European trendsetters go ethnic this 2015 by mixing traditional style and international contemporary influences in interior spaces. This fusion concept is also spreading across the American design scene. The internationally influential home design expos, in particular Paris’ Maison & Object and Milan’s Salone del Mobile, provide the foundation for this year’s merger of historical cultural styles with contemporary aesthetics to create a new, sophisticated, and fashionable look. This trend has come to be called “ethnic chic.”
Lighting, furniture, textiles, patterns, flooring, colors, textures, and accessories are all details used to combine past cultures with modern taste and contemporary living, an incorporation of two distinct themes to create an entirely original ambiance. Not only is there is a renewed interest and recognition of traditional techniques, there is also a re-appreciation for handmade products, natural materials, sustainable manufacturing, and eco-friendly processes. While ethnic design applies vernacular themes, it is also profoundly connected to native materials. A major aspect of contemporary environmental design ideologies is the awareness of the fabrication processes intrinsic to how design and lifestyle directly effect global conditions, such as where materials originate, how they are fabricated, by what methods they are treated, and by what means they are assembled.
This year’s look of “contemporary exoticism” is a blending of cultures, styles and textures. Once the intended traditional origin is selected, a conscious decision is made about how the past will combine with contemporary living, materials, and taste. There are various types of ethnic styles. The many examples include: North African and Middle Eastern (Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Iran, etc.), Indian, Asian (China, Japan, Thailand, etc.), Latin America (Navajo, Aztec, etc.), and Eastern European ( Boho or Bohemian, etc.). Rather than specifying a nation, a “regional look” is selected. In a certain sense, the ethnic accents counterbalance the modern materials to create a new equilibrium with an original composition. The style requires a merger between the polished, slick, modern look and cultural revival. Minimalist interiors are broken down by blending in the selected ethnic style. Old furniture is counterbalanced by corresponding contemporary pieces, rustic textures are sustained by sleek finishes, raw materials are supported by industrial hardware, layers of ethnic prints decorate monotone backgrounds, and once overly colorful details are whitewashed to current taste. Handwoven carpets that previously lined interior floors redefine the present-day headboard, native floor cushions are converted into throw pillows over machine-manufactured lounge chairs, hand-blown glassware sits on steel-top tables, traditional textiles that originally covered simple furnishings now upholster avant-garde chairs, conventional furniture is disassembled into wall art and decorative details, and primitive pottery is remodeled into light fixtures.
Part of the beauty behind ethnic chic is that you cannot go wrong – mistakes are practically impossible. The fusion can be overly decorative or very minimal, depending on personal preference for the overall interior design. The objective is to create a unique ambiance that values traditional techniques, materials, and textures while maintaining a modern vibe.
There are many designers and companies that are following the ethnic chic trend, including:
- Malene Birger from Denmark, Robin Toetenel & Ingrid Steyrer from Holland
- Patrica Urquiola from Spain.
- German textile company Zimmer + Rohde
- Viennese hand-manufactured lighting, textiles, and decorative objects by Vividgrey
- Moroccan manufactured rugs and furnishings in Berber traditions by Afoli Berber Rugs
- French distributed Thai cushions and furnishings by Baan
- Spanish bedding, tableware, and containers by Balakata
- French driftwood works from Camargue by Baptized by Nature
- French textile and furniture by Déco Chez Moi
- English furniture and decorative accessory company DN Designs Collection
- Danish company Zenza, and countless others.