by Meaghan Branham
Earlier this year, I packed my bags and finally put my passport to use on my first-ever international trip: My first stop was Venice, followed by Paris, for a total of 10 days. After months of flipping through guidebooks along with nearly obsessive viewings of “An American in Paris” and “Under the Tuscan Sun,” I felt like I was as prepared as I could ever be for this adventure. And I was wrong: I couldn’t have anticipated exactly how breathtaking every corner of both Venice and Paris would be. Most of my time was spent in complete awe—of the history, the architecture, the food, the wine, the fashion, and the terrifying Parisian traffic. Even of the apartments I stayed in—not grand or luxurious, but with a style definitively unlike most American décor. In Venice, deep orange silk upholstery with gold embroidery on antique chairs and a faded multicolored rug echoed the color of the buildings lining the canals. Coupled with the white walls and exposed wood beams, it struck me as effortless and charming and bursting with character and history, just like the city itself. In Paris, the soft, almost pinkish-white color of the walls, clean-lined furniture, and light fabrics let the architecture of the centuries-old building shine above everything else. It was effortless, in exactly the way I’d always imagined that quintessential Parisian charm to be.
Living briefly in these spaces, it occurred to me that the way we decorate our homes speaks to not only our own personal tastes and histories, but those of the culture and lifestyle we are exposed to. I wanted to take a quick tour around the world to see some of the more popular trends in design and lifestyle in other countries to spark both your home inspiration and your wanderlust.
Regardless of whether you’ve heard the Danish word before, chances are you’ve seen an image or two online in recent years inspired by this philosophy. It’s an approach that encompasses more than just design: it’s a lifestyle; one that the Scandinavian nation has been endorsing for years, but that only recently made its way onto our radar. Described by the experts at hyggehouse.com as a “feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cozy, charming or special.” This “experience” is typically translated into the language of interior design with cuddly fabrics, rich textures, warmth and atmosphere often provided by candles and carefully placed soft lighting. It’s about creating a space where you and your loved ones feel welcome and relaxed, so that you can appreciate the beauty in even little moments and rituals—like your morning cup of coffee.
While the word itself actually refers to a Moroccan home built around an exposed courtyard or garden, it also denotes a design and lifestyle approach that emphasizes privacy and reflection. The courtyards themselves are private places for family to come together and spend time, so furniture faces inward and is placed close together, and most windows and doors face this secure space. Rich colors, shapes like domes and arches, and stunning tile patterns are often used here as well. As water is valued as vital and life giving, the centerpiece is usually a fountain, and plants and flowers feature prominently.
The style that sparked my dive into international interiors. It turns out that part of the appeal of the French modern style is the difficulty to define exactly how to achieve it. A bit undone and effortless, a bit glamorous and sophisticated, the spaces in this category seem best defined by a certain “je ne sais quoi.” Overall, neutral colors, including creams and soft whites, keep it simple, and allow the beautiful architecture of these homes to be the focal point. Mixing and matching a few quality and classic pieces creates an atmosphere that is both relaxed and elegant. A touch of glamour brought in with a few gold accents or a chandelier elevates the space even further. ◆