You may have traveled to Japan or Ghana and seen beautiful artworks and patterned fabrics that captured your heart. Maybe you admire the intricate designs of Morrocan rugs. Humans are drawn to things they admire and you may have seen something from a different culture that would be a lovely addition to your home. But how do you do it without cultural appropriation or exploitation?
Whether you are a seasoned traveler or admire the beauty of different cultures, it’s essential to be aware and self-reflective when taking inspiration from cultures that are not yours. Here’s how to incorporate other cultures’ designs and cultural elements into your home.
While you might feel inspired by cultural artifacts and the vivid colors and patterns from a specific culture, it's important to know what these mean before using them in your home design. When you’re unsure, err on the side of caution. You want to display beautiful items without being disrespectful by using a Buddha as a decoration for your coffee table or a prayer rug as a bathroom mat.
It becomes cultural appropriation when you reduce an object, whether a rug, culturally symbolic pattern, mask or headdress, into just a pretty thing without understanding its meaning. When you see something you want to use in your home design, you might want to ask yourself a few questions first.
Was an individual or community exploited for you to be able to use the sculpture, rug or pillow? Is the object used purely for decorative purposes — both in its place of origin and in your home? Do you know the cultural or religious history of the piece? Some textiles are reserved for ceremonial rites of passage or rituals. Sacred items like fabric or patterns used for special ceremonies and religious statues or objects used for prayer are best left alone.
You can use non-ceremonial fabrics, handmade rugs and other items as long as you do your due diligence to understand where the object comes from.
If you want to include statues, textiles and items in your design, buy from local artisans or use brands or designers with long-term partnerships with local artisans. If the object's monetary value translates to equal measures of value for the artisan or community, you are on the right track.
Look for authentic, handmade pieces. This may be easier if you are a seasoned traveler and can buy directly from local artisans. Prioritize companies like Indegoafrica, who partner with groups of artisan women in Ghana and Rwanda to create handcrafted products like baskets, trays, fruit baskets and other decorative items. The artisans earn 50% of the wholesale price and the company sources all materials from the communities and invests in training and dedication for the women.
Directly supporting native artisans by giving them visibility and compensation for their work is a great way to appreciate their designs and creations.
If you want to incorporate a specific kind of design into your home, a good approach is to use elements of design, pattern and color and include them in ways that align with your personal style. For example, you can use paint with colors from an artwork or cultural pattern you like. The best practice is to design with an understanding of the significance of specific design styles and cultural objects. Here are some ways you can incorporate some cultures into your home.
French decor features simple, effortless and calming elements:
Moroccan decor is known for its vibrancy, luxury and warmth:
Known for its elegance, Scandinavian design prioritizes function and simplicity through subtle textures, clean lines and minimalistic decor:
Japanese decor is all about uncluttered space with peaceful decor:
It’s possible to use design elements from different cultures without appropriating culture or misusing elements. Remember only to use design elements and objects that are ethically sourced and honor people’s ethnic heritage. When in doubt, research! Understanding the religious and symbolic meanings of items before using them or incorporating them into your design is important.
Now, if all this has you buzzing with ideas but you're not sure where to start, why not give the DecorMatters app a whirl? Our virtual room decorating tool lets you visualize how these diverse elements can harmoniously co-exist in your home. You can also engage in interior design games to spark your creativity, and hey, you're never alone! Socialize with both designers and friends within the app to exchange tips, tricks, and maybe even a bit of cultural wisdom. Download DecorMatters today and turn your design inspirations into your own global oasis.
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