I recently returned from a trip to Europe. Soaking in the texture of the local sites was enriching and inspiring. It would be so great to take a little bit of the places we visit on vacation home with us, but on the other hand, you can simply borrow some of the best elements and bring them into your own space.
A trip to Paris evokes images of gilded baroque touches. French baroque style is also characterized by ornate carvings and details (like the intricate toile wallpaper and chandeliers), and heavy brocades. If Louis XIV furniture is a little over the top for you, think about how that gilding feels to your senses. The shimmery detail can be reinterpreted by simply bringing shiny surfaces to your space. It doesn’t have to be gold — it can be a silver mirror or a lacquered table that reminds you of the opulence of Paris without the literal reproduction of period pieces. (Lacquering also reflects an Asian presence).
Of course, the French Country Provencal style is popular with Napans, characterized by distressed woodwork, mixed patterns, and both vibrant and subdued hues. A French toile (a cotton or linen fabric, traditionally depicting a pastoral scene) is a favorite romantic look for a bedroom. It can also be sophisticated and charming when used sparingly to cover a chair. As when adopting any style, avoid the overly cliche or kitschy look by mixing a few bold modern pieces into the room. It will keep it fresh.
I was inspired by the early civilizations of Greece and Rome. Stone was used for important buildings, and temples were often constructed of marble. Floor mosaics, created from pebble or glass or shards of pottery, and painted plaster walls adorned the more well to do homes. So while you may not want to install the historically significant Greek column in your interior, the use of marble, stone, painted plaster and the strategically placed mosaic (a kitchen backsplash or shower wall), are all materials that will bring the feel of antiquity into your space.
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The seat of the former Ottoman Empire, Istanbul, offers a treasure trove of inspirational design. At various points in history, the Ottoman Empire covered a wide swath of the continent, and its influence is felt from Turkey to Rome. Elaborate tile decoration, the use of domes in architecture, and ornamentation mark this style. Textiles were significant elements in bedding, using silk in large and colorful patterns. Naturally, Turkish carpets are also an important element. Except for, perhaps, the use of dome architecture, any of these components would work in most spaces.
England’s influence in design is felt not just in the use of the Tudor style but also the use of oak and walnut in furniture. Tables with expandable tops, such as the drop leaf with gate leg features, are popular expressions of British style, as is the poster bed.
Finally, Italian style is best known for its Renaissance period pieces. Napa shares many characteristics with Tuscany, and as with Provencal, we tend to borrow from the country features and not those of the more elaborate styles of Florence and Venice. The decorative carved wood and marble doors are a feature of this period as were ornamented fireplaces and the trestle table. Candelabras, small tables and mirrors are other accessories that can reflect the Italian style.
For each of the styles mentioned, there are transitions, adaptations and period and regional distinctions as well as subsets of styles. However, the design of interior spaces, furnishings and decoration can be influenced by the countries that popularized them in small and effective ways.