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Mixing Design Styles Like the Pros

Linda is a seasoned writer and home-decorating authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

Forget the overly matched look—it’s time to experience mixed style. Creating a mix of furniture styles, patterns and colors is fresh and on trend but it can also be tricky to do. It takes a few secrets from the pros to mix vintage, modern, ethnic and traditional styles so your room looks coordinated rather than confusing.

Mixing takes some practice but it makes the decorating experience much more enjoyable. This loose style serves as the great equalizer in interior design. A mixed style snubs its nose at the rules by blending old with new, cheap with pricey, bold with subtle and classic with trendy.

Many different interior design styles exist but few fit into just one category. More and more people are favoring a mixed style to play off their existing furnishings and incorporate new pieces. Combine what you have on hand with something completely new and unexpected gives you license to invent a uniquely tailored style for your home.

Pulling design elements from different periods and styles allows you step outside your comfort zone as your style evolves. The more you experiment with different styles the more you’ll find that one type of decor can blend with another. That’s how interior design professionals often go about creating personalized looks for their clients.

Boho

Bohemian or Boho style is highly original, creative and eccentric. The term stems from Bohemia, a region of the Czech Republic and its ethnic wanderers who were referred to as “bohémien” in French. It grew to mean a tight-knit community of creative people living a socially unconventional lifestyle.

Bohemian decorating transforms the ordinary into extraordinary by deftly mixing vintage and exotic furnishings that exude warmth and individuality. Initially Boho might be construed as overwhelming with its busy mixture of color, pattern and texture. At second glance it actually looks and feels downright soothing and cozy with its layers of fabric and deep rich colors.

When choosing a Bohemian color scheme try to stick with jewel tones and earthy shades. For example, go daring with deep red, terracotta, indigo, aubergine or coffee for the walls. Avoid pastels, vivid colors and bright white. Add fabric wall hangings, window swags, art and mirrors. Bring in faded Persian, kilim or dhurrie rugs in coordinating colors to layer the floor. Shop flea markets to unearth distinctive weathered wood furniture and upholstered secondhand pieces.

Boho style accessories should look as if they’ve been collected over many years from all corners of the globe. Old framed photos, porcelain figurines, glass beaded curtains, fringed lampshades, fancy decorative boxes, colorful bottles, floor cushions, sparkling pendant lighting and paisley throws capture the Boho trademark--a random yet effortless look.

Boho has an ethnic and hippiesque flair.

Boho has an ethnic and hippiesque flair.

Eclectic

When done well, eclectic style allows to showcase your personal style while following the basics of proper design. Don’t worry about staying within a certain period or style—there’s plenty of room for several of your favorites.

The lack of rules in eclectic design is what makes it so popular. But eclectic isn’t a no-holds-barred decorating style. Throwing a little bit of this and that in a room does not qualify. There’s a very fine line between pleasing contrasts and disarray. Choose no more than three styles to keep your room from looking like a thrift store.

An eclectic color palette can be fairly wide ranging however it’s a good idea to tie everything together with a few neutrals. Use color and texture to unify items from various styles and eras. Disparate furniture pieces can be made to look more cohesive with similar decorative paint techniques and upholstery. Layer accessories to maintain a sense of order. Create a cohesive gallery of various art styles by using identical frames.

Eclectic style tosses the design rules out the window.

Eclectic style tosses the design rules out the window.

Retro

Mixing these three decades from the 1950s, 60s and 70s is commonly referred to retro style. The combination of mid-century years are influenced by interior design trends from the middle of the 20th century. Retro has a enjoyable, light and freeing feel with funky colors, futuristic patterns and a sense of creativity.

Shag carpets, atomic decor, vinyl chairs, plastics, chrome and curvy sofas have an influence from the past. Groovy combinations of fabrics, furniture and textures during this 30-year span integrates common elements that will give your home an energizing style. Colors such as aqua, pink, brown, avocado green and harvest gold are easily identifiable from the era. Lava lamps and Sputnik pendants are relatable to each other among retro quirky designs.

This room has design elements from each of the mid-century decades.

This room has design elements from each of the mid-century decades.

Transitional

Transitional style can best be described as a balanced mix of traditional and contemporary decor. It is a lighter, more current version of traditional style that fits a modern lifestyle. Transitional design embraces classic details and elegant furnishings without the formality of traditional style. If you feel contemporary is too plain and traditional is too stuffy then definitely go with transitional.

Transitional rooms combine curvy, overstuffed furniture with clean lines. The style mixes embellishments, traditional rugs, nature-inspired accessories and gender-neutral patterns. Keep colors closely related with the occasional burst of color thrown in for good measure. A monochromatic room might feature subtle pops of gray, black and blush for warmth and contrast.

Soft colors and a combination of contemporary and traditional is the creation of transitional design.

Soft colors and a combination of contemporary and traditional is the creation of transitional design.

Tips for Mixing Interior Styles

1. Make things equally distributed. Don’t segregate different styles in one room. Mix them throughout the space to make it easier on the eye.

2. Employ similar shapes. Select furniture pieces that have comparable forms. A mid-century track arm sofa won’t look great next to roomy, deep-seated club chairs.

3. Create a constant vibe. If you prefer an ornately formal bedroom don’t bring in modern or casual furnishings. Try to keep things likewise formal even if the pieces vary in style. This will maintain the room’s mood.

4. Blend decade styles. You can combine decade styles, such as the 1950s, 60s and 70s that create a bridge between the 30 year span. The mid-century decades work well with each other and can easily merge.

5. Balance the room. Whether you use different end tables and diverse objects on either side of a sofa you should maintain equal visual weight to create equilibrium in the room.

6. Retain scale within the space. Keep all the furnishings in scale. For example, don’t put a small settee next to an overstuffed recliner. Make sure furniture pieces have similar scale and also relate to the room's size.

7. Use compatible colors. When you’re mixing decor styles use coordinating or consistent colors to create a cohesive look. If you want to bring in a modern chair with a traditional sofa choose upholstery colors that work together.

© 2019 Linda Chechar

Start a Conversation!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on April 17, 2019:

Larry, so glad you enjoyed this article!

Larry Slawson from North Carolina on April 17, 2019:

Really interesting. Thank you for sharing!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on April 15, 2019:

RTalloni, these tips are great for a quick read. I do like the mix and match elements of the Boho style. Definitely one of my favorites. Glad you enjoyed this article. Thanks for stopping by!

RTalloni on April 15, 2019:

Thanks for adding the good tips at the end of your style descriptions. Enjoyed reading through this for several reasons. Always learn from your posts and have been in a longterm addition/renovation project, looking forward to finally enjoying the deco phase at the end of each step. I enjoy the Bohemian style, particularly as you've described it.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on April 15, 2019:

Thanks, Liz! The articles will keep coming!

Liz Westwood from UK on April 14, 2019:

Each time I read one of your articles, I learn new things and pick up useful tips.