Today, fusion-style design has three main elements: spicy colors, interesting textures, and an eager embrace of handcrafted arts from around the world. Don’t be afraid to mix countries either-primitive carvings from one country often go well with primitive pottery from another.
Antique blue-and-white porcelain from China complements newly carved wood from Indonesia. To keep such diversity from seeming overwhelming, include one item with simple lines for each one that is ornate. You’ll soon discover your tolerance for pattern and texture.
Walls and Ceilings. To let your furnishings take center stage, stick with a warm, neutral color palette of toffee or palest gold. Or let bold color be the backdrop for favorite pieces. Paint one wall a rich accent color-pumpkin orange or paprika for a massive woodcarving, or saffron yellow for a collection of porcelain. Cover the walls with grass cloth for texture, or set up shoji-paper screens to define a dining area. Add texture to the ceiling with shallow beams, and paint the spaces between them an accent color.
Floors. Focus on natural materials such as wood, brick, tile, or renewable bamboo. Avoid wall-to-wall carpeting, or break up its expanse with area rugs. Area rugs can also define conversational groupings or a dining area: Look for hand-woven Tibetan or Nepalese wool, tribal designs from the Middle East or Afghanistan, and thick Chinese, Indian, or Pakistani rugs. Or, be more contemporary and use sisal, sea grass, bamboo rugs, or Tatami mats.
Surfaces. Go opulent with painted tiles, gilded wood, or polished marble or granite, or go serene with “sea-glass” tiles, dark “ebony”and mahogany, and natural river pebbles. Use bamboo or grass shades at the windows, or drape the windows with yards of sumptuous Indian-sari silk.
Fabrics. Textiles range from geometric African mud cloth in black, brown, and white to exquisite Chinese silks, with a multitude in between. Upholster the furniture in a suede-like solid, and heap up pillows made from Kelim rugs or exotic ethnic fabrics. Or, piece together a table runner from antique brocades or Japanese kimono fabrics. Almost every culture has distinctive handwork, embroidery, or beaded trim (find them online if they’re not available locally)-use them on pillows or to edge the draperies. Frame distinctive embroideries.
Furniture. Stick with classic lines or contemporary furniture for the most part, so unique accessories can stand out. For small accent pieces, use Chinese country-style benches, stools, or tables in burl, elm wood, or rich red lacquer. Include a key dramatic piece in each room: a stepped Japanese tansu chest, a colorfully painted Tibetan dresser, Chinese-latticework shutters, an iron-bound Korean altar table in lieu of a coffee table.
Accessories. Combine your favorite pieces-paper umbrellas or fans, hand-carved or inlaid boxes, framed ethnic jewelry-mixing and matching them without regard for their country of origin. Instead, group items by color, shape, material, or subject to give displays more impact. Create a tablescape with several objects arranged on fabric as a centerpiece. Hang a tapestry or Tibetan thangka on the wall. Store magazines in handmade baskets, and use earthy pottery or porcelains from around the world as serving pieces. One important statue, displayed alone on a pedestal, is an eye-catching accent.
Details. Think drama: A single blossom with spiky greenery is enough for a Japanese ikebanarrangement. Or fill a large floor vase with towering lengths of bamboo or exotic grasses. Hang Chinese paper lanterns from trees for parties.