As many look for the American dream in smaller homes,  the concept of “less is more” has taken root.

Yet this contrasts with what’s available on the market. More online retailers are making everything from wall art to coffee tables and vintage vases available with just a few taps. The home décor market is expected to grow between 4.2 percent and 6.3 percent between now and 2020, as reported by For some, this increase in options has led to an emphasis on choosing valuable, meaningful pieces. It also has allowed many homeowners to look for ways to customize their space.

The result is an uptick on the eclectic design, in which styles and patterns are mixed, and the unique and bold take the place of streamlined neutrals.

“Eclectic themes can be a lot of fun, particularly when they’re filled with objects and patterns that either have a cohesive element or when they clearly bring joy to the owner,” says Cristina Miguelez, content manager at

The key to creating an eclectic room or home, however, lies in the layout. Follow these guidelines when bringing in eclectic décor to set a tone you can live in, and a style you fall in love with.

Start with a Focal Point

“A focal point is something your eyes will drift back to over and over again, so consider making that item or piece one that will truly make you happy,” Miguelez says.

In a living room, this might be a beloved mid-century modern couch, an eye-catching painting, or a textured mantel. In the kitchen, the focal point might be patterned curtains around a window, accented cabinets, or a colorful center island.

Since it will gather attention, whatever you place as a focal point could be viewed as an investment.

“This is the item to splurge on, whether it’s an antique, a unique find, something you refinish yourself, or just something you’ve had your eye on for awhile,” Miguelez says. If you fall in love with a piece that is above your budget, it may be worth saving for. Purchase the item when you have the funds, and then set up the rest of the space over time.

Add With Intention

After choosing a main furnishing to anchor the space, the eclectic style works best in moderation.

“Creating an eclectic decorating theme does not mean bringing in the entire collection of mid-century thrift store finds or every single piece of your granny’s Spode China,” says Diane Reid, an interior designer from San Francisco Design.

Start with a few pieces that complement the focal point, such as placing throw pillows on a couch in the living room or a Victorian bowl on a dining room table.

“Where a limited color palette is in place you can easily drop in a brightly colored retro gizmo that you can’t live without,” Reid says.

If your kitchen has white walls, geometric patterned tiles on the floor could create an eclectic space. An art deco rug, vintage chandelier, or French antique chairs could liven up a neutral-toned eating area.

Include What is Close to Your Heart

When pulling items from storage to add to a room, think about whether they help preserve a memory before finding a place for them. If you shop online, go to a flea market, or peruse a home design store, evaluate pieces carefully before making a purchase.

“Pick items that reflect the needs of your home and your own taste, and they will start to blend seamlessly with your newer items, creating an effortless eclectic theme,” says Suzanne Lee, a commercial prop stylist in Boston.

You might add baskets bought on a trip to South America to hold blankets in an eclectic living room. An antique dresser might be a perfect fit in a guest bedroom. Coffee mugs on display in a kitchen could feature your travels to metropolitan areas, like London, New York or Paris.

“The contrast of simple lines and quirky other-worldliness is what makes it work,” Reid says.

Your collection of Balinese puppets could be put on display on a prominent shelf, or a whole room set up to complement a  favorite set of chairs you reupholstered in bright purple.

Avoid a Crowded Look

Since the eclectic design offers an opportunity to be a bit more whimsical, or make a place truly have a one-of-a-kind feel, it can be easy to go a little too far when decorating. If you finish setting up a room and it looks too cluttered, it may be necessary to do some rearranging.

“Eclectic spaces should be refreshing and functional,” Miguelez says. “If you find the space exhausting or disquieting to be in, try removing a few things to see if it helps.”

You might move some furnishings to a different room, or store them for several months and then use them to replace other pieces in the room, setting up a rotation system.

Keep balance in mind when it comes to basics like textures and paint colors.

“You can successfully mix pieces from different style genres as long as you give the visual weight to just a few pieces, letting the others play a supporting role,” Reid says. “Keep the palette simple with one or two dominant pop colors, as well as keeping the materials mix to a minimum.”

As you live in a space, the best design will often develop naturally.

“My desk is functional, yet filled with vintage items used for storage, as well as some trinkets for decoration,” Lee says.

To create the look, she used a storage piece found in an old New Hampshire barn. She set up vintage amber glassware and handmade pottery as pen holders. A vintage hummingbird print and small vintage plates round out the eclectic, uncluttered look.

Rachel Hartman