5 Interior Design Philosophies from Around the World

Written by Megan

Finding global design inspiration can be overwhelming at the start—there are over 3 billion of us roaming around on this planet, after all.

I always like to start not only with colors and treasured pieces that I love, but also looking to my own family traditions as well as global influences that I appreciate. I’m fortunate to have family from almost everywhere in the world, but there are countless ways you too can bring an international, but authentically “you” vibe into your space.

Whether you’ve been around the world or prefer the comforts of home, these design philosophies embody different elements of modern living that might resonate in your own home.

1. China: Feng Shui

This was the very first international design term I ever learned about when I moved into my first apartment in the late 1990s. In fact, it is estimated that this concept in design has been around since before 206 BC. The term literally translates to “wind and water,” but Feng Shui is essentially about balancing all the elements in your home—earth, wood, fire, metal and water—simply by the way you arrange the pieces with it. By considering all aspects of the home in this way it is said that you will balance “Chi” or energy/life force and live in harmony with your surroundings.

Each Feng Shui element has an ideal placement in the home too, corresponding with north, east, south and west. Don’t make yourself crazy with any exact mapping though—have fun figuring out the natural flow of your space and incorporate as many of the balancing elements as you can.

2. Ireland: Blessings

All of us at some point or another have probably heard of, or read an Irish blessing. While no one knows the exact origins of these phrases, we do know that they likely came to contemporary popularity from ancient Celtic history. In many Irish households, and especially upon moving into a new space, an “Irish Blessing” is needed to set the tone for a happy home. Often, these are gifted in the form of engraved plaques, framed inspirational messages or hand written calligraphy. They serve as a reminder of home, the love and support from others and as an artistic element to be admired daily.

3. Japan: Shibusa

Shibui and Shibumi are terms that were first used in Japan in 1336 and meant something sour or astringent in taste—eek! By 1615 however, the meaning had shifted to refer to design that had a pleasing aesthetic. And then by 1960 the term had finally travelled to North America as a concept called Shibusa.
Today it is defined by words like simple, subtle and unobtrusive— beautifully minimalist. Refrain from adding anything to your space than what is absolutely necessary to emphasize order, smoothness and alignment. This might be done by avoiding clutter, using similar color palettes and focusing on square or rectangular shapes.

4. Scandinavia: Hygge

Arguably the buzzword in the design world of late is hygge. The current intoxication with hygge is all about its application as a feeling, first and foremost. Think softness, coziness and comfort. Hygge is less of a design aesthetic than a slowed down way of life.

Pronounced “hue-gah,” The word is firmly embedded in both the Danish language and culture and celebrates the ordinary in beautiful, special ways. While many Danes will argue that there isn’t an exact translation, you can bring this feeling and design concept to life for your space quite easily, with candles, indoor plants, and soft, inviting furniture pieces.

5. Morocco: Riad

Morocco has one of the most diverse populations in the world, and modern Moroccan design reflects that range. While there is no one defining term to describe Moroccan design, the concept of riad is one worth noting. Dating back to the year 788, riad by strict definition refers to an enclosed garden or courtyard as the center of life and light in the home. In its modern interpretation however, it relates to how your interior uses craft, color, texture and light to complement your experience and place in the outside world. Much like the other concepts we’ve talked about, this too is about finding harmony within your environment both inside and out. Whether you have a studio apartment with no view or a home with a lush big back yard, this dynamic design approach can work for you. To channel riad, try creating spaces dedicated to living plants, decorate with woven wall hangings or brightly colored tiles and make use of whatever bright and natural light that you have.

Whether you’re following one of these philosophies to a T, channeling your personal travels or just searching for inspiration, implementing the look is always the fun part. Mixed in with your own unique style, there’s a winning combination just waiting to be found for you. Happy trails to you!

About the author



Megan is a Merchandise Manager for Lumens in Studio, Luxury and Design Lighting. When not managing her merchandise she also teaches yoga, obsesses over her dog Frida (yes, named after Frida Kahlo), takes pictures, makes great soup, gets into mischief and, well, let's just say that in addition to being passionate about writing, she loves life! IG: @luvinthislife

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