You wouldn’t believe it but getting the eclectic ethnic look put together isn’t a walk in the park. With risks of a space looking cluttered, cheap, or even like a souvenir cave, this is a style best done with the old adage ‘less is more’ in mind.
When creating a nomad (or ethnic, boho chic or bohemian) style in mind, think about the role of nature. Nomads generally travel according to the seasons in often barren or hostile geographical areas, such as the desert, steppe, prairie or tundra. Recreating this look is therefore very much about homeliness, cosiness and bringing the outdoors in.
An important advice to bear in mind however, is not to mix different ethnic styles, unless there’s a unity in their design. Putting together, for instance, Hispanic with African, can be a mismatch and create a chaotic interior. On the flipside, you don’t have to worry about minimalist perfection, as what you’re going for is a rustic and raw look, with eclectic pieces jumbled together. To get nomad styling right, work with layering a space with throws, rugs, decorative pieces and indigenous objet d’art.
Specific details can include bobble trim edging on curtains or cushions, or textiles with geometrical patterns such as stripes or squares. It’s a look that needn’t be expensive, but it should incorporate some quality craftsmanship, reflecting how nomads would travel with their belongings, which would last longer than for just a season. Wooden furniture really pull this look together, whether it’s a stripped table, night stand or chairs. Save the bold colours for the soft furnishing. The key is to create an inviting space, that doesn’t look precious.
So what sort of ethnic styles can you go for?
Look to Peru and you will find that textiles dominate. In fact, Peru has the longest continuous textile record in the world, dating back 10,000 years. In Peruvian culture, the brighter the colour, the better, so decorate with purples, electric blues, bright greens and neon pinks. These colours complement wooden furniture perfectly, as seen in the above photo, and contrary to what many think, these colours are actually more natural than one would think. Naturally coloured cotton (cotton that has been bred to have other colours than white), is often used in spinning and weaving, and textiles can also be dyed from flowers and minerals to achieve their bright colours. You will find intricate patterns in Peruvian textiles, these patterns traditionally told a story about a community’s identity and their customs. Indeed, textiles were more important than silver and gold before the Spaniards came.
For a textile-heavy look, go Hispanic.
This is the look that can prove to be the most dangerous – refrain from turning your pad into a souk replica. The colours you want to use are terracotta, indigo, saffron, chocolate and neutrals. Low seating and cushions should be the main focus. In a bedroom, this could be a futon or in a living room, a low-slung sofa that you pile up with cushions in different shades. Details can preferably nod to the Moorish, with poufs scattered around and tapestries hung on walls. Don’t limit the interior to only the visual, think about incense, pot-pourri or other typical scents, such as orange blossom or musk.
The limitations obviously don’t end there, you could also channel a North African style in your garden, balcony or roof terrace. What you need is hammam bowls, towels and textiles that can create the illusion of a Berber tent.
The African style, is about incorporating tribal patterns in your design and decorating a space with key pieces such as drum tables, mask, artisan sculptures and woven baskets. Unlike the Hispanic style, wood should be dark and shiny, like mahogany or cedar. Colours to opt for would be similar to the Moroccan style, with a focus on golden, sandy and earthy – again, referring back to nature, looking at the African savannah. Resist the zebra prints and think about using textiles with geometrical patterns, especially with mud and ochre colour combinations.
To avoid a zulu-tastic interior, look into using jute, raffia or linen to bring the right traveller’s touch to your space.