sun-soaked room boasting plush white furniture IS beautiful. Add an animal, child, or Cheetos® into the mix, let alone all three, and the idyllic vision quickly implodes. Taking into account practicality makes any space more enjoyable.

Lighting is the most affordable way to enhance any room. Instead of resigning yourself to the light fixtures that came with the house, you can choose from many options of lighting in a variety of price ranges. In most cases, that one change makes a huge difference, instantly. By installing updated vintage-style track lighting, you can direct the beam in different ways to pool light over artwork or a seating area. Perhaps you’ve pined for a glamorous hanging chandelier but were less eager to part with thousands of dollars? Pick one up at an antique show or auction house; especially in the current economy, many people are downsizing and sending their luxurious items to auction to be sold for a fraction of their original price.

Whether you have chosen the Art Deco-birthday-cake-super-glam chandelier or one that is far more industrial, how can you incorporate it into your current décor? Eclectically. That is, maybe you have a heavy wooden dining room table currently; why not combine it with a steely, industrial warehouse pendant lamp and hang oversized original art works on the walls? Or perhaps you are ready for an 80’s throwback to Italian light fixtures, with their signature stick-like, skeletal design? Pair them with a Victorian leather overstuffed club chair. While the chair itself may conjure images of walnut paneling and men smoking pipes, by adding super minimalist lighting, your décor is lush without being suffocating.

Remember, money is not as important as it used to be in designing. “We all need to feel like we have luxury, but in the late 90’s and 2000’s, it was overdone…now I find people are buying one amazing piece and foregoing the six mediocre pieces. It doesn’t even have to do with price- people just want the thing that cannot be replicated.” Elle suggests reupholstering as an affordable alternative to buying an expensive, boring chair. Paint one wall red as opposed to the whole room, and the color will accent instead of overpower. What about rugs? How about throwing down a cowhide and pairing it with chrome furniture? Or skipping the heavy leather generally associated with a short-nap Persian rug, and opt for two 1920’s Barcelona chairs instead? Eclecticism empowers you to use what you have and still create what you like.

Now, what to do if you find a magical vintage piece that you are absolutely positive will not mesh with your current furniture? Don’t give up on it, instead 1. Ask yourself what it is about the piece that won’t work, 2. Pick out two or three existing pieces to which you aren’t completely attached and 3. Consider if you took those away, would the vintage piece you love now work? So many books and television shows are set up to tell you that you don’t know what the design should be. Granted, there are people who honestly do need direction; however, most of us know what we like and have a general idea of what works for us. Eclecticism is the catchall word because you are allowed to like the vintage piece and the crazy Colonial maple coffee table your grandmother gave you. If both pieces speak to you, they are going to look great together!