Most of you know how much I love to travel. I truly enjoy exploring new places and drawing inspiration from the people, architecture, natural beauty and unique objects one sees while traveling. As we experience one of the coldest winters on record, let me share a journey to a warm place – a place warm in culture, inspiration and atmosphere – Morocco!
Morocco is a land of contrasts. I was inspired by the white buildings with brilliant blue shutters (doest it sound like Greek Islands?) as well as the colors in the souks where the merchants bargain for their wares. Color, texture, sound, scent – it’s all around you as you meander amongst the various stalls. I wanted to bring a piece of Morocco home with me, yet I didn’t want to fill my apartment with knick-knacks. Instead, I brought the essence of Morocco into my home with pieces of old rugs that I turned into a decorative long back pillow for my sofa, once I returned home.
In Morocco, I discovered long empty roads with only olive trees and sand, for miles, before I hit the coastline into Essouria – a port city on the ocean. I was amazed by the contrast of women in black burkas enjoying the beach alongside young girls in bathing suits of bright colors. I had a wonderful lunch while traveling up into the High Atlas Mountains taking pleasure from colors of the spices and vegetables that were so beautifully presented. I was amazed at this beauty, remoteness and sense of space as I enjoyed this flavorful meal. I often think of this meal remembering the wonderful smells and consider how to evoke this experience through design, whether in texture of fabrics, use of paint or flooring, or lighting.
Along the way I discovered families and villages making their living working in silver, coral and stones creating exotically designs brackets and necklaces. I came across a village where the women supported their families by making soaps and candles from a specific plant oil found only in Morocco. The dried reeds were made into beautiful tote baskets with leather handles. I brought one back and use it in the summer for my shopping at the greenmarkets. It is strong enough that I have used it to carry tile or carpet samples that I want to present to my clients. Every time I use it, memories of this wonderful trip creep into my mind.
Over the holidays I spoke with a college friend who now lives in Florida. During our holiday telephone catch-up, she shares that her sister started a business selling totes from Morocco! It is exciting to know that I now have a source for these wonderful totes. I cannot wait to use them suspended from a wall peg in a kitchen to hold fresh fruits or vegetables – or placed in a guest room of a beach house to hold reading material for your weekend guest. You can find these through my friend’s sister, Rita at www.sheridansheausa.com and tell her I sent you. I know you will find your own inspiration.
Of course, you don’t need to go to exotic places for inspiration – take a winter walk through your neighborhood park – take in the patterns found on the bark of a birch tree – do you see inspiration for tiles in a bathroom? Check out the rainforest section at the Central Park Zoo – revel in the warmth and the brilliant colors of the exotic birds. Wherever you may be during these winter months – be inspired –your next renovation project or simple update may reflect some piece of something you see, sense or feel.
Since we are surrounded by all this snow, I highly recommend taking a walk in the park or escaping the city for a day. If nothing else, snow is peaceful. Just walking in the midst of a snow fall, is quiet. There is a special sort of hush. And it is possible to find yourself surrounded by inspiration, great and small.
Besides design and being inspired to create – I also love to travel – it can be a simple train trip up the Hudson to visit family. This is one of the most awe inspiring ways of traveling – especially on the East coast. Most of the trip takes you directly along the river. Each season has something to offer – the slow moving river during the winter with patches of ice floating, while the gray sky seems to settle on top of the river as the bare tree branches rustle in the winds. I love looking for the various shades of dark green in the evergreens, and then reflected as deep green blue in the river. The cool grays and earthy browns of exposed rocks, not normally seen in the summer, offer not only these wonderful shades of color but draw interest in the textures of these elements. Do not forget the white sky – when you look hard you see shades of grays with hints of lavender, smokey blues, soft whites.
If you find yourself in the forest for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, some of these same features, trees and rocks take on a deeper tone since the evergreens and bare trees hide the whitish sky without the brightness of a high summer sun. Or, if you live near the ocean and enjoy the cold, take that brisk walk at the beach. Look at the patterns the wind has drawn in the sand or snow. Take in the early morning light as the sun appears on the horizon. It has a special glow to it in the wee hours on a cold day. Just the other day, it was a rosie peach color, painting the sky – just for a few minutes. Most days, it’s the palest yellow spreading across the fading gray of the night sky.
I went to the Charles Rohfls exhibit in the American Wing at the MET this weekend. The inspiration for his Arts & Crafts style furniture comes from the movement of the grain in the wood that he uses. Design inspiration comes from many sources. Looking at the fabric swatches that I found at Kravet‘s and Flourishes, what inspirations do you see?
Every season is special. Which season inspires you? Do you enjoy the cool, subtle colors of winter? Or, are you bolder and warmer in your color palette? Transferring these moments that offer tranquility should be considered when developing your home or office design. Although they are wonderful, don’t always turn to the obvious – the fabric with leaves, the gray walls – look deeper, a chair with aged leather that reflects the movement of muddy waters. The soft white fabric with metallic threads as drapery that adds the glistening sparkle of ice on the lake into your decor. A room color can be inspired by that little speck of pink found inside a seashell.
Tell me about your inspirations, your favorite colors or textures. It will be fun to understand where they came from!
Have you ever walked through a butterfly house? I remember doing it as a child and recently visited the Butterfly Conservatory and The Museum of Natural History. What a wonderful experience! Everyone should take some time to enjoy the delicate beauty of these fluttering creatures. As I slowly walked among the butterflies I was drawn to the amazing patterns on their wings. I understand that these patterns serve a purpose in nature to attract and/or deceive. Patterns can help to attract a mate, but they can also help to hide from predators or aid in the capture of prey. I think of how patterns can impact the design of a room.
The best patterns come from nature. Think about the popularity of leopard prints, floral designs, grain like textures. Patterns can bring a room together or they can overwhelm a room. It’s all about how and where it is used. As I watched the butterflies I noticed that depending on the open or closed position of their wings, their patterns looked different. When the butterfly was still, sitting on a branch or leaf, the pattern was subtle. It was sometimes hard to see the butterfly as it blended into its environment. On the other hand, when the butterfly was flying, it was bright and magical. There are some lessons here that apply to interior design.
If there is an exuberant pattern you like, don’t be afraid to use it – let it complement or add interest to your overall room design, not overpower it. Imagine a client who loves paisley patterns. The focal point of their living room is a rather large sofa. A natural inclination might be to use a paisley fabric to upholster the sofa. However, this now makes the already large sofa seem even bigger! My suggestion would be to use the paisley for throw pillows on the sofa or for curtains – especially if the window views are interesting. By using the pattern in this manner it will add interest rather than taking over the room. Your large sofa, in a subdued neutral or texture, is still in the room, but it no longer dominates. Think of using patterns as the butterfly in the room. They attract interest and introduce complementary colors.
Sometimes our best design inspirations come from a casual experience. I highly recommend that everyone take some time as visit the American Museum of Natural History in New York. I found that you are never too old to enjoy the magic that exists within those walls.