Something Old Something New: Design Style Inspired by the Pacific Northwest

By Cindy Baldhoff

Take a design cue from a Seattle trend, and blend different styles to create a custom environment.

If mixing and matching is your thing, then you’re probably going to love trying a little “Seattle style” in your home. Although a showroom-perfect home may be all the rage in some cities, Seattle décor tends to be more eclectic.

“That’s a hallmark of northwestern design trends,” says Rebecca West of Rebecca West Interiors and author of the book “Happy Starts at Home.”

“They don’t want it to be too matchy-matchy; they want to be able to put their own thumbprint on it.”

The good news is this kind of mix-and-match mindset can work in any room of the house. West suggests starting in the living room or bedroom and using fabrics to flex your creative muscles before taking on bigger challenges like changing out furniture and replacing tiles.

“It takes some experimentation, and you shouldn’t be afraid to try different things,” she advises. “It’s not heart surgery. It’s not life and death. So enjoy yourself and play and don’t be afraid to stretch yourself.”

Starting Points

If you’re ready to tackle some Seattle style in your own home, then West suggests starting with some of the following:

A Touch of Whimsy

In a room with clean, modern lines, add something lighthearted — perhaps an unexpected pop of color or a cozy, whimsical throw. One of West’s favorite places to use this technique is in the bathroom: “I’ll take a sophisticated, modern bathroom — then add something like a shower curtain with an octopus on it.”

Organic Add-ons

The clean lines of modern rooms can sometimes feel stark, so adding natural wood pieces can add warmth. “This is where being able to rent a certain piece of furniture is great; you can try adding it to the room and see how it works without investing a fortune.”

The Dark Side

Surprisingly, if you want to brighten a room, one of the easiest things you can do is add something dark — paint a wall a dark, rich color, or add a dark accent piece. “It’s all about the contrast,” she says. “When you put this dark thing in a room, it seems more rich, and it gives the room an anchor. The light items in the room suddenly seem brighter.”

New Bohemian

The Bohemian look is all about comfortable layers, but West likes the collision of this look with a minimalist mindset. She combines the colors of a Bohemian ethic with the clean lines of industrial or modern décor, which creates a mood that is “textural but restrained.”

“You have to try different things and see what works for you,” West says, adding elements like super-modern Italian designs or over-the-top artistic pieces might be nearly impossible to pair with other styles. In that case, she says, let the piece of furniture stand on its own — just as you would with a piece of art — and turn your attention to other spaces.

“Let those be the star of the show. Some pieces are meant to be supporting players; they can’t all be fighting for your attention.”

Know your “starring” pieces and cast them accordingly.

Finishing Touches

The final touch of this mix-and-match eclecticism comes through accessories, color, and accents. Seattle-based interior designer Faith Sheridan of Faith Sheridan Interior Design says those elements will help pull it all together.

“Color is about your personality, and you want to ask, ‘Is my space too stark?'” she says. “Be different; try something out of the box — like an orange lamp base.”

The juxtaposition of textures, say, a chair with a smooth wooden frame paired with a looped chenille throw, offers both visual and tactile interest. Doing the unexpected, such as adding a crystal light fixture or an ornate framed mirror in an industrial setting, adds a visual twist. Likewise, bold graphic prints in an otherwise sedate room help give it an unexpected energy.

“Try it on the floor or in fabrics, whether it’s an ottoman or a pillow,” she advises. “Test and test again until you find what you like.”

And, adds West, remember that you can try many different styles and continue changing them out as your tastes, interests, and life stages change.

Buying a piece of clearance furniture or renting furniture instead of buying new allows you to see how it works in the space. “I can use it for a year until I decide to do something different,” she says. “Before you go out and buy something new, you really want to see how it fits in your life and how much you’re going to use it.”

Buying low-cost furniture, such as pieces found through CORT Furniture Clearance Centers, allow you to customize your room with individual pieces and create — or complete — your own eclectic style without spending a fortune.