Real, thoughtful, well-edited eclectic design. It's not an easy look to achieve, and it can mean a lot of things. But by pretty much anyone's definition, it's design that doesn't fall into one specific category or period. It's an assortment of things collected or gathered or pulled from a wide range of places, periods and styles.
In terms of design magazines, it's Elle Decor. It's Domino (which isn't around anymore - and I'm still upset about it). It's not your grandmother's eclectic. It's not your grandmother's anything. Unless your grandmother is really, really cool.
The reason I love eclectic design is because it's personal, interesting, quirky, inherently stylish and fun. In other words, not boring. If there's one thing that doesn't appeal to me in design, it's bland. I love it when a space oozes the personality of its owners. And when you stop to think about it, not many do. Most of us just "fill the spaces with wood in places" (sorry - I can never resist a John Mayer reference) the same way our parents did or our friends do with little thought about how or why things appeal to us. Or buy things just because they're on sale. Or fill a spot with something just to fill it, not because we love what it's filled with. You get my point.
And eclectic design, well-executed, is rarely that way. Because to make random objects gleaned from various places - flea markets, favorite stores, parents' attics, your travels - come together in a way that works isn't easy. It takes trial and error. It takes editing. It takes mad skills, really. And you just don't go to all that trouble if it's not a labor of love.
Two notes: The above photo is from Elle Decor and was taken in designer Sheila Bridges' Harlem loft. And the story I recently wrote for The Commercial Appeal on eclectic design is at http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2010/aug/13/mix-not-match/.