From an exotic Persian rug to a vintage Japanese ceiling lamp, global design elements are your ticket to a cultural journey right at home, and a modern look

In past columns I’ve talked about my new favorite decorating style: modern global chic. This week I’m taking a closer look because I’ve come across some cool things at Cathy’s Marketplace that illustrate how to bring this into your home.

Obviously if you’re well-traveled, you can incorporate pieces you’ve brought home to create an eclectic space. Whether you have a lot of stamps in your passport or simply want to add a colorful, exotic flair, here are some tips.

Tip 1. Layer rich, exotic textures.


As you can see, this hand-knotted Persian runner has beautiful, saturated reds and browns. Layering in a variety of textures and patterns from ikat to animal hides to sisal will frame it in a global context and enrich the whole look.

Ideas for things you can layer in? Try rugs, pillows, upholstery and window treatments.

Tip 2. Mix furniture styles.

This smaller-scale lotus armoire is Moroccan-inspired with hand-etched sheets of blended metal on wood, which make it perfect for a global style. Start with a piece like this, then incorporate traditional, vintage or Asian pieces in the same setting for an edgy, contemporary effect.

Tip 3. Bring in modern lines.

Modern spaces are amazing backdrops for eclectic furniture and accents, but if you don’t have great lines in your architecture, add some in with modern art or furniture. This cantilevered vintage cane chair by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is from the 1920s, but it still exudes modern. Its great texture and amazing lines would juxtapose beautifully against more ornate global pieces.

Tip 4. Infuse light.


Global design is all about creating a warm, eclectic space. Natural lighting is great, but candlelight and accent lighting can also add to the atmosphere. Can you picture this mid-century Japanese ceiling lamp hanging in a corner next to modern furniture pieces? The shadow pattern this will cast on the wall is just the ticket for a global space.

Tip 5. Use restraint.

It’s not about throwing a whole bunch of colors, textures and pieces together. Remember the basic guidelines I’ve talked about: Choose a color palette with a dominant color or two, and layer and repeat those colors. Though some people feel that more is more in global design, and you can certainly use more colors than with other decorating styles, your space will look more coherent if you have a color palette guiding your choices.

Tip 6. Find a focus.

If you want a more designer-looking global space, you need to have focal points that are not competing with each other. Need inspiration? Google “global design” to search for rooms with styles that inspire you, and get ideas from the focal pieces you see.

Although modern global chic is the very definition of eclectic, you don’t want your space to look like a hot mess. With just a few guiding tips, it can be a great way to leave your passport behind and go global at home!


Cathy Lee is president and designer of Cathy Lee Style and Cathy’s Marketplace, a furniture and accessories showroom with design services at 1110 University Ave. She recently opened reStyle Hawaii, an affordable, style-conscious consignment warehouse with upholstering and repurposing services at 420 Keawe St. To find out more, go to