Interior designer Sarah Barnard of Los Angeles received an interesting request from a young professional client who'd recently been on a cruise to Antarctica. "In the initial client survey, I asked her what she wanted her home to look like, and she answered, 'Like living on a glacier,'" Barnard recalls. "Our task was to capture the concept or memory of being near this glacier, then recreating that feeling in her home."
Many homeowners like Barnard's client want to convey a style in their homes that may not jibe with the region in which they live. It makes sense, Barnard says. "You get out there and face the real world, do your job, drive in traffic, hustle to the market. When you walk in your front door, you want to be swept away to someplace that gives you warm, happy, relaxed feelings. Our unconscious mind wants to model our environment after that good place, whatever it might be."
Implementing a color palette and design scheme not native to an area (for example, a Southwestern style in a Midwestern bungalow) takes careful consideration. "Homeowners can introduce influences from other regions by purchasing art, bringing home artifacts, collectibles, textiles and native crafts," says Seattle-based interior designer Robin Chell. "You can create repetition through shapes and colors, display like items together and highlight certain objects."
A great way to pull together a "non-native" look is through paint. "A complementary background palette can seamlessly integrate all the items," Chell notes. "Paint is crucial in mixing styles and making them feel cohesive. Color can create contrast, excitement, serenity. It can create mood and tell a story. Especially when creating a theme, color can add both boldness and subtlety to a space."
Paint played a big role for a Chicago-area husband and wife who wanted to make their primary home more reflective of their condo in Florida. The Florida space was filled with white, ivory and other light hues, not to mention loads of natural light. By contrast, their Midwest residence conveyed a more rigid, traditional feel. To recreate the Florida vibe, designer Joan Kaufman of Interior Planning & Design, Inc. in Naperville, Ill., introduced a palette of aquas and celadon greens in a new sunroom encased by windows. A ceramic tiled floor with radiant heating warms the room and makes it usable year-round. Kaufman brought a similar color palette into the adjacent kitchen, where light green and red accents in the backsplash, window treatments and accessories provide unity.
What's more, the project serves as a good example of scale. "The key to pulling off [non-native design] is having a space that can handle it," Kaufman says. "If you have a specialty room like a sunroom or music room, it's easier to do it. But if you want to carry that look throughout the entire home, the spaces need to coordinate and connect with one another."