By Glen Peloso
If you have the chance to speak to or carefully observe anyone who travels extensively, they likely have a style that reflects elements of their travels. This is certainly prevalent in the fashion world, where the “skinny” jeans that are now so popular in North America were all the rage in Europe a few years ago, and the loose, drawstring-waist linen pants that many men favour have a definite East Indian influence.
The same is true in the world of interior design, and it is certainly prevalent when you look at the variety of colours and patterns available. For example, the Moroccan influence in footstool shapes and fabrics, India’s influence on colour palette and pattern and China’s on accessory shapes and style.
We recently saw this trend clearly when we were accessorizing a client’s space. You will see it yourself as you look at the newest home accessories from Indigo where the international influences are evident. This kind of cross-influence isn’t a new experience; in fact, there is evidence of it throughout history. From mid-17th century through to the mid-18th century, France saw the rise of “Chinoiserie,” which was a result of trading between France and China. Traders returning with indigenous home décor items influenced society at large. The same is true when you look at English interior design – since the Royals married cross-culturally, British design was initially influenced by Italian and French designs. And later, there were influences from India, the Caribbean and every other country that the English occupied. Consequently, English design influences were also made popular in the occupied countries.
Today, the international influences are pervasive for a variety of reasons. With so many of the elements of interior design originating in China and India, and with buyers and importers spending so much time in other countries and with access to the Internet, evidence of these influences are increasingly seen in just about every corner of the world.
Start with the colour trends that are popular now, and look to the Indian sari fabrics and colours. The strong oranges, azure blues and golds derive from the spices used in the local food. Traditionally, they also were the basis of dyes to create these colours.
Next, look at the intricate details and complex fabrics that are found in throw pillows and bedding. The silk weaves that comprise the bed spreads and draperies show a strong Indian influence. Using items such as African masks and pottery, wooden sculptures and native wooden figures in décor, particularly when designing a bathroom, is on trend.
In the living room, a Moroccan side table (simple wooden base with a removable copper tray top) coupled with a modern sofa and an Indonesian sideboard, would not be considered a faux pas. Nor should you be afraid to mix and match traditional Chinese or Japanese patterns with influences of a traditional Turkish rug design – such as in a room divider with arches that mimic Indian buildings and Moroccan-inspired, heavily woven fabrics on stools.
In bedrooms, it is not unusual to see carved headboards with linens and a bench at the end of the bed, reminiscent of a traditional seat of the Chinese empire. Feel free to use a bed with a canopy and side draperies in soft, sheer fabrics, perhaps most popular in climates closer to the equator but elegant in any environment. There may be throw cushions in a toile that depict a scene from a country other than in North America.
Also, look at wallpaper patterns that may mimic the complex patterns associated with a Bindi artist’s work. These days we also see a fair amount of animal prints, more evocative of Africa than Toronto. Major Canadian cities reflect these international influences, and such design multiculturalism will continue to have a profound impact on the décor in our homes.
Glen Peloso, design editor at Home Décor and Renovations and principal designer of Glen Peloso Interiors, has been designing spaces for commercial, corporate and residential clients for almost two decades. You’ll recognize Glen as the host of such television design shows as Restaurant Makeover, Take This House & Sell It and Renovate My Wardrobe, to name a few, as well as from speaking engagements at home shows across Canada. glenpelosointeriors.com