From delicate ceramic vases in Provencal markets to hand-woven baskets from Ethiopia, travelers collect an array of textiles, decorative art, and artifacts on their journeys. Each geographic location offers a unique culture made up of local art and artifacts, colors, cuisine, and traditions. How can these unique objects be used to inspire and inform the design of your favorite spaces at home? Here, we explore how to incorporate decorative art and antiques from your travels to tell the stories of your journeys (and inspire future adventures).
Russia has experienced a complex and tumultuous history, and the traditions prevalent in Russian culture are reflective of evolving ideologies. Traditional Russian design and style is filled with rich colors and complex patterns, and the unique items that stem from the country serve as vibrant pieces to display across your space.
The color red is a powerful symbol in Russia. Krasni, the Russian word for “red” and krasivi, meaning “beauty,” share the same root and were even used interchangeably in the past. Today, the color represents decadence and honor and is woven throughout Russian architecture, traditional clothing, and decor.
Similarly, carpets have long been treasured in Russia. In the 16th century, Eastern European ambassadors would gift ornate rugs to Russian tsars who would display them on the walls of their homes. These woven tapestries are still common decor in Russian homes, offering the addition of pattern and texture.
No visit to Russia is complete without bringing home a Russian nesting doll, or matryoshka doll. These iconic wooden decorations emerged in Moscow in the 1890s and have served as an enduring symbol of Russian culture. The first matryoshka doll contained eight figurines within; each descending in size. While they were originally designed for children’s use, the iconic dolls gained popularity, becoming more expensive and eventually turning into a collector’s item. The vibrant, hand-made dolls can be found at local vendors and make for striking additions to vignettes placed on flat surfaces and shelves.
Ethiopia is a vibrant country that hosts some of the largest festivals in the world. At events such as Timket or Enkutatash, travelers can partake in cultural celebrations and take home exquisite woven baskets and hand-spun textiles made with longstanding traditional techniques.
In Ethiopia, hand-woven baskets are not simply utilitarian, but also bear cultural significance. For centuries, young women have woven intricate baskets for their dowries, sometimes spending up to four hours a day for several years. One of the most abundant types of baskets found in Ethiopia is the mesob basket, traditionally used as a surface upon which to eat, as opposed to being used for storage. Made of grass and straw, mesob baskets are both organic and vibrant.
Another Ethiopian staple is the boluko, a handloom textile comprised of four high-quality pieces of undyed cotton fabric. Traditional Ethiopian objects like these can be found in marketplaces across the country, and make for exquisite decorative items to remind you of your travels.
Germany is a country rich with history, and its people, language, and traditions reflect that history. From delectable cuisine to the music of composers like Bach and Beethoven, German cultural influences are wide and varied. When drawing inspiration from Germany and it’s far-reaching traditions, there are a few things you can call upon.
In the early 20th century, the influence of Bauhaus art rippled through Europe. Designers began incorporating functional elements such as steel into their furniture. One of the most notable examples is Marcel Breuer’s Wassily Chair. The sleek design was inspired by the frame of a bicycle and changed the world of furniture production with its lightweight, easily mass-produced composition. The influence of the larger Bauhaus movement is still seen throughout German design and architecture today.
Another key aspect of German culture is the intricate pottery that hails from the region. Handcrafted ceramics display sculptural shapes, tactile designs, and painterly qualities. West German pottery, sometimes referred to as “Fat Lava,” is particularly sought-after because it is collectible, relatively affordable, and there are are variety of styles to choose from.
Japan offers a diverse culture heavily shaped by philosophy. Zen, a school of Mahayana Buddhism reinforces the benefits of self-actualization through practiced meditation. People who practice Zen use meditation to strip away excess in their lives. This idea is reflected in the natural color schemes and simple lines in Japanese art, design, and architecture. This combination of traditional Japanese design, minimalism, and modernism has helped shape Japan’s unique culture.
Though Zen was brought to Japan in the 12th century, its influence did not impact the country’s cultural principles until the introduction of minimalism in 1950s. From the artwork to the architecture, the “less is more” aesthetic has largely defined Japanese style. Although collecting Japanese art and objects may seem like it goes against the principles of the philosophy, sourcing items for the home is a great way to add some Zen influence to any space.
For minimalists who want to pare down their home decor, ceramic sake sets are a practical and beautiful choice. These hand-crafted cups are made of natural materials and are the perfect addition to any counter or shelf.
Peru is home to vast landscapes, hospitable locals, and remarkable cities with traditions that date back to 3200 B.C. These cities, such as Machu Picchu and Cuzco, are home to skilled artisans who leverage centuries-old techniques for spinning woven llama wool into textiles for ornamental, ceremonial, and utilitarian purposes. Today, in response to the rise in tourism, traditional textiles made from llama wool are formed into a variety of useful items such as clothing, bags, and pillows.
Traditional textiles have also been used to form several types of Peruvian dolls, some dating back to 1000 A.D. These ancient figurines were made by the Chancay people and were used in burial ceremonies to honor ancestors who came before them. While several of these dolls are still intact, they are not traditionally offered on the secondary market. Instead, travelers today can take home Andean dolls that are modeled after traditional Peruvian women. The artistry and craftsmanship behind these items make excellent additions to any jetsetter’s collection.
Travelers collect a vast array of textiles, decorative art, and artifacts on their journeys. Each country has its own distinct style and traditions that serve as inspiration for a momento-filled home. Whether inspired by the textiles of Peru or the tranquil elements of Japanese culture, look to the objects of each country as decorative, cultural elements to fill your own space.