Monday, October 17, 2005

Interior Design Styles: Exotic

We have been discussing five design styles used in the interior design world: Traditional, Country, Modern, Exotic and Oriental.

From the September Home Accents Today Anniversary Issue, Kara Cox Describes Exotic design in The Big Trend.

Over the years. the definition of exotic has broadened to include a host of looks outside the borders of conventionally defined design. Webster's sums up exotic as "from another part of the world: foreign." Strictly speaking, this tidy definition covers a whole lot of design territory, encompassing everything from tropical and bohemian to safari and primitive. Each of these looks originally referenced a specific place, although these inspirations have merged and mutated in myriad ways. Other style categories join the exotic roundup including vintage, ethnic, flea market, eclectic and organic as the modern descendents of these exotic foreigners.

The latter part of the '80s was marked by a distinct safari or jungle influence, very African in feel, highlighted by animal prints, rough, textured materials, exotic woods and fibers, and bold, ethnic geometric prints. A mix of exotic cultures - India and Middle East - also were prevalent in home accent designs, showcased in ornately carved wood, highly decorated ceramics, rich colorations and burnished gold and bronze tones.

Heading into the early '90s, safari influences morphed into primitive, still African, but with an excavation-style, archaeological twist. Worn finishes, weathered and hammered metallics, crude forms, rough edges and an earthern palette mimicked the look of found treasures. A recurring theme of eco-consciousness (with an emphasis on natural materials) accentuated the first glimmerings of organic style.

By the mid1990s West Indies-inspired designs were at the forefront of exotic accents, showcasing a blend of Colonial tradition with casual island style. Tropical materials like wicker, rattan and teak were at their peak.

A major style shift occurred in 1996, leading far away from India, Africa and Morocco (although these continue to be viable styles). In this case, all roads do not lead to Rome either, but to Grandma's attic. The March 1996 edition of Home Accents Today predicted the top emerging home furnishing style through the rest of the '90s would be Romantic Vintage. The April sketchbook introduction that year described a new eclectic and informal viewpoint pervading the market, an irreverent blending of traditional, time-worn furnishings with modern and offbeat, funky touches.

Nearing the end of the millennium, vintage felt right in step with the times as a knee-jerk reaction to modernism: anti-cyberspace, anti-high tech, anti-futuristic. Vintage, as defined by Home Accents Today in June 1996, was divided into four distinct looks: nostalgic American Attic; rugged and exotic World Traveler; relaxed and elegant European Memories; and faded Rustic Remnants.

The millennium set the stage for global discourse, emphasizing the new internationalism of our world. Blending, or blurring the lines, between cultures was of primary importance, resulting in eclectic interiors designed to showcase multiple cultures, 21st century-style.

Inspired by the famed Les Puces de Paris Saint-Quen flea market in Paris, Home Accents Today showcased Paris Flea Market style as the cover in April 2002. Celebrating indiviuality and experimentation, Paris Flea Market encapsulated the present-day metamorphosis of vintage bohemian, mix-and-natch style, a look that smacked resoundingly accross the home accents market for several seasons.

Eclecticism at its best, the idea of "scavenging" for style gradually crept across to the consumer as mainstream, in large part due to design shows that advocated breaking all of the established rules of period design.

In the last few seasons, a renewed emphsis on organic and primitive design have emerged. The look has been handcrafted with an overriding artisan approach focusing on making the mass-produced feel one-of-a-kind.

Tuesday, the final installment of Kara Cox's article The Big Trend, focusing on the five major deign themes and style, will feature Oriental.

Bev & Mike

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