East Meets West: The Cross-Cultural Essence of Modern Luxury Design
Throughout history, design of any kind has been largely influenced by cultural and environmental contexts. With the internet and the ability to jet set, it’s never been easier to learn about & be inspired by different cultures. As a result, the world’s best interior designers constantly explore new ways to creatively and functionally fuse influences from around the globe.
In this design journal, we explore and share insights on philosophies from some of the greatest minds in cross-cultural interior design. We highlight innovative designers who inspire Angie Wetzel, including Antonio Citterio, Barbara Barry, and Tony Chi.
Design that Transcends Time
No matter what part of the world you stumble upon, what defines modern luxury is shifting away from unapproachable formality to a grounded embrace of time, comfort, and health. These pillars and the sense of security they provide are the core of a positive human experience across cultures.
Therefore, any kind of interior design that attempts to fuse cultures should prioritize this trifecta. Good design will incorporate elements that are efficient to save time and reduce stress, which ultimately boosts comfort and health. By the same token, the most powerful interiors contain spaces that transcend time altogether, promoting a sense of stillness.
Consider Japanese design, often minimal with attention to functionality. By drawing on the simplistic principles of traditional Japanese culture, designers can infuse Zen balance into a space. This slows down the pace of life so that inhabitants can root themselves in the present moment.
Soothing Japanese elements to use include:
Natural materials, such as fine wood, rice, straw, and paper
Multi-functional furniture, such as foldable beds, sliding screens, and low-sitting tables
Neutral color palettes with greys, browns, blacks, and whites
Pieces to Serve Generations
When designing any given space, the first part of the process is imagining real people and how they will interact with their surroundings. How do they arrive and enter? How will they move around a room? The answers to these questions often rely upon cultural context, which is becoming increasingly blurred as we forge ahead into the future.
Behavioral analysis is the foundation of Italian designer Antonio Citterio’s work. Designing any furnishing should be approached not from the perspective of individual pieces but within the context of creating an entire functional habitat.
Designing a series of objects that are compatible with each other allows Citterio to create a terrain that endorses the previously mentioned pillars of time, comfort, and health.
Perhaps most notably, Citterio describes modernity as “leaving an inheritance.” His idea is to create something that ultimately will be inherited by another; objects that are timeless create memory while reinforcing the identity of a place and a group of people.
How to Stand the Test of Time and Space
When asked by Karl Lohnes to describe the term ‘timeless,’ American designer Barbara Barry reflects on “a feeling or mood that comes from layering elemental forms together.” Her goal is for people to look at her work and feel like it “holds you in quiet ways” rather than shouting at them.
Cross-cultural design can stand the test of both time and space by combining elements that are both practical and beautiful. Much like nature, which is timeless and uncontrolled, design that fuses east and west embodies an effect of ageless prosperity and peace.
The Inner Garden
Beautiful gardens are not necessarily a new concept in European and American cultures, but courtyard houses have played a more integral role in Asian-Pacific societies for millennia.
The Japanese Zen Garden was created to evoke tranquility, calmness, and peace. It provided a landscape for contemplation and meditation, practices that are becoming increasingly essential in stressful modern society.
Other Asian gardens, such as the Chinese Siheyuan, defined the spatial organization of the various rooms while providing a serene space for studying, socializing, reflecting, and even for performing various rituals.
Although the concept of the inner courtyard has declined for compact buildings to take precedence, many hotels and homes are now carefully recreating these inner courtyards. Increasing evidence shows that connecting with nature is essential for our health. This, naturally, influences how designers incorporate the natural world into their work and prioritize sustainability.
Incorporating an inner courtyard in the architecture of a property completely shifts the interior design approach. It presents an opportunity to design around established trees on the land and emphasize nature as a design element.
A peaceful and private outdoor retreat visible to many areas of the floorplan shifts the human experience of a space. Furnishings may be oriented with the courtyard as a focal point and lighting is designed to complement natural lighting streaming from within the garden.
Beautiful aesthetics are a top priority, but the desired human experience is the true narrative for any design project.
Designing for All People
Above all else, cross-cultural design embodies the breadth of the human experience. It involves developing spaces that evoke certain emotions from any inhabitant, regardless of their background. From her travels through India, Angie Wetzel shares that their design “gives you the feeling of being free, and as one with the earth.”
Anything can look ‘pretty,’ but the true testament of good design is when it triggers an emotional experience.
When describing the passion behind his process, American hospitality designer, Tony Chi, proclaims, “Hospitality is a tradition, an experience, a form of communication found in all cultures and sacred traditions.” Good design provides a safe space for people to connect, whether with the community, nature, or one’s self.
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Modern Luxury Has No Limits
Every day, designers are discovering new means of creating visceral experiences through shapes, textures, colors, lighting, and more. Beauty and inspiration can be discovered in all places, and true magic happens when designers break past the limiting ‘walls’ of specific rules and style conventions.
At InterLux Interiors, we are constantly learning from the world around us. We expand our creativity through history, philosophy, culture, and events within a global context. If you are ready to embark on a design journey toward not simply a pretty picture, but a work of functional art, contact our team to inquire about getting started.