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Whether you’re an avid world traveler or someone who simply daydreams of adventures abroad, the mystique and charm of far-off places can be a true inspiration to everything in life, from your spirituality to your home decor.

With the help of five expert travel gurus, we’re virtually visiting five inspirational countries around the world that have limitless possibilities as a muse for design. We’ve challenged interior design expert Abbey DeHart to create “decor inspiration boards” using the essence of each featured destination—Bali, France, Iceland, India and Nepal—so you can bring these far-off lands right to any room of your home, with simple touches in color, furniture and accessories.

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The Essence of Bali

Bali is a tropical island in the Coral Triangle in Indonesia. Home of the Ubud Monkey Forest, architectural sites like the ancient Hindu Uluwatu Temple, the Elephant Cave and the 75-foot high statue of Vishnu, Bali is known for its roots in spirituality, and for its traditional wood and stone carving.

Kiersten says that Bali’s spirituality is one of the things that appeals to her most. “Bali has an incredible spiritual energy, which is what immediately draws in most people. It’s no wonder it’s known as ‘Island of the Gods.’”

But Bali has an earthy vibe, too, making it the best of both worlds. Kiersten says, “Bali is laid back, but it also has some eccentricity about it. There’s a tropical, trendy vibe at the beaches, as well as a magical, mystical feeling in places with temples and beautiful rice fields—it’s the perfect combination!”

Bringing Bali Home

Kiersten discusses the design elements that speak to her: “You’ll typically find a lot of distressed woods and oftentimes, shabby whitewashed wood. Pair that with cool shades of blue and green color and antiqued gold accents to picture Balinese architecture and style.”

Mixing tropical undertones with weathered woods and pops of color, the island of Bali comes to life in this bedroom. Its eclectic accessories and wall decor give off both warmth and serenity. 1) Elephant wall art 2) Leeds mirror 3) Pineapple table lamp 4) Havana ceiling fan 5) Gage cotton curtains 6) Maharaja dresser 7) Banana leaf headboard 8) Point de lac pillow 9) Gold Ceylon geometric pillow 10) Behr Bali Bliss interior paint 11) Amelia area rug 12) Lelei water hyacinth vase 13) Star succulent plant

The Essence of France

The most visited country in the world, France is home to the Louvre and famous architectural sites including the Palace of Versailles, Catacombs of Paris and the French Riviera. Known for Gothic stained glass windows and medieval manuscripts, the French influence on design is ornate, classic and sophisticated.

For travelers, France has much to offer in the way of architecture, and of course, cuisine. “Paris is Paris, and I’m certainly not the first person to fall under its spell!” says Matt. “The combination of the stunning architecture, the museums and cultural experiences, along with some of the best food in the world make it a world-class destination. Life is a little more laid back and their priorities are different. The focus is enjoying life and not just working yourself to death. I really can relate to that.”

Bringing France Home

“Looking around my house, it’s obvious that I love travel,” says Matt. “On the walls are artistic renditions of metro maps from around the world. My Christmas tree is covered with ornaments I’ve purchased on my travels, and the framed photos all feature important travel memories that I want to have around me.” Still, he avoids filling his rooms with trinkets and souvenirs from every trip. “I do it sparingly, so it has to evoke an emotional, visceral reaction. It has to really mean something to me. I think that’s one reason why I also tend to buy small art pieces and crafts when I travel. They are emblematic of their culture, and it immediately transports me back to that moment in time.”

How does France inspire design? “For me, Paris exists in very cool colors—light blue and muted white with pops of color here and there.”

A pretty Parisian entryway may include a mix of traditional and contemporary elements, including bits of whimsy, like bicycle wall art or a glass lantern. The traditional dresser and tufted bench are both sophisticated and welcoming. 1) Mini chandelier 2) Thurston table lamp 3) Simeon square frames 4) Antique copper wall shelves 5) Visions drawer chest 6) Montpellier area rug 7) Paris finest wall clock 8) Bicycle wall sculpture 9) Behr French Silver interior paint 10) Danitra metal and glass lantern 11) Ivan bench

The Essence of Iceland

Iceland runs almost exclusively on renewable energy and is home to the majestic Blue Lagoon. With its varying landscapes, treasured textile creations of knitted wool and embroidery, and its famous architectural sites that include the Golden Circle, Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral and the Sun Voyager Sculpture, Iceland is a small country with a big dose of inspiration.

“I’ve never been somewhere before and been so mesmerized by every landscape I set eyes on,” says Matt. “The ever-changing landscape always keeps me entertained and intrigued. It’s such a beautiful country filled with warm and welcoming people (who are also beautiful). The landscape here is like nothing else in the world. It’s magic!”

Bringing Iceland Home

“How could such a tiny place have such a diverse and beautiful landscape?” Matt wonders. “It is the land of sheep, Northern Lights, volcanoes with unpronounceable names (try Eyjafjallajökull), and epic landscapes.” To keep hold of these wondrous visions, Matt keeps his souvenirs simple: “My travel memories come in the form of photos, journals and faded memories,” he says.

For this Icelandic living room, we tied in a variety of textures with a rich, warm and earthy color palette; maritime-themed lighting; as well as a rustic vibe with natural woods, leathers and woolly pillows. 1) Acadian bookcase 2) Compass wall clock 3) Nautical wall art 4) Maritime table lamp 5) Cast-iron sheep 6) Shag knit pillow 7) Garrison leather sofa 8) Anjou end table 9) Behr Silky White interior paint 10) Poultry wired bottle 11) Malcolm area rug 12) Reclaimed wood trays

The Essence of India

The second-most populous country in the world, India is home to “Holi” (the festival of colors) and famous architectural sites including the Taj Mahal, the Golden Temple and the Elephanta Caves. The Indian people are known for their colorful weaving and brass artwork.

