Colorful, ornate rugs are a hallmark of Middle Eastern decor, as are cotton fabrics that appear hand-printed or hand-dyed. And when rugs, pillows, and quilts are layered and piled with abandon, a bedroom takes on that fully lived-in and collected appearance so beloved.
Designer Bridgid Coulter offers tricks on how to get a global look in your home.
It takes just one or two ornate or vibrantly hued pieces to amp up any room, and Moroccan elements are a go-to choice for their lush colors and complex designs. Here, an intricately carved partition filters sunlight at the window, while bamboo chairs cluster around a table dressed in lemon-hue linen. Each piece is eye-catching on its own, but gathered together, they give the impression of a well-traveled denizen.
Suzani textiles, distinctive for their embroidery and graphic designs depicting flowers, leaves, and fruit, as well as the sun and the moon, hail from Central Asia and go back hundreds of years. But this bedroom shows that these fabrics can make a mark on modern homes too -- here, a suzani tapestry doubles as a headboard and wall art.
A neutral foundation -- the stone-gray walls, a white sofa, and a khaki rug -- takes on a faintly Indian flavor with bright pillows and artwork and an orange leather side table. Note how the orange items immediately draw the eye -- it is a strong, invigorating hue more common in other (sun-drenched) countries, and it immediately gives any room energy.
This bright-eyed bedroom pulls from two very different cultures: the dignified British (in the dark wood bed and bench) and the breezier Caribbean (linen curtains and embroidered pillow). The balance between the two makes for an elegant room with a little sizzle. One gets the impression that water as blue-green as the ceiling and sun as dazzling as the mirror might lie just outside the window.
If you prefer muted neutrals to tangy hues, take inspiration from this space. Chartreuse and magenta might not be the typical accent colors for a bedroom cloaked in cream, gray, and brown, but the saturated hues impart a touch of the exotic to an otherwise classic scheme.
This den displays dueling designs at work: The old-fashioned dignity of European wingback chairs, a dark wood desk, and gilt-frame portraits on the wall are combined with the more dazzling decor of the tropics -- most notably in a brass and glass lantern, the grass-cloth wallcovering, the black ikat curtains, and fabric accents bursting with greenery. The play between the opposing styles is like a Hemingway novel: It speaks English but tells tales of exotic locales.
A playful pile of heavily embroidered pillows adorned with tassels and mirrors enlivens this wicker chair with Indian flair. The combination of colors is vibrant and much more multifaceted than a typical two- or three-color fabric. The key to making it work? Choose pillows that have one or two common colors and play up that color on other surfaces.
This family room is proof that introducing Moroccan style to an American home can spark a major connection. Pillows and curtains with eye-popping patterns, an orange leather ottoman, tables in exotic colors and shapes, and a white horse figurine entertain colorful Moroccan design, while the room maintains American comfort in neutral walls, floors, and furnishings.
The combination of turquoise-blue chinoiserie panels and orange-red tone-on-tone wallpaper make a bold exclamation in this dining room. Both choices are rich in East-Asian influence but aren't overpowering for a small or seldom-used room. Red is a common color for eating areas, and this color's hint of orange makes it modern and fresh. The rest of the room wisely stays more subdued -- the dark pedestal table, glossy white chairs, and zebra-stripe rug of giant scale -- to let the walls and artwork seize the spotlight.
A few Asian-inspired accessories -- blue chinoiserie lamps and bamboo dining chairs -- add an extra layer of dazzle to this dining room, which is awash in an eclectic mix of styles. Everything is held in delicate tension with a cohesive color scheme and just the right touch of glamour.
An all-white bedroom bursts into vibrant song with curtains, pillows, and a coverlet the color of a hibiscus flower in full bloom. Bamboo nightstands, palm-tree lamps, and matchstick blinds all contribute to the room's tropical flavor.
Chairs swabbed with chalky paint, antique burlap and linen, and a sinuous chandelier all speak with a French accent and imbue a room with casual country charm. Country French style is particularly appealing because such rooms appear long-loved, lived-in, and unfussy enough for the whole family to enjoy.
Simple shapes and clean lines -- both brightened by happy color -- display Swedish sensibilities at their best. Because Sweden's signature furnishings and accessories are so spare, they slip into almost any scheme with ease (hello, Swedish import IKEA).
A couple of Asian elements -- a bamboo chair and carved desk splashed with vibrant red paint -- energize an otherwise placid office. It's proof that a room might need just a touch of imported style to really blossom.
What a difference some artwork makes! A wood-framed Guatemalan burlap bag (used to transport grain and coffee from farm to market) gives an otherwise modern-leaning breakfast room a little heft and history.
Old-world kitchens are having a renaissance of sorts as we long to bring the character, patina, and hardiness of European style into our homes. Stone countertops, open shelves supported with carved corbels, and walls of shapely white tile, work with an exposed-plank ceiling to hearken back to the old country, but the details are just as beautiful and authentic here and now.
Since winter can be long, dark, and gray, Scandinavians brighten the indoors with sunny colors and handsome design. Woodwork and furnishings may not be ornate or detailed (these cabinets are pretty spare, as is the window casing), but their simplicity shines forth under sprightly colors. Plenty of shining white on the walls and trim balances the bubbly blue.