Exotic Transformations: Ideas for Decorating Makeovers

Moroccan Living Room

An influx of exotic items into western markets and the ease of shopping online make incorporating elements of the exotic into your interior décor easier than ever. Cinnabar carvings from the Orient, rugs from Persia, rare wooden chests from Brazil—these accents and ornaments allow decorators to introduce styles from around the world to color their homes with the enchantment of far-flung places. The following offerings suggest ways of incorporating exotic elements into the décor for great new looks.

Whether finding design inspiration from a Japanese teahouse or a Moroccan palace, it is helpful to find a design focus. Of course, exotic styles frequently blend well together, yet sometimes even a loose focus will help tie various rooms of the house together. Exotic style is really a broad term, but some examples could certainly include any inspirations from Morocco, Spain, Egypt, Turkey, Indonesia, the Orient, South America, etc…For some interiors, even introducing a signature item from Eastern Europe or the Louisiana bayou might be considered as exotic.

Generally speaking, exotic styles reflect a specific far-off location and frequently embody something significant about the culture. For some households, a statue of a meditating golden Buddha will prove a most exotic ornament as it embodies the spirit of Eastern thought. For other homes, simply a leopard-skin throw across the sofa will convey an exotic touch. Naturally, choose elements that appeal to family members that not only look exotic, but also perform a function such as Chinese paper lanterns or an Asian folding screen.


When considering major components of rooms like walls and floors you may wish to opt for an exotically-inspired look. For floors, hard wood is a good neutral choice. Choose exotic woods like Brazilian walnut, Patagonian rosewood, Burma mahogany or Andean cherry. Cork flooring or bamboo floors will also add considerable exotic flair to any room. Additionally, you may find a roll of vinyl that offers a unique pattern touching on the exotic. Tiles reflective of cultural patterns—Spanish tiles, for instance—add great beauty to any floor. Finally, consider incorporating area rugs such as Oriental carpets for great rooms and hallways.


When it comes to the walls there are many choices that will signify the look of a far-off place. For some, a coat of red paint will be a dramatic change for a room. Others may find wallpaper with small Oriental pagodas a welcome addition. For more neutral selections with exotic sensibility, consider grass cloth or burlap wall coverings. Even tan wallpaper representing a simple woven design implies something out of the ordinary. On the other hand, walls may be left white or ivory as a plain background will allow other wall hangings to stand out.


Furniture can also convey exotic styles. A simple Moorish chair, a rattan settee, even an old sofa reupholstered with Indian textiles or Syrian silk can enrich an interior. Depending on the formality of the room in question, there are so many furniture styles that will reflect their home origin. A low cocktail table can be transformed into an Asian wonder with black paint, heavy lacquer and a Japanese silk table scarf. A plain white couch covered with throw pillows of Moroccan fabric is a simple touch that transforms a piece of furniture into an eye-catching display.


Look for exotic trunks with flat tops. These can be fitted with iron hardware and used for storage while doubling as a coffee table. End tables might be carved with unusual designs and large cabinets can sport panels with tell-tale scenes of decoupage like water lilies, Egyptian papyrus, Pre-Columbian symbols or jungle scenes. Beds might be set very low to the ground or else quite high and surrounded by a wood or iron scrollwork frame or flowing panels of draperies—simple cheesecloth or heavily embroidered silks.


Windows in every room can be transformed with bamboo shades, flowing pieces of water-colored silk, flat panels of burlap and possibly even stands of exotic glass beads. Using paisley prints or native African patterns to make draperies will add considerable exotic flair. Animal skin printed fabric can also convey a jungle or rainforest motif. The great thing about exotic style is that luxurious objects pair quite well with simple ones. A rare teak table can be placed on a plain canvass mat and look right at home.


Many exotic items may be reflective of the nature of a given location. An ikebana arrangement with Japanese botanicals is naturally suggestive of its origin. A potted palm hints at island lifestyles. A bowl containing a single water lily conveys an Oriental touch. Many house plants exude exotic native charm and will go a long way in transforming a room. Look for pots and baskets with exotic allure to house your plants in.

As for other props and ornaments, there is a vast array of items that are perfect for an exotic makeover. Consider some of the following when making over any room of your home: Tatami mats, block-printed tapestries, Chinese porcelain jars, cloisonné vases, Chinese parasol, Japanese basins, Moroccan colored glass lanterns, Middle Eastern pottery, bright silk ottomans, mosaic covered tables, hanging wall tassels, Venetian filigree goblets, Indian torans, Chinoiserie secretary, sisal rugs, silver Bali candleholders, wrought iron chandeliers, hand-woven basketry, wood and cane chairs, Syrian folding chairs, African masks, Egyptian-decorated papyrus, Grecian urns, ornately carved trays, Indian mirror-inlaid pillows, Thai rain drum, Guatemalan hammock, Russian lacquer boxes, Kente tablecloth, batik curtains, Mexican glassware, African Dogan stools, Japanese Tansu chests, and the list goes on and on.

Create an exotic makeover for your home by focusing on an exotic location and finding items reflective of that place. From sun-baked beaches to windswept coasts, adding a touch of the exotic to your home will provide interest far beyond the ordinary everyday décor.