WHAT DOES ECLECTIC MEAN FOR THE HOME?

Given today’s empowered consumer, it’s no wonder that free-wheeling eclecticism is finding expression in more and more homes. It’s the perfect way to express the independence and individualism of the 90’s. Indeed, over 75 percent of women with children between the ages of 6 and 17 are in the work force, at least a quarter more than 1966. That means an increasing numbers of women are out there working, making decisions - and directing their lives and the lives of others.

A newfound confidence in their individual taste is emerging among American consumers. When it comes to the home, it’s all about making choices that reflect lifestyle in a personal, unmannered way. Often this involves a mix of styles, materials and periods. The result: delightful, eclectic interiors that reflect a very specific sense of place.

Hunter Douglas, the window fashion leader, talked to a prominent New York designer and a leading book author and design writer based in San Francisco to see what eclecticism means in today’s interiors.

Vicente Wolf, principal, New York-based Vicente Wolf Associates:

Q: HOW POPULAR IS ECLECTIC STYLE IN AMERICA?
A: "It’s the predominant style of the moment, speaking to people wanting to be more individual by not following any one trend 100 percent, which creates spaces that are unique and tailored to the individual."

Q: HOW DO YOU DEFINE ECLECTIC?
A: "Modern eclectic is an environment that has both reference to the past and to a global lifestyle - for example, with objects from Africa mixed with 1920’s and 18th century pieces; points of view coming from all different directions, but in the final analysis, speaking with one voice."

Q: ARE THERE ANY EMERGING TRENDS WITHIN ECLECTIC STYLE?
A: "I see the softness of the 1930’s and 1940’s in modern furniture and the introduction of Oriental and African influences becoming the new Modern Traditional. It’s about functionality, clean lines and returning to old materials that haven’t been used in a long time."

Q: ARE THERE ANY GEOGRAPHICAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR WHERE ECLECTIC STYLE IS FOUND?
A: "We live in a global world where a point of view gets adjusted due to region and weather and lifestyle, but the basic point of view stays the same."

Q: HOW CAN WINDOW TREATMENTS BEST ACCENT THE ECLECTIC LOOK?
A: "Window treatments best accent eclecticism in a subtle and simple way. It’s all about the capability of allowing the outdoors in, of light and openness and a more functional way of dealing with it, approached in a simpler, cleaner, more practical way."

Diane Dorrans Saeks, San Francisco-based writer and editor who specializes in interior design and architecture; author of California Wine Country and Kitchens and Living Rooms in the new California Design Library series (Chronicle Books):

OVERVIEW: "There is no single arbiter of design direction today. Ten or 15 years ago, three magazines and a handful of California and New York designers set the tone for the whole country. Now people are exposed to a broad range of inspiration, and in my mind that is what underlies eclecticism. They look to television and films, magazines and newspapers, museum shows, catalogs, home stores, design books and even fashion designers - so no single style can predominate."

Q: HOW POPULAR IS ECLECTIC STYLE IN AMERICA TODAY?
A: "Eclectic style is it. Theme design is very tired as a concept. For example, full-tilt Santa Fe style translated to the Connecticut shore looks unsuitable. Appropriateness and a light hand with the decor are important. People are looking for a broader, more personal approach to design that reflects their life, interests, passion and culture. The concept of living in an all-Shaker house or authentic period rooms has all the appeal of living in a museum. Everyone is looking for comfort, charm, originality, some quirkiness and a dash of humor."

Q: ARE THERE ANY EMERGING TRENDS WITHIN ECLECTIC STYLE?
A: "I see 1920’s and 1930’s Moderne and highly idealized 1950’s and 1970’s looks. Tend-setting furniture and accessories designers frequent flea markets in Paris, New York, London, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and the influences of the mismatched pottery and architect-designed chairs they find are turning up in new collections. But any sort of influence is used with a light touch - no more of that heavy-hand, over-chintzed English Country. Contrast, juxtaposition and ‘no rules’ are the right directions. And especially in California, design is being expressed with a much more open mind."

Q: HOW CAN WINDOW TREATMENTS BEST ACCENT THE ECLECTIC LOOK?
A: "Subtle window treatments that serve as a low-key, elegant background best enhance the eclectic look today. Very few people are doing elaborate window decor, and you certainly don’t see much of that in California. It might be appropriate on Fifth Avenue still but even there, most people are lightning it up. At the window, eclecticism can be expressed in paler colors , more understated design and subtler materials. An uncomplicated approach to window treatments is both practical and aesthetically most successful."