It seems that human beings are always open to new ideas, especially on the home front. In today’s globalized world it’s hard to appreciate what a sensation new styles were back in the day. The European ‘discovery’ of Japan and Japanese art and style, and it’s absolutely massive impact on the decorative arts in the later nineteenth century is a good example. In spite of (or because of) globalization, and with our expanded cultural horizons, we still love and hanker after exotic touches in our interiors today.
What is it about styles from far-flung places that appeals to us? One of the top reasons for their continuing popularity is the way they fit right into contemporary tastes. The influence of Japanese style fed straight into what would become the minimalist style that arose in the middle of the twentieth century. Simple lines and formal elegance are the features that grabbed the imagination back then and are just as contemporary and desirable for the kinds of interiors we find desirable today.
Just as important in contemporary taste is craftsmanship. Part of the reason for the popularity of oriental goods a century or so ago was the perception that the rise of industrial manufacturing was killing the quality that was the signature of the skilled craftsmen of old. There’s plenty of furniture out there that’s functional but not much more and quite likely won’t last. Furniture inspired by oriental design often incorporates a high quality of workmanship as well. It’s not all plain lines either. Simple forms are elaborated with great attention to detail in eastern traditions.
Organic materials are another big issue in the modern era. Apart from the fact that organic materials look good and are easy to fit into a variety of decor schemes, we want green products, from sustainable resources. Rattan cane and woven furniture has that organic look and feel, along with echoes of the east, and of fibers harvested from the wild expanses of tropical lands.
It’s those echoes, and the power of design to evoke associations, that help make furniture pieces create atmosphere. Some furniture styles bring back memories of beach vacations or getaways to perfect tropical islands with palm-fringed shorelines. Natural materials from faraway places can somehow subliminally evoke big skies, sun-soaked locations and peaceful verandas in lush green surroundings.
Wicker and cane furniture has a particular exotic resonance. It recalls the style of colonial era elegance in Indonesia, Africa and the Caribbean. For a contemporary patio or deck, furniture with a touch of the east is a stylish choice. Cane and wicker chairs are always good to look at, as well as wonderfully comfortable, for dining, bedrooms or sunrooms. It’s the next best thing to actually escaping to faraway places…