Bringing home a faraway feel

A global approach leads to intriguing interiors
Duquesa Jasmine
Courtesy Walker Zanger Virginia Tile

Whether it’s intentional or not, homes are filled with international influences. “We are more exposed to different cultures than we used to be — the world is a much smaller place,” notes Charles Dunlap, interior designer and owner of Dunlap Design Group in Pleasant Ridge. “For many, that ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ trip has turned into a ‘once-a-year’ getaway.”

For Dunlap, global design is about creating a harmonious mix of objects, architectural features, finishes and color palettes from diverse cultures. 

“As people are exposed to other cultures, an appreciation for traditions and aesthetics has been adopted and adapted within interiors,” he says. “Most people already have a cultural blend in their homes; they just don’t really think about it. Just like in fashion, there is no one way to express yourself these days.”  

The designer incorporates global elements to add character and warmth. In his living room, he hung shoji screens on the wall and turned Indonesian print blocks into sculpture. A reading nook in his home office is covered in bold Moroccan-tile inspired wallpaper. “Pieces culled from various cultures add personality to a room,” Dunlap says. “Global interiors can be subtle and muted or colorful and exotic.”

Sometimes it’s about breaking in new construction with pieces from the past that have a rich history and patina, like antique oars from Borneo that will hang on a wall in a client’s lake house. Other times, there’s a more personal connection. For clients who lived in China, Dunlap’s task was to work their Asian pieces into a new space. 

“It was about bringing in simple, upholstered pieces and incorporating a few pieces from other cultures they’ve collected. For them, it wasn’t about ‘decorating’ — it reflects their story and who they are.”

The View from Up North
Driftwood Horse Head
Photography Courtesy Palacek

Michigan vacation homes aren’t only echoing regional inspiration.

“People are traveling more and designs cross over from different countries and cultures,” observes Nadine Hogan, design manager for Scott Shuptrine Interiors in Petoskey.

“There’s such a mix, especially with imports and the Internet.”

Teak and other exotic woods are among their product offerings from around the globe. Manufacturers like Century Furniture and Palacek have pieces that are very exotic looking, Hogan notes. Wicker, rattan and petrified wood looks for indoor and outdoor furniture are hot right now, such as selections from Lane Venture.

Striking accessories, from decorative lanterns to woven trays, mix with animal prints like cowhide or zebra on a rug, throw or pillows. Assorted fabrics evoke a faraway feel. “People are more open to mixing patterns like classic plaids and herringbone,” says Hogan. “It’s more about the colors coordinating.”

Overseas Appeal
Virgina Tile Duquesa Fatima
Courtesy Walker Zanger Virginia Tile

Being exposed to design trends from parts of the world like Europe expands avenues of inspiration, says Lynne Moran, Michigan showroom operations manager for Virginia Tile. “So many of our tiles come from other countries,” she notes. “It often starts in Italy or Spain, like the large porcelain tiles that are so popular here for floors and walls.”

While homeowners drawn to Asian, Moroccan, Turkish and Middle Eastern styles aren’t color shy, teak and walnut looks from Sweden and Denmark lend quieter notes. “The low-movement tiles originated in Europe,” Moran shares, “and people gravitated to them because they wanted a more organic feel.”

Uncover other possibilities at; and — Jeanine Matlow

Photography Courtesy Century Furniture/Scott Shuptrine Interiors (Top);
Palacek/Scott Shuptrine Interiors (Bottom)

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