- Written by Jane Clyde, 1 April 2016
We island dwellers love to shop and travel, and shop while travelling, and this is reflected in our homes. Jane Clyde reports.
The homes I’ve visited in Lantau (and across Hong Kong) have one thing in common. Regardless of their size, shape or design savvy, they all exhibit a strong global awareness. A way of creating surroundings that reflect an appreciation for the beauty of other cultures, global style relies more than any other on personal taste and decorating ability.
Travellers have always had a taste for the exotic and there is nothing new about decorating with objects from other cultures. As far back as the 2nd century BC, the Silk Road ferried luxury items, such as silk and jade, from China to Rome. During the Renaissance, the world opened up to exploration and connoisseurs everywhere began to collect exotica, and use it on an everyday basis.
When you substitute ordinary objects with a multicultural blend of furnishings, you are well on the way to designing a chic, global-style interior. Creating an exotic atmosphere starts by adding a few surprises to a room: replacing that boring glass coffee table with a weathered Indian drum, or exchanging a run-of-the-mill TV cabinet with a Ming-look wedding chest.
Travel-led style is about making practical household pieces stand out by selecting unusual global treasures in lieu of machine-made, mass-produced goods. Global decorators are not inspired by brand names, they are more likely to pick up a couple of contemporary Shona statues on the roadside in Cape Town, or a one-off antique dining table at a flea market in Paris. Above all, this look champions the unique, the interesting and the erudite.
Tricks of the trade
The idea is to combine the familiar and the foreign without falling into farce. The Victorians loved a themed room, in particular Turkish rooms, in which low divans were piled high with cushions and lavishly draped with Persian rugs, but today this kind of themed approach is definitely out – too studied at best, too kitsch at worst. What you are aiming for, instead, is an imaginatively furnished interior that incorporates a host of different cultural objects and influences.
From the romantic curves of a wicker daybed crafted in Java to the festive hues of an Indian throw, every element you select for a room changes the overall dynamic and reveals something about your personality. But creating a harmonious living environment from pieces from far-flung places isn’t the easiest of options. You’ll need a mood board to check that contrasting shapes and colours work together.
While quality alone can sometimes be enough to justify a piece’s presence in a scheme, objects must combine well to create a unified backdrop for living. For early 20th century architect and designer Mies van der Rohe: “God [was] in the details”. For lovers of global style, heaven is in the total environment.