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October 19, 2018

5 Gorgeous Design Ideas From Around the World You’ll Be Dying to Steal

Just like America itself, American interior design is a melting pot of inspirations from other countries.

The style we know as midcentury modern, for instance, originally was a spinoff of the modernist movement in Denmark. Our version of feng shui, of course, takes its inspiration from the ancient Chinese philosophy that governs spatial arrangement and orientation and how it relates to good energy. And even design trends that feel uniquely American—like farmhouse or boho chic—originated in Francemerci beaucoup. 

Where will American homeowners look next for global design influence? Check out these five cool decor ideas that are trending in other countries.

1. Ukraine: Unprocessed natural textures

Unprocessed clay covering the ceiling. Photo courtesy of Sergey Makhno
Unprocessed clay covering the ceiling. Photo courtesy of Sergey Makhno

We’ve painted our brick fireplaces white and dip-dyed our wooden chairs, but homeowners are starting to embrace the natural look again. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Ukraine, where designers “respect nature and create interiors to live in collaboration with it,” says Ukrainian designer Serghey Makhno.

Sure, Americans have been gradually integrating more natural elements into their homes, but Ukrainians take the trend one step further: Their homes are filled with raw materials and colors like clay and flax.

“We don’t process the textures,” Makhno says. “It’s important to feel the warmth of unprocessed Carpathian wood or light coldness of the real stone from the bank of the mountain river.”

And these textures are utilized in unusual locations, too. Layering unprocessed clay across your ceiling, for instance, creates a subdued, earthy appeal.

“Using all advantages of Ukrainian nature, we create something unique,” Makhno says.

2. Italy: ’70s colors

On this side of the Atlantic, we’ve got serious nostalgia for the ’90s. But in Italy, the ’70s are all the rage. At Milan’s most recent Salone del Mobile, the international furniture and design fair, Houzz Italy editor Leonora Sartori spotted mango and moss green aplenty.

“These specific colors are quite loved, as they are room-changing colors but still not so strong that you will get sick of them after six months,” Sartori says. “They can bring a really nice touch to the room.”

To make these shades sing, pair with modern minimalism: clean white lines or simple black-and-white patterns. The combination of retro and contemporary will evoke a luxe vibe.

3. Rwanda: Imigongo patterns

Traditional Rwandan imigongo designs are graphic, geometric, and, most importantly, gorgeous.

These bold patterns “are painted on walls, pottery, and canvas,” in Rwandan homes, says designer Aline Uwimana, the founder of Thoms Interior Design in Kigali—but this look has everything American designers are loving these days: vivid color, striking shapes, and a stark palette.

Fun fact: This artwork is traditionally created using cow dung. But if you prefer not to be that authentic, these designs also look stunning painted with oils or etched into clay.

Choose a pattern with bold reds to bring drama to an otherwise minimal room, or look for spiral or geometric black-and-white designs to draw the eye and add a chic, playful effect.

4. Kuwait: Laser-cut screens

If you live in a busy city—or even on a busy street—maintaining your privacy without feeling boxed in might feel like a delicate balancing act.

Kuwait has a solution: decorative screens.

“We are seeing more and more laser-cut patterns inside and outside of homes,” says designer Ana Cummings, who used to live in Kuwait.

And screens provide more benefits than just privacy: They offer “light and temperature control over exterior windows, especially in warmer climates,” she says.

You can even put these gorgeous dividers inside for an exotic way to segment your open floor plan, use them as decorative features, or install them on staircases, Cummings says.

Ease in with a simple but stark black laser-cut divider—or go bold and colorful to add intrigue and drama.

5. Japan: ‘Friendly minimalism’

This trend is anything but stark and sterile; it’s all about warmth, simple objects, and playing with light. And Japanese superstar organizer/author Marie Kondo deserves some of the credit for this amiable look.

“This originates from a lifestyle change, as people have become more and more interested in the decluttering philosophy and the positive vibes and life-changing power of having a less cluttered house,” Sartori says.

Consider lots of natural elements along with tatami-style sofas, which sit directly on the floor and can be rearranged at will. Or try a minimal—yet funky—geometric chandelier (like this low-key bronze light), which provide a hint of glam without feeling excessive.

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