Interior design: How to build an eclectic design look in Jerusalem

What is an eclectic design look and how do you create it in your Jerusalem home? 

Eclectic design is the art of coordinating design styles, period-defining colors, prints, and shapes to create a cohesive look in your home. Eclectic is often the decorative style of choice for new immigrants who brought lifts full of favorite furniture but are moving into space-constrained Israeli homes. How do you make an antique cherrywood Chippendale rocking chair look like it belongs in a living room full of stark white cabinets? 

As an interior designer myself, I advise clients to start with a floor plan of their home-to-be and carefully choose what they plan on bringing before they end up with a roomful of furniture they need to sell on Yad2. With a few accent pieces, they can integrate the design into their signature “look.” For this article, I decided to find out what other designers are doing to create eclectic cohesion in the homes of their Jerusalem clients.

Svietka Rivilis

Svietka Rivilis, founder of Room 21, calls herself the “Queen of the Eclectic” and is prone to style mashing. She is fearless and her rooms reflect the bold choices of her clients and her dramatic design direction. Prints are made to be mixed – but, she says, the art is in knowing just how to make it all work.

“In my opinion, eclectic design is the most complicated style to create,” Rivilis says.

NOFAR BEN HAMO‘S eclectic look includes a bed with a dark cherry headboard, a sleek metal wall sculpture of a seagull, a modern white dresser, and a slate blue accent wall. (credit: Gili Friedman)

“If you get the mixture of elements wrong, the place looks like a mismatched college dorm: A piece from home, another from your grandmother, a poster on the wall, and something you dragged in from the trash.”

While planning an eclectic project, she treats it as if it is “a zoo.” She says this is the definition of eclectic, with lots of very different animals all living in proximity.

“Start with your elephant – the largest animal in the zoo,” she explains. “What are the biggest pieces that will draw attention? Is it a big, modern, minimalistic, straight-cornered couch with metal legs? If so, all the other pieces need to come together around it, without matching it. There is a Russian saying: ‘Not the same song but all from the same opera.’”

She says that in the same way a DJ segues between a techno song to a ballad, so should the eclectic room create a juxtaposition that is pleasing to the eye.

“You cannot teach an eclectic style, but you can copy almost any other style.”

“Where the designer’s genius comes in is to know the proportions. Clients by themselves may have trouble envisioning the full picture and understanding which pieces will go with others. If you have a good designer, they will let you know which sofa will go with that coffee table you really, really like.”

She adds that this involves a lot of trust in your designer in the process of creating an eclectic room, and that the designer must be aware of precisely what the client does not want. 

“Good communication is essential, especially when it comes to eclectic style, because a client may have a hard time expressing what they don’t like,” she notes. “I drill them to get as specific as possible. ‘Do you like the couch? The armchair? The table? What is it you don’t like about the couch? Is it the color? The shape?’ When designing an eclectic room, the designer must put their ego on hold because they may hear no a lot before they finally hear yes.”

For an apartment in Jerusalem’s Rechavia neighborhood, Svietka designed the perfect example of eclectic maximalism. The apartment owner had robust collections of art, photographs, furniture, and collectibles.

“These were things that made her happy,” Rivilis says.

When Rivilis first met her client, she was called in to refresh a former apartment and to help organize the collections. When the client found a larger apartment and decided to move, Rivilis convinced her to empty her storage units, which had even more interesting items, and used these to fuel the eclectic look.

“No other style could have been used with the volume and quantity of these collections,” explained Rivilis. “Her entire lifestyle is eclectic. Her home reflects her soul.”

In the living room/dining room, Rivilis used a blue wall to accent the contents. Another room, a library, has even more. The design includes a carefully curated mixture of colors, textures, styles, and periods. Against a royal blue wall, side by side with an Ikea classic-style sofa is a white wicker chair, two vintage tray tables, an ethnic rug, an antique hutch with a display of dishware, and modern wooden lampshades created from very inexpensive baskets.

Original antique Moroccan lamps are perched next to a display of china, along with a collection of antique teacups, teapots, and copper utensils stored and displayed above the door, as well as on ladder-style shelves. They stand alongside a huge, hand-painted Noah’s ark-themed armoire and handmade ethnic baskets, atop a very modern minimalistic table.

The library room features a modern-looking black leather recliner adjacent to a small vintage metal cupboard that Rivilis painted yellow. The wall has a small metal curio cabinet from Thailand filled with the client’s collection of Oriental dolls. The bookshelves are simple white, straight-edge shelves from Ikea. A wicker soft-rounded unit is used for book storage and the antique hand-painted chandelier picks up the yellow of the metal cupboard.

Hana Shahaf

HANA SHAHAF of Havaya Design in nearby Ma’aleh Adumim used an eclectic mix of colors to fuse modern with natural and rustic in a Ma’aleh Adumim home. Her client, who hails from Greece, wanted only the best and was interested in creating a cozy, warm atmosphere. 

Shahaf used wood veneer cabinets to create an “American” rustic warmth and to achieve an eclectic mix, combining dark and light: black marble counters and beige cabinets and barstools. In the adjacent living room, she used industrial metal furniture in beige and pink tones, softening the look, along with a veneer wall media console below the TV set.

Chen Eytan

Wood is a frequent element used in eclectic design. It creates a natural look that contrasts with other elements in the room. Chen Eytan utilizes the wood look – on floors, cabinetry, furniture, and atop steps. She blends sleek modern tiles, oriental rugs, and in one Jerusalem home, even an aqua-backdropped wood-burning stove, metal bookshelves, modern light fixtures, and black aluminum-lined doors and windows to create just enough dissonance to make the room eye-catching. In what seems like a modern variation of a country dining area, she combines wood and white cabinetry with a modern wood-lined snake-shaped ceiling lamp with black aluminum tracks in the kitchen. A red tile backdrop contrasts nicely with the wooden kitchen vitrine and table, and black chairs.

