Summer sees millions of people pull up sticks and head away to enjoy travel, relaxation and a different point of view.
We tourists share these experiences on our social media channels and even write the odd postcard. When we return home, our heads are full of new design ideas for our houses. Part of it is the inspiration of the place we have been to, filling our minds with something fresh. Partly it’s just having the space to think about what we would like to be different in our lives and homes. Either way it is hard to avoid the fact that travel has been influencing interior design for a long time.
This isn’t something new. Many English country houses are full of examples of how travel has influenced design in England for hundreds of years.
The 17th & 18th Centuries were the hay-day of “The Grand Tour” – where the gentry headed out across Europe to take in the sights of Rome and Greece. While away they painted the incredible vistas, wrote sweeping romantic novels and helped themselves to chunks of temples that happened to be lying around. If you ever want to see how you can fill your home with tourist treasure from this period, visit the Victorian architect John Soames house (John Soames Museum, Lincoln Inn Fields, London) where the walls are covered in hunks of stone and statues from his trips.
The passion that was fuelled by this tour was soon echoed in architecture with Grecian columns and pediments topping off fashionable buildings of the time, now described as the Neo-Classical and Neo-Palladian movement. The influences are obvious in the designs of Robert Adam who built Kenwood House (Hampstead, London) and the adorable mis-proportioned Chiswick House; the builders accidentally built in cm instead of the inches specified on the plans, meaning it came in a lot smaller than expected!.
The Acropolis in Greece and The Bank of England designed by Sir John Soane
Once the English got the bug for international inspired design we couldn’t stop ourselves, embracing the east with Chinoiserie. When John Nash built Brighton Pavilion his rooms embraced India and China, all inside an Islamic inspired exterior.
The discovery of the Egyptian tombs in the early 20th Century, coming to a heady height with the uncovering of Tutankhamun, led to Egyptian style embedding itself in the Art Deco look. Art Deco also embraced our new found freedom reflecting the types of transport people where embracing. Now your home could also look like the steam ship you were going to board to travel to America.
Today we embrace styles from countries we haven’t seen with our own eyes. The late 90s brought heavy teak furniture and Buddha statues which gave your home a very Bali look. More recently we have swung to the colder Nordic climate for a bit of calm grey chic’s with dose of Hyggy and this year’s home decor trend embraces the Chinese philosophy of Wabi Sabi.
We live with ever easier access to a big wide world and our love of the places we have visited will always be reflected in the way be build and decorate our homes.
Enjoy your travels wherever they take you this summer. I’m just off to place my French woven baskets, bought in a market in Provence, to add both something new, and a fond memory into my home.