“It’s a country that keeps you on your toes, engaged and spiritually connected to yourself and others,” Kristen says. “When I think of the culture, I think of kind, caring communities of people who care most about family. Plus, the landscapes are absolutely stunning! Every region is significantly different than the others, but all are absolutely magical in their own way. And the food is some of the best I’ve ever had!”

Bringing India Home

It’s easy for Kristen to describe the visual inspiration of India. “India is full of color! Whenever I see a medley of bright colors, I think of India. Pink and blue especially remind me of India. Perhaps my time in Rajasthan has had an impact on this, as it’s the land of ‘the blue city’ and ‘the pink city,’” she says.

Kristen knows what it means to have to limit decor options for small spaces. “We just bought a 31-foot 1976 Airstream Sovereign, which we will be living in full-time. This means we’ve had to really downsize our lives and get rid of a lot of our stuff we had in our previous place. What we have kept are the things we’ve bought from our travels. They have really defined who we are, because they have been the most incredible moments we’ve had in our lives.”

So how does she decide which keepsakes are most worth incorporating into her decor? “I like unique pieces that really define a culture. I especially love when it is handmade by the person I’m buying it from. This means that it’s one of a kind, and those pieces are the most special.”

Indian decor offers so many stunning options. For this bedroom, we selected a bright and diverse palette of colors. The pops of pink and bold navy blues, combined with the wood and metallic tones, create a unique and fun look. 1) Jaxon wall plaque 2) Amadour bubble glass bottle 3) Avignon mercury glass table lamp 4) Margutta mirror 5) Anderson headboard 6) Glenneyre quilt 7) Barnside 3-drawer chest 8) Rustic jeweled elephant statue 9) Behr Little Dipper interior paint 10) Georgia area rug

The Essence of Nepal

A multi-ethnic nation and the home of Mount Everest, Nepal is famous for its ancient Hindu Pashupatinath Temple, Buddhist Kopan Monastery and the world’s tallest Shiva Statue. The Nepalese people create art in the form of Dhaka, handwoven natural fiber fabrics in intricate patterns woven using bamboo looms, and Thangka, Tibetan Buddhist scroll paintings of a sacred deity on cotton or silk.

“Nepal is a country of designers, crafts people and artisans. I’ve been fortunate to travel to some of the most remote parts of Nepal, where traditional crafts and design are still practiced and still flourish,” says Kim. That flourishing culture is exactly what draws Kim in, in addition to the Nepalese value of nature. “The rich culture, welcoming people, arts and crafts…to learn about ancient ways of life and to experience and appreciate the ‘basics’ of living” is what visits to Nepal are all about, she says.

Bringing Nepal Home

How does Nepal translate into home decor? “I love minimal, simple design, but I am in love with these Himalayan, Nepali and Indian colors!” says Kim. “Rich burgundy wine, mustard yellow, pumpkin orange, cream, earth brown in rough, nubby wool…I’m addicted to striped Dolpo blankets, as well as Tibetan textiles, rugs and old wooden ladders carved from single logs. I also love the beautiful old village chests, worn through years of use. I try items around the house and see how they work and how they make me feel when I wake up in the morning. I’m constantly switching around textiles from hanging on a wall to over a table or a chair.”

The rich colors of Nepal are shown in this room with a wide variety of deep reds, yellows and oranges mixed with rich wooden accents and traditional elements. 1) Sachin jute curtains 2) Heyden mirror 3) Camillus wall art 4) Brooklyn floor lamp 5) GG heritage wooden bowls 6) Taibei ceramic Buddha head 7) Marie armchair 8) Boucle decorative pillow 9) Trunk mission oak cocktail table 10) Behr Deep Fire interior paint 11) Colette area rug


What to take with you: For the ultimate travel experience that leads to true inspiration, you have to step out of your comfort zone and explore. That means not being afraid to speak the language, travel off the beaten path and taste new foods you can’t pronounce. Make sure you pack a good translation book and a handy guide for the best local restaurants to truly experience what your destination has to offer. Open your mind to the cultures, colors, sights and sounds, and get lost in your new surroundings.

What to bring home: It can be tough to leave a lot of room in suitcases for souvenirs, so be selective about what you bring home from your trip (and ask local merchants about their shipping capabilities). Sarah Fishburne, head of Trend and Design for The Home Depot, gives advice for avoiding kitschy trinkets and focusing on your surroundings for inspiration: “We are more inspired by colors we see along our travels and also the architecture we come into contact with.”

For portable yet significant pieces to add to your home decor, think of textiles that can be easily folded, like blankets, drapes or tapestries; prints or maps that can lay flat in a suitcase; and small but character-rich pieces like candlesticks or clocks that can be tucked away in your luggage. “I believe everyone should collect something. It can be magnets, postcards or cabinet hardware,” says Sarah. “Whatever it is, it is a great way to remember the place and tell the story about it. I try to always get a little piece of art from each city.” Of course, nothing takes up less space than your own photos and videos that commemorate the best moments of your adventures.

About the Style Guru

Sarah Fishburne
Sarah Fishburne writes the Design Meet Style blog.

About the Authors

A long-time contributor to the Krrb blog, Mateo Londono brings to his writing his love of travel, as well as his passion for creative ways to incorporate art into home decor.

Abbey DeHart, creator of The Cards We Drew blog, is an expert on DIY, home decor, crafting, recipes, parties and more.


Tagged: Tips & advice

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