Designing your rooms around an ethnic theme can be exciting and fun and allows you to bring elements of other cultures and distant lands into your home. You can be more daring in your approach to colour and with such a wide variety of textures and patterns available, this can collectively add a whole new dimension to your interior design project. Unusual artifacts from different cultures can work very well as focal points in a room and as there are no hard and fast rules to stick to and because there are so many variations, you can go beyond the usual or traditional to portray a style that is not only beautiful, it is unique.
So what do we mean by ethnic?
Ethnic basically means native or indigenous people from a particular area so in relation to Interior Design it means to bring the natural elements that are representative of whatever culture, land or peoples you choose to portray into your own home to define your space.
Naturally the world is your oyster as they say so there are countless cultures to choose from, all you have to do is bring a particular ensemble of colours, patterns, materials and artifacts together to create a “look” that is recognisable and distinctive. What about a Mediterranean flavour, Native American Indian symbolism, or perhaps Tibetan Buddhism? Popular themes include African, Mexican, and Asian but you can go with whatever inspires or appeals to you. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Think of Africa and all that it conjures up in your mind, the landscape, the sounds, the smells, the colours, the mood, and then if you try to pick out the key points, what would they be? Colour schemes might include earthy colours like green, beige, browns and tans, set off with orange and splashes of red. Think about floor and wall coverings, natural substances would probably work best. Finishing touches can include wall hangings, African artifacts, drums, rugs, African fabrics and prints, animals made of stone, clay or wood, ceremonial masks hung on the wall, brightly coloured African bowls and pots, and so on.
What does Mexico mean to you? Perhaps desert colours with sandy tones, beige and khaki, along with reddish, rustic colours and hues. Blankets and woven fabrics in bright colours, perhaps terra cotta pots and bowls, pine wood is popular for furniture. Artifacts can include symbols of the South West or from the Spanish influence, or from the Aztecs, Mayans and other ancient civilisations, all of which can add an interesting and authentic Mexican look and feel.
There are many variations within an Asian theme but two quite popular ones are Japanese and Chinese. Japanese themes tend to lean towards a more minimalist look and have a tranquil and peaceful feel. Consider a futon and using screens to get that Japanese ambiance. Colours tend to be natural and objects from nature often feature as focal points, for example, smooth stones and pebbles, water fountains and bonsai trees. Chinese themes on the other hand might involve brighter and bolder colours, lanterns, dragons and other mythological creatures, artwork depicting the traditional people colours and landscapes and Chinese handwriting.
How to get started
Once you have established which particular ethnic culture appeals to you, browse through books and magazines and the Internet to get ideas that will spark off your own imaginative flair. Identify what elements go together to make up that particular look or feel that you want to create.
Consider the walls, ceilings and floors carefully as this will provide a base for you to work from and then you can add in the details to finish it off. For example, is the texture and appearance of the walls and ceilings rough or smooth? What floor covering is appropriate, should it be wood, stone, tiles or carpets? Will rugs and mats make a difference and if so what are they made of? Are the windows better suited to drapes, blinds or shutters? What style of furniture works? What about plants, motifs, pictures and wall hangings?
The theme you adopt and the way that you choose to portray specific elements of that theme is entirely up to you and your imagination, the end result will be your own unique interpretation of a culture or a place and you will have added a touch of the exotic to your home.