This article appears in Fall Home & Garden magazine.
Travel-inspired home decor “is not on trend; it’s timeless,” said Manhattan-based design and entertaining expert Francesco Bilotto. “It’s also an easy look to achieve.”
If you don’t know the difference between kilim and an ikat, “hakuna matata” — no worries.
“If you’re having a problem deciding where to start, make it fun and see what speaks to you,” Bilotto said. Grab a friend or your kids and take a trip to your local museum. Often free, museums are a great place for inspiration because they’ve already collected the history for you, Bilotto said.
After a recent trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bilotto realized anything looks amazing behind glass or under a clear acrylic cube.
“Step back and think about what you already own. You can do the same thing (museums do) with your own possessions or pick something up at a flea market, rummage sale, church bazaar or thrift store,” he said. An old comb, a magnifying glass, interesting door knobs or even a child’s artwork can be transformed by simply putting it inside a acrylic display case.
An old trunk or chest of drawers can benefit from a similar treatment, but let a piece’s inherent rustic or worn look come to light.
“For a long time the trend was to paint old furniture, but the rugged wear and tear is key to the look,” Bilotto said.
Instead of hiding a hole in a beautiful kilim rug, let it stand out. “That’s what I call the hero mark,” Bilotto said. The scratches and dents on a table can be fantastic. “Don’t hide them; embrace the mistakes,” he said.
“That’s what a world-traveled look means: That worn piece of furniture could have been schlepped back from Istanbul or Paris,” Bilotto said.
To avoid a dated shabby-chic style, go for a more Americana look and juxtapose old and new.
“Balance with something slick and modern such as a glass vase, metal or chrome ball, or a big art book so the look is thoughtfully composed,” Bilotto said.
Using tile to infuse a room with the colors and patterns of another culture is an easy way to add global style, from a bright Mexican tile backsplash in the kitchen to Roman-patterned tiles in the bathroom. The right tile can bring to mind any destination, from the Dutch countryside with blue and white Delft tiles or a sunny Tuscan vineyard through a tile mural. For those who are renting or unable to achieve a complete tile overhaul, consider adding tiles as trivets or decorations, Bilotto said.
Cluster a collection, such as a few old glass serving pieces, to add visual interest, Bilotto said. Your world style can be authentic — say, a group of hand-woven baskets bought on safari in Africa — or something similar ordered inexpensively online.
Think creatively and use items outside their purpose, Bilotto said. Plant basil in a gold-gilded gravy boat or a rough volcanic rock guacamole bowl rather than a terra cotta planter.
Don’t be too literal with globes, maps or clocks set to different time zones, Bilotto said. Atlases are fine because they’re less literal, and old photos or postcards are easy and affordable.
“Use texture as a roadmap to help you find a balance and not fall short,” Bilotto said: Add a rough kilim rug against a black or brown leather chair. Mix in dark or light wood. Keep it fresh and current with chrome or metallic accents. Add pillows, tapestries, scarves and other textiles.
“Go with your gut feeling,” Bilotto said. “Look around your home for what you can use, then shop for what you need to add.”