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Does the thought of sticking to one and only one design style leave you feeling constrained? Are you drawn to rooms featuring an effortlessly layered look that by the nature of  its diversity feels well lived in and full of personality? For me, I’ve always been jealous of my sister and brother-in-law’s home. Somehow they’ve turned what in my hands would be cluttered chaos into an eclectic collage of vintage-modern masterpieces. I’ve come to the conclusion that some people are born with this innate gift (or is it a super power?) for mixing and matching disparate pieces of decor. Design Star winner Emily Henderson and HGTV favorite Erinn Valencich are masters of mix and match. Others of us can learn. If you, like me, adore but are slightly intimidated by this approach to design, then you’re in luck. Mix-and-match is hot right now. And by breaking down an eclectic space design layer by design layer, it’s possible for us mere mortals to pull of this cool trend. Here are four mini-lessons.

1. Farmer Chic, Living Area Designed by Gregory Augustine

Design Happens - Mix and Match - Maculine with Feminine Living Room

I call this room “Farmer Chic” rather than shabby chic for the way it blends antique and modern, masculine and feminine, natural and industrial. (And also because there’s not a single Rachel Ashwell pink rose or cotton frill in sight.) This office loft resembles the army-floral clothing trend that’s been popping up everywhere. In this space, it starts with mixing of masculine – the artful arrangement of rugged antique tools on the wall and the exposed rough-hewn support beams. Then there’s the feminine touches of nature with the moss and flowers in a rusted industrial barrel on top of a coffee table that resembles bundled sticks. Plus, there’s the leaf print pillows in neutral tones. Mixed with these layers is the juxtaposition of the feminine curves of the armless contemporary sofa and rounded waiting area with the the sharp zigzags of the minimalist metal office table. The fuchsia sofa serves as the focal point and single dose of bright color. The introduction of more vibrant colors would have been too much.

2. Color Contrasts on a Safari, Designed by Peppermint Bliss

Mix and Match Trend - Bold Contrasting Colors - Peppermint Bliss

Color is where most of us start when designing a room. But going for big and bold in a room of white or taupe walls can be like jumping off a high dive for the first time. You might go splat…or you might make a splash. In this family room, the repeat of coral in the door and wall trim, in the geometric rug and in the wall art smartly offsets the focal point of the room – the navy blue velvet sofa. Without those bright accents, the L-shaped sofa would swallow up the space. Global style adds another design layer, as seen in the lion and tiger pillows, the gold elephant, the framed ethnic art and the travel trunk. The third layer is the mix and match of the vintage trunk, the mid-century mod Eames chair and the traditional tufted sofa. The restrained repeat of squares and rectangles provides pleasing framing.

3. Preppy Exotic Layers, Designed by Erinn Valencich

Design Happens - Oriental-African Layered Patterns - Design by Erinn Vanlencich

Erinn Valencich‘s “Preppy Exotic Layers” home office is, at the same time, sophisticated, attention-grabbing, global and classic — similar to the exotic & preppy fashion trend swirling around right now. Without reserve, Erinn layers the delicate trellis graphic of the wallpaper with the ornate mirror; the thistle-printed bench with the Asian silk boxes and the diagonal striped pillow. There’s also the exotic zebra stripes, traditional striped pattern on the upholstered chair and the preppy chic geometrics on the drapes. A Pangea of design exists in the presence of Asia, Europe, Africa and America all in one room. It’s the essential layer of “white space” in the pillow, desk, bookshelf, lampshade, roman shade, wall and urn that provide a visual breather from the play of pattern as well as the strong Mandarin red and royal blue.

4. Organized Eclectic Clutter, Shelf Designed by Emily Henderson

Design Happens - Organized Clutter Shelves - Designed by Emily Henderson

Study stylist Emily Henderson if you love California cool, mid-century mod, 70′s chic and ethnic treasures. Also because she’s a virtuoso of “organized eclectic clutter” vignettes. In this display, the swirls in the abstract graphic wallpaper and the cluster of greenery provide movement while the evenly spaced horizontal and vertical repeats in the wooden bookshelf anchor the display. Then the vertical and horizontal lines of the bookshelf, books, and picture frames are softened by the rounded vases and pots. She cleanly mixes organic elements in the pottery, wood grain and greenery with the metallics found in the ethnic trinkets and silvery gray wallpaper swirls. (A metallic and jeweled antelope, the focal point in this display, sits off camera left.) All together, it’s a visually exciting asymmetrical but balanced display.

Like Emily, Erinn and these other designers, you too can transform mismatched treasures hiding in the back of your closet into a decorative work of art. Or that odd assortment of furniture and decor you’ve inherited, married into and purchased over the years into a statement room you’ll love. It’s all about being aware of your layers, picking your focal point, playing with contrasts and finding balance. I think I can do it now (with a little help from my big sis), how about you?

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  9. […] Eclectic decor is in: learn about the mix + match design […]

  10. Anna@HGTV says:

    Hi jbqb, we've got some great HGTV French Country content on our website. I suggest searching Designers' Portfolio under Old World (also Cottage and English Country): http://www.hgtv.com/designers-portfolio/room/old-

    We also covered the new French General book on our design blog. You'll love The French-Inspired Home and the French General blog. http://blog.hgtv.com/design/2011/05/14/what-were-… & http://frenchgeneral.blogspot.com/

  11. Hilary Johnson says:

    Hi Franziska! That room is one of my favorites too. And I love how easy it is to turn a modern or contemporary design into "Farmer Chic" these days. It only takes a few touches of nature to completely alter the mood of a room.

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