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As you ransack far-flung flea markets and souks this summer, consider bringing back a few treasures to reinvent your home decor.
Imogen 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. Or to put it another way, we Hongkongers love to travel, and shop while travelling, and this is reflected in our homes.

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, porcelain 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 chosen for their unique shape, pattern or craftsmanship, you are well on the way to designing a chic, travel – led interior. Creating an exotic atmosphere star ts by adding a few unexpected surprises to a room: replacing that boring glass coffee table with an ornately carved drum picked up in Chiang Rai or exchanging a pretty museum-bought poster for a dazzling beaded Nigerian George fabric. Travel – led style is about making ‘everyday items’ stand out by selecting unusual, globally sourced treasures in lieu of machine-made, massproduced goods.

As French architect Le Corbusier said back in the 1920s: “The home should be the treasure chest of living.”

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. The trendiest travel-led schemes combine furnishings, fabrics and accessories from all over the globe.

In choosing key pieces, you are not confined to any one country, and neither are you tied to one period of time – modern pieces can combine well with curios and antiques. It’s about mixing things up to achieve a global perspective.

One word of warning: making a success of a travelled scheme relies heavily on your own sense of style and decorating ability. You are creating a design scheme that reflects your appreciation for the beauty of other cultures, so a strong sense of purpose and aesthetic vision is required. It’s the way you put the look together that counts.

When designing any complicated living space, the first step is to visualise how it will look, so it’s worth spending some time working up an interiordesign mood board. A mood board is a tried-and-tested way to collect inspiration, explore ideas and set the tone for your design project. Start by set ting up a canvas on which to arrange photos of new and existing furnishings and accessories that you’d like to include in your scheme. Add in paint and fabric samples that interest you, and see what works together and what doesn’t.

You’re looking to create a cohesive scheme in which the contrasting shapes, colours and styles work together. So be ruthless. If the treasured wedding cabinet you bought in Beijing years ago doesn’t fit with the other items on your mood board, give it to a friend or put it into storage.

Creating a harmonious living environment from pieces from far-flung places isn’t the easiest of options. And as a general rule, a minimal layout works best, star ting with the backdrop. Unusual textures and bold hues are part and parcel of a travel-led scheme – lacquer, pewter and porcelain, as well as animal skin, fake fur and beaded or ethnic fabrics can all feature in the furnishings and accessories. So you’re well advised to provide a bit of breathing space, some visual relief by keeping the surrounding walls and floors fuss-free.

Simple wood or tiled flooring, perhaps punctuated by a couple of rugs, helps tone things down, as does monochromatic paintwork. While stark white walls are too cold for an exotic-looking room, you can play around with shades of off-white and cream, perhaps even a sexy combination of grey and taupe. If your heart is set on bold paintwork, limit yourself to just one colourful statement wall.

A minimalist approach will also help when you’re filling in the details. Minimal doesn’t have to mean empty or utilitarian but it does mean clutterfree. A ‘less is more’ approach to accessories and furnishings will bring each piece into focus and show off your discerning eye. Overstuff a room with too many items, no matter how beautiful, and it will end up looking more like a flea market than an inviting place to hang out.

From fusion cuisine to travel-led decorating, the exciting thing about blending influences from around the world is in creating something original. The romantic curves of a wicker daybed crafted in Java, the festive hues of a Moroccan throw… every element you select for a room changes the overall dynamic and reveals something about your personality.

Above all, you are given the option to think out of the box, combining pieces from disparate times and places that mean something to you personally and, when arranged together, express your personal style. Know too that you are free to use furnishings in new and imaginative ways for purposes entirely different from their original intent. That tiny, cutglass Moroccan vase, you picked up in a souk last month, might, for instance, provide the finishing touch to your bathroom – as a toothbrush holder. Approach decorating in this way and every item in your home becomes a potential talking point, and something to spark fond memories.

A travel-led scheme can take a lifetime to per fect, and therein lies much of its charm. It’s something that you build on year after year, as you add in interesting, new pieces. Finding yourself in a London flea market, you might finally happen upon the slightly rickety but beautifully formed Regency dining table you’ve coveted for what seems like forever; one morning in Cape Town, you might spot a couple of Shona statues on the roadside that will fill a long-standing gap on your bedside table.

Above all, global style champions the unique, the interesting and the erudite. It’s not about filling your home with high-priced, big-brand items, supplemented by sneaky trips to Ikea. It’s about gradually creating your own personal ‘treasure chest of living,’ as you travel and shop the globe.

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