Design today is being influenced by styles from all over the world with influences in particular from Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Anything that adds interest is welcome, says design industry sources. If designers can pull off adding foreign influences while maintaining a cohesive interior, it’s a lot more interesting and adds to the story.

There are a number of countries in particular from which Canadian designers are borrowing ideas and looks.

Italy is important for its Murano glass (in many forms and colours) and its furniture. The Italian Provincial look, with its triangular lines, began to become popular in the 1980s and remains so today. Italian Provincial is characterized by natural and nostalgic motifs. The typical look would include pine or oak wood, floral prints, round cushions, plaid fabric covers and woven plaids, textured fabrics, outdoor-themed accessories and braided rugs.

Italian Provincial furniture is based on royal or court furniture. The goal is to reproduce the royal designs, but because the results are more primitive looking, the style is also referred to as peasant furniture. The designs incorporate Middle Eastern, Gothic and Greek styles reflecting Italy’s position as a Mediterranean crossroads.

The Tuscan look is characterized by earth colours, wooden surfaces, a plastered ceiling, walls painted soft white or gray and accented with colour or natural wood or stone, rough-sawn simple wood furniture, a long wooden kitchen table and open shelves for storage and to highlight ceramic and pottery pieces.

The French Provincial or Country style, with its rustic, old-world look and riot of flowers is another popular style. A French Provincial design would include wood ceiling and wall beams, stained or painted plaster walls, carved wood details, a natural stone floor and stone fireplace furnished with rustic metal furniture and light fixtures.

Sweden is best known for its simple lines and a preponderance of blues and yellows. Blue is the most popular colour in the Swedish lexicon. A Swedish interior features pale, light and airy furnishings and pale walls and floors to better reflect the light inside that offsets the many months of darkness outside. Blonde woods are common and a long bench typifies every Swedish home.

Icelandic style emphasizes very clean lines, bright colours and simplicity a la Scandinavia.

Farther afield are lingering influences from British India. The style, reflecting India’s British-ruled past, is characterized by heavy, wooden walls and thick, strong tables and chairs with handcrafted Indian woodcarvings and statues as accessories. Elephant statues and carvings were particularly popular. No British-India theme is complete without a chest, ivories, draperies and throw rugs.

Chinese-themed interiors have highly stylized furnishings with hand painted designs on lacquer finishes. Red – which represents good luck to the Chinese – is the dominant colour. The style is further characterized by dark wood tones and high gloss finishes. You might also want to add ornamental statues of animals or mythological creatures.

The Japanese look would feature natural fiber floor coverings and bamboo and stone colours to create an atmosphere of serenity, with shoji screens, futons and low tables paired with cushions for seating. Japanese rooms have a lot of natural light supplemented by low-wattage bulbs in rice paper lamps.

The Polynesian tropical appearance features bamboo furniture, grass cloth matting covering the walls, tropical prints on the shades and south sea colours such as coral, turquoise, green and sand.

From North America, Mexican terra cotta tiles for floors and roofs are popular. Other elements of a Mexican look are distressed-looking furniture, bright and colourful lamps, and striped Mexican blankets for window shades.

For designers today, the world is their oyster. So much material is available and accessible. The best products can be easily sourced and shipped from anywhere in the world.

Text by Myron Love

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