The furniture she inherited from her in-laws was classic, antique and dark, heavy wood -- not at all her style. But Hope Gleicher of Chevy Chase treasured those pieces and wanted a way to make them her own.
"We didn't want to discard the furniture, but the heavy, dark wood just didn't feel like it went with the house," she said. Her solution was a popular design scheme that pulls together pieces of different styles and prices into an eclectic space with personality.
The design trend is a great way of breaking free from one confining theme. By mixing old with new and high-end with low-end, homeowners can build on what they already have, says Heather Jackson, assistant editor of Home & Design magazine.
"There's a lot of different design styles, but people are more comfortable with mixing because they aren't committing to one particular design trend and they can use their own things," Jackson says. "Most design is going to work like that unless you're starting from scratch with one design style in mind."
Gleicher used several tricks to incorporate the antiques into her personal style. She gave a dark antique dresser a simple paint job to modernize its look. "We painted it with funky yellow and green stripes and sort of punched it up that way, but we also kept all the old hardware," she said.
To update an old sofa, Gleicher opted for color -- an orange slip cover -- to give it a fresh look. When accessorizing the space, Gleicher was thrifty and creative. To balance the heavy high-end furniture, she bought wrought-iron pieces from a garden store, which were less expensive and more playful. By combining pieces that normally wouldn't go together, Gleicher gave her home a design that was trendy but personal.
"We feel very relaxed about mixing different styles and periods," she said, "We made it feel like us."
But figuring out how to combine Grandma's china cabinet with your contemporary dining table isn't always easy. No design doesn't mean no plan.
"If you try to mix too many things without any guidance, you might go too far the wrong way," Jackson says.
Pulling off this diverse design is a balancing act, says Debbie Wiener, an interior decorator for Designing Solutions in Silver Spring. Decorating anxieties may keep you from trying something new and getting it right, so Wiener offers several tips for the do-it-yourself decorator:
Examine your lifestyle: When pulling together an eclectic space, make sure the furniture fits you. "It makes no sense to keep an heirloom if it doesn't fit in your home or your lifestyle," Wiener says. If you're on the go a lot and don't have time for regular cleaning, choose fabrics and furniture that are low-maintenance. Avoid delicate silks or pieces that show dust and dirt. The room has to be functional.
Match your personality: Your home should fit your taste, Wiener says. "Nothing's worse than seeing a home with three kids, two dogs and a cat running past ornate, carved mahogany baseboards," she says. For the busy family, keep it casual but refined with classics like old Shaker or American Country pieces. If you're looking for trendy, one-of-a-kind pieces, custom furniture might be your splurge.
Color: Open your closet and take inspiration from the colors you see in your wardrobe, Wiener recommends. "Ask yourself, are you a hot or cold person? Do you like open, airy spaces or warm and cozy rooms?" Incorporating the colors you are naturally drawn to will give your home a personal touch. "It's not about matching colors, just finding what's right for you," she says. If you have a wooden country-style table, add a pop of color with a contemporary rug.
Size: "There's no point in putting an oversized sofa with big rolling arms in an itsy-bitsy space with no room for a chair or side table," Wiener says. The furniture has to fit the space for practicality and balance.
Accessorize with passion: "To heck with fashion or what's in all the magazines," Wiener says. "Accessorize with whatever is meaningful to you." She recommends old baseball cards, your kids' artwork or souvenirs from your favorite trip. Don't fill the walls with art you don't love; instead give the room character with sentimental touches.