The trend that's not going away
Design by Olga Adler
photographs by Olson Photographic
Not so long ago I was driving down the East Coast and thinking about topics for my various decorating articles for magazines and blogs assignments. On this trip – as indeed everywhere I go in America – I found countless evidence of old Europe. Isn’t it amazing that so many beautiful pieces of furniture and decorative items are still around? Our ancestors were wonderfully open to everything that arrived from far away. They decorated their homes with solid and trusted British furniture but quickly added new features – Oriental vases, African stools and other reflections of a worldly, sophisticated approach to life.
Global chic was always here!
It is good to be curious and open to new things. Most well-decorated homes have a predominant style, but not to the point of becoming “museum perfect”. Even traditional spaces cry out for a touch of imagination. This can be achieved by bringing together varied elements to decorate with flare and fantasy. Our 21st century homes can remain distinctly American, while also featuring accents from Asian, African and European sources – just as our forebears did.
The spaces I decorate often include things I’ve discovered during my travels. My designs are festooned with items from trips to India, Morocco, Kenya and the Far East. A lifestyle magazine once called my designs “well-traveled” and “eclectic,” although I don’t really strive for that effect. I just love many of the things I see during my travels, and sometimes I bring them home. I love juxtaposing old and new, local and foreign. If it looks good, it’s working!
What mixes best with almost everything? Here are some classics and my personal favorites: Persian rugs, European mouth-blown glass, sisal rugs, hand-painted paneled screens, Juju hats, campaign style folding chairs and Chinese garden stools.
Many people are surprised to learn how many design features of today’s homes come from another time and place.
Upholstered seating dates to 17th Century Europe. Original fabrics included leather, velvet and tapestry – yes, you guessed correctly, still the favorite fabrics of this and many seasons to come. Rooms take on new depth and interest with the help of mixed colors, patterns and textures. Now, as then, see what a luxurious effect can be created when you blend velvet and silks or wool and leather.
Floor matting became common in Europe in the 16th Century. Thick and sturdy mats were imported from North Africa and later from China and Japan. Today they are still a classic favorite, made of sisal, coir or sea grass, usually in natural or olive color. One of the cleanest and most striking looks I can think of is a background of a sisal rug with a beautiful piece of dark-stained furniture placed against it.
Paper wall covering dates to the 15th Century and has undergone many changes and improvements. Of course, wallpaper is back and more beautiful than ever. Those made of or imitating natural materials, like raffia or bamboo, are beautiful and easy to mix with almost any style. If you aspire to a spa look in your master suite or powder room it is a perfect choice.
For those who prefer paint but are also seeking texture, faux finishes can make any room vibrant and interesting. These techniques date to ancient Greece and Rome, but new methods and materials are constantly being introduced.
- Room dividers were first used in Asia and later Europe to create privacy, but today are stylish accessories. They are usually made of 3 or 4 panels built of solid wood with painted decorative patterns, or are covered with fabric or wallpaper to complement upholstered pieces, window treatments or bedding. These can also be latticed like garden screens and made of exotic woods, cane or bamboo.
These days we travel all the time. While you’re away, immerse yourself in local flavor and feel. Take note of furnishings that excite you. The design-focused homeowner may be on holiday, but we’re always looking. Bring or send home that plantation coffee table, antique Chinese vase, Polish crystal, French linens or Moroccan pottery. (In case you’re wondering; yes, as my ever-patient husband can attest, I bring things back home from every trip).
If you’re not a traveler, you can still bring home some of that worldly flavor. Thankfully, the resources for “global chic” are endless. So, you need not go far to find that perfect piece of furniture, lamp or painting that will make your home different from all others.
Decorating is about bringing what you love into your home. Well put together eclectic look is more chic than ever. Enjoy it!
Olga Adler is a fashion-loving and world-traveling interior designer. Known for her fondness for simple forms, love of color and unique accessories, she has won acclaim for her refreshing approach to classic design. She is the author of “Distinctive Interiors of Fairfield County” and recipient of 2010 Fairfield County “40 UNDER 40” award.
To contact Olga visit her website: www.olgaadlerinteriors.com or call 203-438-4743