Like the perfect Congress, something miraculously exciting happens in home interiors when there’s a purposeful and harmonious confluence of opposing perspectives.
The impeccably refined juxtaposed with the beautifully natural – an intricate pattern dancing on a solid background, that bright pop of color singing in a field of neutrals – are prime examples of opposites coming together to create something far better than either is capable of on its own.
So it is with one of this season’s hottest interior design trends: the reinvigorated “East meets West.”
Although East and West have essentially been influencing each other from the moment it was decided that they were different, it’s their most recent collaboration that has produced fresh and powerfully multilayered results that are reverberating with today’s home-decor trends. From notable design-centric hotel and resort launches to this season’s highly publicized “China: Through The Looking Glass” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the coming together of Eastern and Western influences under one roof is a global phenomenon that has produced extraordinary results while illuminating ways that we, too, can incorporate this trend into our own homes.
To clearly understand what makes this round of East-meets-West special, it’s helpful to look at two high-profile projects from opposite sides of the world: the Amanoi resort in Vietnam and the Met’s China exhibition in Manhattan.
Amanoi, embedded in Nui Chua National Park, is perhaps the most textbook example of recent hospitality projects launched with a fresh take on East-meets-West decor. Striking oranges and reds, reminiscent of traditional Buddhist monk robes, act as powerful accent colors strategically woven throughout this 62-acre property, otherwise dominated by reserved neutrals more closely associated with modern Western interiors.
Handsome and irregular pottery and ceramics, handcrafted by Vietnamese artisans, sit atop perfectly sleek light-wood furniture akin to something you’d discover in Northern Europe. And a steady procession of smiling monk statues on pedestals, punctuated with carefully curated Asian antiques, acts as the showcased gems in an environment otherwise grounded by Western-style furnishings in understated hues of white, gray and camel.
Even the plethora of iconic Eastern Asian hip-and-gable roofs floating above the forest canopy sit atop unexpected expanses of clear glass more commonly associated with Western architecture. It’s this balancing of opposing elements that’s at the heart of this trend. The end result is breathtaking and perfectly executed to showcase a harmony of opposites resulting in a design that feels entirely fresh and inspiring.
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a joint effort by the Costume Institute and the museum’s Asian Art department has resulted in the China exhibit, which many consider one of the year’s cultural highlights.
Culture connoisseurs will be pleased to know that the Met recently extended the exhibition’s run through Sept. 7, offering visitors a broader window to experience (and pick up tips from) this extraordinary marriage of East and West firsthand. Showcasing the influence of Chinese aesthetics on Western fashion, the exhibition skillfully choreographs adjacencies of haute couture gowns (by some of the world’s most iconic design houses) to the centuries-old Chinese artifacts that may have shaped them.
Deep golds, jewel-tone reds and greens and classic blue and white in the exhibit’s clothing, artifacts and displays reflect a saturated richness pervasive throughout many Eastern cultures.
Traditional Asian patterns and motifs abound, with dragons, phoenixes, mythical clouds, peonies, storks, pagodas, bamboo stalks and songbirds making their way onto most surfaces in sight.
But what makes this effort fresh and exciting is the application of these traditional colors and motifs onto modern-day Western objects and shapes. This transforms the familiar and static into the invigorated and dynamic. As a bonus, the museum shop features a fantastically curated offering of East-Meets-West items ranging from practical and affordable to otherworldly and extravagant. Many can be ordered online or over the phone.
So what is the essential trend insight to be gained from these two milestone East-meets-West projects? Here are three easy steps to apply to your home if this trend speaks to you:
Strategically balance color: Color is your most powerful tool with this trend, since the Eastern palette is so distinctive and vibrant. Start by weaving two iconic and rich Eastern colors into your room, followed by secondary colors that are more reserved and connected to the rest of your home. This will allow you to introduce something new while still keeping a logical flow. Fabrics, paint and decorative objects are great places to start. Focus on deeper tones of gold and warm jewel tones of red, orange, green and deep-but-vibrant blue. Deep jewel tones shine when paired with crisp, warm whites, warm grays, camels and taupes. Individually, these two palettes might feel predictable and static, but paired, they become newly interesting.
Curate a collection of unique objects: Spaces fall flat without a handful of artisan objects to imbue a room with soul. Most of us have large-scaled Western upholstery in our homes because it’s comfortable and readily accessible. For balance, add Eastern objects and accent furniture featuring interesting color and unique detailing, such as intricate embroidery, high-level carving or whimsical patterning in Eastern themes such as chinoiserie, exotic flora and mythical fauna. Also, keep your major foundation blocks in neutral tones to allow easier layering with colorful soft goods, such as decorative pillows and throws.
Create fresh adjacencies: Situating unexpected elements from each culture in direct adjacency is the heart of what makes this trend fresh. Placing a hand-carved Eastern statue or porcelain vessel on a clean-lined Western pedestal or accent table gives each element room to be appreciated. Mix up textures, too, by situating something irregular and handmade next to something polished and perfectly manufactured. A shiny, embroidered silk throw pillow with a plethora of detail looks great atop a reserved, linen sofa. Or place a sleek, modern vase atop an intricately carved side table. The juxtaposition of opposites is not only fresh, it helps avoid visual redundancy.
There’s a history of mutual fascination between the East and West – two great perspectives from opposite sides of the world that have each produced lasting and significant cultural contributions.
Although we’re squarely in the middle of summer, laying the groundwork for cozy interiors now can pay big dividends come fall. And when you do, employ your diplomatic skills to thoughtfully invite these two very disparate cultures into your home to create rooms that will be not only on trend, but also lasting and deeply satisfying.
Vern Yip is an interior designer and star of “Bang for Your Buck” and “Live in Vern’s House” on HGTV. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram (both @VernYipDesigns).