From a warm, rustic cottage by the lake in Canada, to a small chic apartment in Paris, to a colourfully tiled kitchen in Mexico, the world has an endless supply interior design inspiration to draw from. Different cultures and lifestyles vary wildly from one country to the next. This is evident in the way people talk, dress, cook, and keep their homes. Any well travelled person can appreciate the distinctions from culture to culture that make one person’s way of life unique from another’s. The variance in culture from one country to the next has brought forth a myriad of interior design styles, each placing a slightly different emphasis on colour, texture, shape, and decor.
Each style has it’s own appeal and it’s own level of functionality. Some are made for specific climates, others for a certain pace of life, and some are better at making use of a small space. A compact and efficient living space in a Tokyo apartment, for example, is much different from a wide open country home in the Mid-West. However, some styles can be adapted and manipulated to provide different needs in different spaces. All it takes is a little inspiration, and what better inspiration than looking at homes from around the world to see what works best in different places.
Design is all about shifting perspectives. Just like studying literature in a foreign language can open us up to a different way of thinking, examining different styles of interior design can give us a look into the lives of others and allows us to step in to their way of life. Designers are a lot like artists, they work with the tools they have to shape the world around us and help us to see things in a different light. They work to achieve a certain mood or feeling, such as a sense of calm and peace in a living room or a sense of welcoming and vibrance in a front entry way.
Take this Scandinavian style living room, for example. It makes use of clean lines and simple shapes for a modern look. The plants help to add a sense of natural liveliness to the room. Scandinavian countries are very far north and do not receive much sunlight, so homes like these take full advantage of light and bright colours with plenty of white in order to capture the light and throw it around the room. Another key element to this style is the minimalism and functionality of the decoration and furniture. There is nothing excessive, which helps to add to the lightness of the room.
The Scandinavian style is affordable, organized, and easy to maintain. It’s refreshing to come home to a house where everything naturally looks orderly and in it’s place, and that is what this style intends to do. The simplicity of black and white with minimalist shapes makes the Scandinavian home a one size fits all for any living space.
Similar to the Scandinavian interior, the Japanese style has an emphasis on minimalism and compact design. With a very light touch, as if to use as little of the space as possible, Japanese interior design makes use of thin walls, sliding doors, and small furniture that is low to the ground, making your home appear larger and more spacious. Japan is a small island with a staggering population of 127 million people. That makes Japan one of the most densely populated places on earth. With an average of 336 people per square kilometre, the Japanese have mastered the art of interior design for small spaces. This style may be one of the most efficient at making use of living space, because it packs a lot of style into a confined room.
Traditional Japanese design uses bamboo as well as dark wood to create warm, earthy tones. Large windows and shaded lamps light the room with a natural brightness as well as a warm glow to compliment those earthy tones. In keeping with the compactness of this style, bonsai trees are very popular as they are small and don’t take up space, but they also add a certain organic look to the room.
Next we look to the masters of all things stylish, the French. Unlike the simplicity of the Scandinavian and Japanese interiors, French design is much more extravagant and goes heavier on the furnishing. With an emphasis on lavish detail and artistic flair, the French use lots of vintage furniture and antiques in their decor. Most colour schemes use a subtle base tone such as ivory as a backdrop to draw your eye to all those unique pieces of furniture and fine details. Other colours include pale pastel tones as an accent to the whitewashes and subtle greys to add some colour without taking away attention from the highlights of the room. It is common to cover exposed wood with a whitewash for a similar effect. Alternatively, to get a more rustic country cottage look, wooden beams will be left exposed through the drywall to allow the raw structure of the walls to show through. The effect adds a nice touch of rustic character to the room.
In the inner cities, homes have a much more modern look to them. There is still an emphasis on detail , but more modern Parisian homes tend to be a bit more bold with their use of colours as opposed to their countryside counterparts. Above all, the French style is about elegance. Unlike more conservative styles where the furniture all matches and the style is uniform throughout the whole house, the French style is much more loose and liberal and takes furniture and accessories that compliment each other rather than match. This creates a much more passionate and personalized style, great for anyone with a unique personality and an appreciation for art and class.
This is perhaps the most fun and exciting interior design style. Mexico is famous for it’s relaxed and easygoing lifestyle. With food as hot as their weather, it’s easy to see why Mexican style uses bright, vivid colours and eccentric patterns in their designs. In many homes, the kitchen is the most important room – as it should be when you take such great pride in your food – and so the kitchen is not left behind when it comes to decorating. Mexico, along with their Central and South American neighbours, use an abundance of pottery, textiles, and decorations in their homes. Tile is also a very popular choice as it is easy to maintain and doesn’t fade. Tiles can be found everywhere in Mexican design, from walls, to floors, to tables and chairs. The look is a combination of Mayan and Aztec influences mixed with some old Spanish from the colonial period. This brilliant clash of cultures has given us one of the most colourful and lively styles anywhere in the world.
Finally, we turn to the Middle East for some of the oldest and most luxurious places that come to the imagination. If there is one thing Islamic culture does well, it is definitely luxury. The Sultans of the Ottoman Empire showed off their wealth in the extravagance and grandeur of their palaces. A visit to the Topkapi Palace of Istanbul or the Alhambra in southern Spain will prove just how much painstaking detail is behind the beauty of Islamic design. Middle Eastern design uses extremely fine details to create incredibly complex patterns. They even use the beautiful calligraphy of Arabic writing in some of their designs. Other styles, particularly with Turkish influence, use lots of tiled mosaics to create images and patterns.
British travel writer Robert Byron wrote extensively about Islamic architecture and design during his travels through Persia (known as Iran today) and Afghanistan back in the early 1930s. He discussed the immaculate level of fine detail in their buildings and the close connection between islamic culture and architecture. Down to the individual strands of a Turkish silk carpet, Middle Eastern design is famous for it’s attention to detail.
These are only a few of many examples of interior design from around the world. As you can see, styles can vary greatly from country to country. Each has been influenced by generations of culture to accommodate different ways of life and different standards. Much like the people that designed them, there are just as many similarities as there are variations between styles.