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Eclectic Home Styles of the 19th to 20th Century

Ancient art and architecture are not only for historians but for people like us who’ve always been interested in periodic art and crafts.

Though many associate the eclectic style with the early 20th century, eclecticism actually became a style in the last decade of the Victorian era, in 1870, and so can be also be described as an extension of the era of Queen Victoria.

Interests grew as art magazines showcased awesome decorative materials from Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan, Turkey, India and China and people became fascinated with images of eclectic French interiors and soon began to import such decor materials into the United States. At the time, the growing wealth of the country could afford it.

And then there were the Parisian decorators who promoted furniture and furnishes of 18th century France and Louis style reproductions, bringing forth a renewed interest in stylish art and architecture. These top-notch decorators not only introduced French art styles, they also set up branch shops primarily for those who were building pseudo-French châteaus in the cities.

What is Eclecticism?

Eclecticism is a mixed bag of styles from different art periods which displays a widespread lack of harmony and uniformity. It is a non-rigid style of decor and architecture that doesn't conform to any particular period or era. Rather, the eclectic style is a conceptual approach that draws upon multiple ideas and styles, to bring in a new system of design and decoration.

It is basically a kind of mixed style in the fine arts - "the borrowing of a variety of styles from different sources and combining them" to create a new style and artistic effect that was imitative without being creative.

The Eclectic trend was evident in the smaller New York homes and because little thought was given to creating a particular period décor, anything that looked beautiful, exquisite and was European was desired. People didn’t hesitate to have a mix of period styles used in the same interior space.

A modern eclectic style

A modern eclectic style

Typical Features of Eclectic Home Interiors

An eclectic style is not easy to replicate simply because it is a mish-mash of other styles within an interior space and though it's a style that many love, it can be a bit tricky to achieve.

It requires a careful collection of interesting elements that work well together and they must have a cohesive look which can be achieved through form, colour, and texture. Also, furniture and furnishings must be placed in such a way that they don't end up making a space overtly cluttered without looking creatively put together. The furniture layout should be both visually and physically comfortable and must feel like a room you'd love to be in.

Eclectic doesn't mean anything goes as many may believe. There must be a design harmony.

Typical features that characterise the style include:

  • Accent wall to serve as a focal point like a wall filled with framed pictures or black and white images
  • Multitude of fabrics
  • Patterns and textures
  • Lamps - vintage and antique
  • Home accents like oriental rugs, vases, and paintings
  • Extensive use of objects d'art
  • Lots of throw pillows
  • A unifying colour to pull together the overall look
  • Baskets and trays
  • Bookshelves with a large number of books
  • Card tables
  • Wood chests, tables, and shelves
  • Chairs and sofas in leather, velvet, brocade, and damask
There is no defined period design in eclectic interiors. Notice the collection of different items of furniture and furnishings put together beautifully without overwhelming the space.

There is no defined period design in eclectic interiors. Notice the collection of different items of furniture and furnishings put together beautifully without overwhelming the space.

An eclectic style arrangement

An eclectic style arrangement

Further Reading:

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9 Eclectic Style Mistakes - Why You Got the Design Concept Wrong

Eclectic Architecture

According to Wikipedia, "Eclecticism is a nineteenth and twentieth-century architectural style in which a single piece of work incorporates a mixture of elements from previous historical styles to create something that is new and original".

By the end of the 19th-century to the beginning of the 20th-century, people randomly choose the styles they desired without necessarily following the same styles or art periods both in architectural styles of houses and their interior design and decoration. Something against the rules of architectural forms and styles.

Architects chose the best of period styles and mix-matched their designs to produce their own architectural styles. Architectural forms they used for their creations include:

  • Medieval castles
  • The Normandy farmhouse
  • Tudor mansions
  • Georgian manor houses
  • Italian and Spanish style villas
  • Mediterranean houses

Because architects wanted their building designs to look proportional in structure despite the blend, each style/part/section was accurately reproduced to look like the originals. They were also built to have effective interior planning and were comfortably furnished with authentic reproductions used in the particular architectural style.

Building materials used were practical materials and include steel, wrought iron, cast iron and glass.

As architects became more comfortable with the concept of choosing certain elements over others and broke away from the strict rules of their design tradition, there evolved a new movement in architecture and eclecticism became a style.

Merits of the Eclectic Period

The eclectic period in American history was not without its merits economically. There was a boom in the importation of art because of the rising interest in the decorative arts and interior design found in European regions.

The Eclectic style era also served an educational purpose in that it taught the artistic expressions of other people and other cultures.

© 2011 artsofthetimes


artsofthetimes (author) on November 16, 2011:

Thank you MelloYelloMan :)

MelloYelloMan on November 06, 2011:


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