Let’s talk about that respite from brokeness, limited options, and fear of commitment to a style: eclectic decor.
It’s been around forever, I’m sure, but the most famous and popularizing example of it is probably Monica Geller’s apartment in the TV show, Friends. Monica’s home is full of mismatched furniture, different wood grains and stains, and knickknacks everywhere. It’s busy as hell and there’s shit every way you look.
Often imitated, rarely duplicated. If you look around the house blogs and communities that are less discriminating to amateur decorating, you’ll see a lot of attempts at this that simply look like a room full of Goodwill finds that don’t go together. The problem with most of these tries is a failure to understand that eclecticism does not work on its own principle alone. Throwing a bunch of random shit together and saying it works does not make it so.
So what makes Monica’s apartment work where other similarly broke 20-something’s decor doesn’t?
Take a look at those chairs at her dining room table. All different colors, not a pair from the same set. Over the course of the show the chairs sometimes broke and were replaced, but because none of them matched it didn’t matter when one was substituted for another. But that doesn’t mean you could just put ANY chair there.
First of all, there’s a matter of scale. All the chairs, though different, are relatively the same size. They all had to be short enough to fit under the table, obviously, but too, if the chairs are all the same size, that creates a point of cohesion with the set. They “go” together in that way. The apartment has other points of cohesion. The lamp shades are all different sizes and shapes, but are mostly the same color. The allusion to each other in the checker-patterns on the couch’s pillows and the chair’s blanket, the busy patterns on the curtains in both the living room and the kitchen. The wooden furniture is not all the same type of wood or even the same color, but each piece belongs to either a family of orange woods or blonde ones. All these things contribute to a look of things, though clearly not having come from the same place, being similar enough that the common line through them is apparent.
Look too at the colors on each of the chairs. Two creme colored chairs (one with purple cushions), one robin’s egg one (with a matching cushion to the other creme chair), and one with a orangey stain. As a stand alone dining set, similar size or no, they would look like random dumpster dive finds. But within the whole, the apartment’s entirety, they fit perfectly. Why? Because they reinforce the overall color scheme.
Most of Monica’s walls and her front door are painted lavender. The cushions on the chair are a deeper shade of purple, but they still call back to the walls. The creme color of the two chairs points to the mismatched couch and comfy chair (which though they are obviously different models too, are the same general color). The orange wood chair is connected to the TV stand (which unfortunately can’t be seen from the above picture’s angle) and the shelving by the refrigerator that draws a line between the kitchen and living rooms. And the blue chair recalls the color of the cabinetry in the kitchen. The chairs were not simply fished out of a trash bin. They were painted to fit within the room’s decor. Robin’s egg blue, purple, and creme. Those colors are repeated throughout the apartment with enough presence to counteract the random bursts of other colors like the colors on the couch pillows or that green paneling in the back corner that leads to the closet full of unorganized crap and the window exit to the fire escape.
Also, note that the common space of Monica’s apartment is an open floor plan with no hard division between the kitchen and the living room. The colors of the walls versus cabinetry delineate the spaces in a superficial way, but that it’s all one room is embraced instead of worked against. The reverse would have been fine too, separating the room by creating only commonalities in their respective spaces, but it would involve an even greater investment in adhering limitation, which is part of what eclectic styling is supposed to alleviate.
So tl;dr, the thing about eclectic decorating is not that you can just put whatever random shit you find in a room and say it goes together, but that you can use a lot of items that clearly did not come in a set if you do so with a mind for curating them such that there are links of commonality between them, thereby making them go together.