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Embrace the world of inspiration around you

Jodi Helmer
Correspondent
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/24/09/39/1jeYVq.Em.138.jpeg|316
    Dustin Peck - DUSTIN PECK
    The mix of colors and prints work together because interior designer Sarah Catherine Garvin balanced the scale of the furnishings and used similar pops of color around the room, including warm tones on the upholstery and accessories.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/19/17/57/1kMMml.Em.138.jpeg|316
    Dustin Peck - DUSTIN PECK
    Interior designer Sarah Catherine Garvin of the Sarah Catherine Collective took a risk in the sitting room of a Cotswold home, mixing bold colors and patterns to create a striking design.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/19/17/57/jEMp.Em.138.jpeg|236
    - COST PLUS WORLD MARKET
    This multicolored Chindi pouf was made in India from recycled wool. It’s stylish and colorful seating that can be moved around to add international flair to a room whenever the mood strikes.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/19/17/57/H9P7s.Em.138.jpeg|316
    - COST PLUS WORLD MARKET
    An antique brass finish lends Old-World charm to this giraffe lamp.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/19/17/57/RSf9L.Em.138.jpeg|284
    - POTTERY BARN
    Inspired by traditional Moroccan tables, the Marrakech coffee table is exotic and functional. The aluminum top can be lifted off and used as a serving platter, and the wooden base folds for easy storage.

More Information

  • Global

    •  Get creative: Frame photos from your travels (or keep postcards friends send from their adventures) and create a global gallery wall.

    •  Mix and match: It’s OK to blend pieces from different countries as long as the colors and scale are similar.

    •  Shop at home: If you’re more of an armchair traveler than globetrotter, check local retail stores and online sites for items with ethnic flair.



When interior designer Sarah Catherine Garvin works with clients, she encourages them to incorporate pieces from their culture or their travels.

“Design should be about incorporating pieces that have meaning and memories attached to them,” says Garvin, owner and creative director of Sarah Catherine Collective. “You want to fill a space with furniture and accessories that make you feel good every time you walk into the room.”

You could design a themed room that makes you feel as if you’ve stepped into an exotic destination – perhaps a Moroccan bedroom with red walls, patterned tapestries and carved nightstands. Or you might prefer a lush Japanese garden with teak furniture, shoji lanterns and pagodas.

Garvin’s approach is to mix pieces that borrow from world culture in a room alongside understated furnishings and accessories.

Don’t be shy about mixing items from different parts of the world. Your collection of global treasures can look cohesive as long as you follow one important design rule: Make sure the scale and color of the pieces are similar so that the room has a balanced look.

Garvin designed a sitting room in a home in Cotswold that included bold colors, modern Spanish artwork, a vintage Asian-inspired credenza and a zebra-print rug. In addition to mixing colors that complemented each other and blending pieces of a similar scale, Garvin believes the pieces worked together because her client loved them.

“There is an ease to the room because she had a connection to all of the pieces in it,” Garvin explains.

Whether you want to incorporate tribal masks from a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Africa or a patterned pouf that was an impulse purchase at a big box store, decorating with globally inspired pieces is a great way to add color and personality to a room. The best part: You don’t have to be a globetrotter – or splurge on priceless antiques – to find the perfect international design elements.

Even paint colors can be exotic: The Pantone Color Institute noted that the Spring 2014 color forecast included inspirations from travels abroad, leading to colors such as Radiant Orchid, Celosia Orange and Sand.

Since global design is a hot trend, it’s easier than ever to find furniture and accessories with international flair at shops close to home. The options range from handcrafted Fair Trade items, produced overseas through arrangements that seek to guarantee fair wages for workers, to mass-produced items stocked at big box stores.

For great deals on items from around the world, scour flea markets and online marketplaces such as etsy. Retail stores such as World Market, Pier One Imports and Anthropologie also stock pieces inspired by destinations around the world.

“Before, if you wanted a piece of another country, you had to travel there,” Garvin says. “(Retailers) have opened our eyes to different cities and cultures, and we don’t have to travel far to find worldly pieces.”

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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

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