10 Global Design Traditions That’ll Handsome Up Any Home

From hygge to kintsugi to leather made from giant rodents

October 19, 2018 9:00 am

I had a friend growing up whose parents had festooned their home with tchotchkes, art and furniture from every corner of the world.

African wood carvings. Ecuadorian tapestries. The world’s most diverse collection of mugs.

Their house was not an ode to some four-lettered design company; it was a living testament to places they’d been and people they’d crossed paths with.

This, I decided, was the type of home I aspired to live in.

If you’re of the same mind, consider this: our guide to 10 of the world’s handsomest design traditions, from repaired Japanese pottery (kintsugi) to Denmark’s love of all things cozy (hygge).

We’ve got marching orders on how to track them down, along with some shortcuts (read: web shops) that’ll still ensure your funds go to the local artisans who produce them.

Image via Wikimedia Commons


What it is: Basically the inverse of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” kintsugi refers to repairing broken ceramics (bowls, mugs, etc.) with a lacquer mixed with gold or silver powder. The resulting object is thus deemed more beautiful and interesting, as it wears its history on its skin.
Where to find it: Tokyo is brimming with antique shops and flea markets; Antique Mall Ginza is one of the largest and most reputable.
Or get it at home: Buying kintsugi’d objects kind of defeats the purpose; instead, make your own. There are plenty of DIY kintsugi kits and tutorials available around the web, like this one.

Image via Revival Rugs / Facebook

Anatolian Rugs

What it is: The country’s status as the ne plus ultra of rug-weaving dates back to Byzantine times — Marco Polo noted in his journals that he had seen the “the most beautiful silks and carpets in the world, and with the most beautiful colours,” while passing through the region. Hand-woven and naturally dyed, the rugs can take months or even years to complete.
Where to find it: The bazaars in the coastal city of Kusadasi may be your best bet, though caveat emptor: counterfeiting or passing off rugs from other regions as the real deal is rampant. Forbes has a thorough guide on how to avoid being scammed.
Or get it at home: Revival Rugs is a direct-to-consumer company that sources all their vintage rugs directly from vendors they work with in Turkey. They recently launched a wall hangings category as well.

Left Bank Books in Seattle, image via Clay Banks / Unsplash


What it is: Hygge (pronounced HOO-guh — yes, like the Blue Swede song) refers not to one particular category within the world of design, but rather a general feeling of coziness induced by certain design elements: candlelight, reading nooks, throw blankets, natural wood. We like to think of it as turning your living room into a womb.
Where to find it: One doesn’t so much buy hygge as experience it; a visit to the aptly named The Living Room, a three-floor coffee shop filled with commodious seating arrangements and plenty of areas to linger and converse, should provide you with a clearer notion of the somewhat abstract concept.
Or get it at home: Grandpa Store is a great resource for all things Scandinavian, from hand-knit men’s goods and throw pillows to minimalist kitchen wares.

Image via WholeStory Collective


What it is: Sound it out: it’s the Spanish word for hammock, a popular export throughout much of Central America and the Caribbean. Styles vary by region, with Nicaragua’s supple, double-sprang-woven cotton numbers often considered the veritable Lamborghinis of the industry. There are two major styles: those with spreader bars and those without.
Where to find it: To go straight to the source, you’ll want to visit the market in Masaya, which is accessible by car hire from the capital city of Managua.
Or get it at home: Whole Story Collective is a fair-trade dealer that works directly with craftspeople in Nicaragua.

Image via The Citizenry / Weavers of the Rwenzori Mountains

Rwenzori Baskets

What it is: Basket weaving is by no means endemic to one place: peoples from the Middle East to Peru to the Pacific Islands have been practicing it for millennia. But one of the richest traditions hails from the Rwenzori Mountains of Uganda, where you’ll find simple, functional vessels made from banana and palm leaves.
Where to find it: A visit to the Rwenzori Mountains National Park should be on every climber and trekker’s bucket list; the most popular route is a moderately difficult seven-day circuit. You’ll pass tons of weavers and blacksmiths in the villages through which you access the park.
Or get it at home: Rose & Fitzgerald is an LA-based company that sources beautiful home goods directly from African makers; fair-trade marketplace The Citizenry (who have relationships with artisans around the globe and sometimes partner with R&F) also have a great selection.

Image via Shiprock Santa Fe / Facebook

Navajo Nation

What it is: The vibrant geometric rugs and blankets associated with the Navajo Nation of the American Southwest; it is believed that they adopted their weaving practices from the neighboring Pueblo.
Where to find it: Specialty stores throughout New Mexico and Arizona, like Shiprock Santa Fe or Cameron Trading Post.
Or get it at home: The web shops of either of the vendors mentioned above.

Image via 1stDibs

Coromandel Screens

What it is: Those lacquered, multi-paneled screens you’ve seen in Chinese restaurants, typically embossed with images from nature or mythology. They date back to the Han Dynasty (~200 BC), and while decorative, have always been functional: they prevent drafts and can also partition off sections of rooms to create a sense of privacy. They’re especially useful in loft apartments.
Where to find it: The screens are primarily made for export these days (the name — Coromandel — owes to the Indian port they traditionally passed through on their way west), though antique examples dating back hundreds of years often cross the block at Sotheby’s Hong Kong.
Or get it at home: 1stdibs, a reputable online antiques dealer, has some fetching options. Prices vary wildly depending on provenance; you won’t get the real deal for less than a couple grand.

Image via MuranoNet

Murano Glass

What it is: The glass-blowing capital of the world for more than 700 years, Murano is one of the many canal-bound neighborhoods of Venice. The tradition lives on to this day, with intricately decorated vases, carafes and dishware around every corner.
Where to find it: You can’t throw a stone in Murano without hitting a high-end glass store, which you definitely shouldn’t do, because, well, the obvious. Here are some tips on making sure you get good bang for your buck.
Or get it at home: MuranoNet works directly with a cavalcade of artisans, peddling everything from lighting fixtures to kitchenware to large-format furniture pieces.

Image via The Citizenry / Woodworkers of Jepara

Javanese Teak Furniture

What it is: Teak is a hard, durable, naturally water-resistant wood that’s long been used in shipbuilding. It also makes for great furniture indoors and out. In Java — and especially the city of Jepara — woodworkers have been perfecting their craft for centuries, often relying on ingenious joinery techniques passed down through generations.
Where to find it: You need to work with a company that has SVLK certification, which means they’re allowed to export their products abroad. Certified companies will likely also be able to guide you through what can be a tricky shipping-and-handling process. Republic Furnitures has a showroom in Jepara.
Or get it at home: The Citizenry carries a few exceedingly handsome pieces that come from Jepara (chairs, end tables, a decorative ladder). Decoteak is a Florida-based company with a small selection of beachy stools, tables, benches and outdoor furniture that come straight from Indonesia. There’s also the equally venerable (if not truly authentic) Teak Me Home, a California company that sources their teak on quarterly trips to Indonesia.

Image via Estribos

Carpincho Leather

What it is: The thin-but-strong leather made from the capybara, aka the world’s largest rodent, aka 150-lb. Guinea pigs; it’s long been a favorite of gauchos. Argentina is the only country that regulates the production of carpincho leather: the animals must be farm-raised, as hunting them is illegal.
Where to find it: Murillo Street in Villa Crespo is where you’ll find Buenos Aires’ dedicated leather district, with everything from boots to sofas adorning store windows.
Or get it at home: A Patagonian shop called Estribos sells embroidered carpincho belts online; Orvis also sells a pair of carpincho gloves.

Nota bene: If you buy through the links in this article, InsideHook may earn a small share of the profits.

Main image via Sidney Pearce


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