A powder room sink echoes the oak wood look for the cabinet that holds up the rectangular marble. An old-fashioned wall faucet fused to herringbone applied rectangular tiles contrasts with the cloud-like wallpaper – all in gray. A brown vintage-style mirror hangs above the sink and a modern bell-shaped fixture adds light.

Nofar Ben Hamo

Nofar Ben Hamo, a designer who lives in Kedar on the outskirts of Jerusalem, says the definition of eclectic to her is a balance of different styles. In an Airbnb she designed in Talpiot, she combined a bed with a dark cherry headboard and a sleek metal wall sculpture of a seagull above the bed, a modern white dresser, and a slate blue accent wall to create a crisp, inviting look for the bedroom. Botanical pictures on the wall create an impersonal yet professional look that is important when you are trying to make a lodging “guest-friendly.” 

Jennifer Ungar

When Rabbi Daniel Katz, CEO of the Elevation Project, wanted to create a meditation space in his Givat Hamivtar villa, designer Jennifer Ungar was given the creative opportunity to bring about a space that authentically represents Jewish and Kabbalistic traditions, while appealing to a contemporary audience. By embracing an eclectic approach, the design team solved the problem of bridging the gap between traditional and modern. It allowed for the integration of diverse design elements that accommodate the needs and preferences of a wide range of visitors.

What once was a room filled with boxes became a place that allows people to encounter each other and themselves. Each corner of the room showcases intricate architectural details adorned with sacred symbols and artistic representations inspired by Jewish and Kabbalistic traditions. Featuring a harmonious color palette and carefully curated artifacts, this fosters an environment conducive to deep meditation and introspection.

Katz specifically wanted an eclectic feel, incorporating multiple influences, to capture the client’s vision of a distinctive and captivating meditation environment to provide a transformative experience for visitors.

“Jennifer was able to bring together all these diverse elements to create a space that offers an invitation to pause, reflect, and rejuvenate amid the bustling city,” explains Katz.

Muriel Davis

MURIEL DAVIS defines eclectic design as a very happy marriage of different and contrasting styles.

“I love designing homes and an eclectic style evolves; [it] reflects our multinational backgrounds with multicultural influences,” explains Davis. 

“Clients often bring their favorite pieces of furniture with them from their homes abroad and we then incorporate them into Israeli apartments, which take on a vibe of their own, resulting in eclecticism at its best.”

She offers as example a cream living room in Baka she says is a true expression of eclecticism, tying in many styles and worlds into one little room. The modern cream leather couch sits contentedly next to a European rug, on which is perched a typical Moroccan table illuminated by an Italian-designed light. Facing the couch is a classical unit inspired by Jerusalem, the lower cabinets being topped by Hebroni marble – these unexpected pairings create a unique and harmonious environment. 

When Davis’ client wanted her British 1950s furniture to be the focal point of the room in her Shoresh home just outside Jerusalem, she created the “Eau De Nil” room, where the light is so different from a typical English gray sky. Addressing the light, Davis painted the wall a warm hue of green and placed the traditional British pieces along one wall where they face a painting of an old Jerusalem synagogue and a modern Israeli couch. The Italian table acts as the moderator between them. 

In another Davis-designed study, a vintage bicycle and vinyl record are central features, perched above numerous screens as a perfect juxtaposition of old and new. 

An exotic bedroom is an eclectic combination with Indian brass neoclassical candlesticks sitting above a French marble-topped dresser. The African-inspired bed is adjacent to the more European-inspired wardrobe, reminiscent of a past era. Davis points out that the contrasting styles, colors, hues, and textures create an eclectic sensual bedroom vibe. 

“Eclectic styles are often a great solution that bring warmth, soul, and atmosphere into a space or home that would otherwise be too homogenous and lack interest, and contrast,” adds Davis.

WITH A fusion of elements from various periods, regions, and design movements, eclectic interiors in Israel create singular, visually stimulating spaces.

Israel’s eclectic design aesthetic is greatly influenced by its geographical location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. This melting pot of cultures is reflected in the eclectic interiors which seamlessly blend different styles, textures, patterns, and colors to create a harmonious and eclectic ambiance.

One defining feature of eclectic interior design in Israel is the use of vibrant colors. Deep blues, fiery oranges, earthy browns, and vivid yellows are often incorporated into the design scheme, lending a sense of energy and warmth to the space. These colors are inspired by the natural landscapes of Israel, such as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev Desert, and the bustling markets of Tel Aviv.

Eclectic interiors in Israel often embrace local craftsmanship, natural materials, and lots of distinct textures. From exposed brick walls to natural stone and reclaimed tile floors, these spaces celebrate the beauty of organic elements. The use of natural light is also a key aspect, with large windows and open floor plans enabling the outside environment to seamlessly merge with the interior.

Finally, eclectic interiors in Israel often incorporate elements of Middle Eastern design such as arches, intricate geometric patterns, and mosaic tile work. 

With assistance from a creative designer, people looking for eclectic interior design in Israel can fuse a captivating blend of cultural influences, vibrant colors, traditional and contemporary elements, and natural materials. By doing so, they embrace the country’s diverse heritage and create special, visually stimulating spaces that are a true reflection of the country’s eclectic identity. ❖

The writer is an interior designer and journalist from Karnei Shomron.

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