At home in the world: eight international decoration styles

Sira Huwiler-Flamm

Be it to Bella Italia, to the harsh Scandinavian wilderness or to Marrakesh to experience a hint of the Orient – many Swiss people love to travel. We have put together a list of ways to bring a vacation atmosphere into your home by setting a particular tone with your furnishings.

Various cushions with colorful patterns decorate an outdoor sofa. In the middle is a table with a metal plate tray.
© Getty Images

In this article

1. Morocco – an oriental explosion of color

Bright orange and red tones reminiscent of spices such as saffron, curry and chili, or doors painted deep shades of green and blue, are all characteristic of the alleys of Marrakesh. Oriental interior design means above all an explosion of color. Cushions, blankets, curtains, hand-knotted wall hangings – everything is permitted, and may be combined.

Nor should you hold back with the choice of materials. Whether patterned brocade, elaborately embroidered cotton, flowing silk or organza – more is more in the Orient. Tables, chairs, dressers and screens are often made of walnut or cedar wood from the Atlas Mountains. Pieces of furniture, doors and chests attract attention with hand-carved ornaments and decorated brass fittings.

Mosaics made of glass, tiles and ceramics in the most colorful and elaborate patterns from Morocco represent real eye-catching features. But the Moroccan style of decoration is also marked by precious metals: side tables with decorated silver plates, brass or copper teapots and trays and traditional Moroccan lamps. Thousands of tiny holes are punched in the brass by hand, creating delicate shadowy patterns and oriental magic on the wall.

2. USA – country style with a lumberjack flair

America is a huge continent – the USA alone is more than 230 times as big as Switzerland and has about 38 times as many inhabitants. It’s not surprising that there are so many different styles of interior design. They all have one thing in common: items of furniture that are space-saving wonders in XXL format. The “American way of life” is often characterized by an open dining/living area with a kitchen island or bar element – leaving plenty of room to personalize the living area.

Some like it extra-pompous and opt for a central fireplace with paintings, chandeliers and heavy curtains. The cozy country style is defined by plenty of self-made and lovingly arranged individual pieces of furniture: patchwork quilts, cushions embroidered with floral motifs or draped in stripes or lumberjack check patterns make for a cozy home, as do retro tinplate signs and storage boxes, inherited from grandmother along with a cookbook.

Lamb and cow skins as rugs or seat covers add the perfect finishing touches to the cozy country style atmosphere. The furniture is often made of dark, robust hardwoods or of native lighter woods such as maple, pine or walnut. A classic Chesterfield Sofa made of leather or a rocking chair with a cuddly blanket or lambskin thrown over it are frequent furnishings regarded as typically American. A creaking Hollywood swing is a must in the garden.

In the middle is a fireplace, with a leather armchair on either side. One of them has a patchwork quilt on it.

The American country style with lots of wood, leather armchairs and a handmade patchwork quilt.

3. Switzerland – alpine chalet chic

The typical Swiss furnishing style probably does not exist. However, the sight of a rustic mountain cabin in the Alps is sure to awaken feelings of home. Even the furniture store IKEA has recognized this and stocks a chalet collection exclusively in Switzerland. The trend behind this is called alpine chic.

Rustic wooden furniture with a distinct grain and cozy natural materials such as wool, linen, felt and natural furs create the right ambiance. A sitting area with plenty of cushions or individual pieces of seating furniture such as wing chairs provide additional comfort. A large dining table is the central element in the living room. Salad bowls and cutlery made of real wood, slate coasters and natural stone plates made of soapstone are authentic everyday objects from the mountains.

Real deer antlers are the most traditional alpine deco element of all. If you prefer a more modern look, you can opt for cushions, curtains and blankets with wild animal prints. An open fireplace or indirect lighting from candles bathes the rooms in warm light. A pile of firewood in the corner is not only practical, but also an authentic eye-catching feature that creates a chalet atmosphere. And of course, don’t forget a bouquet of wildflowers you have picked yourself. Dried bouquets or door wreaths made of dry straw flowers are also a popular decoration all year round.

A kitchen in alpine chic: a wooden kitchen counter can be seen in front of a wooden wall. There is a wooden staircase next to it.

Modern alpine chic creates a captivating effect with old wood, which is used for both the furniture and the walls.

4. Italy – Mediterranean highlights

Bella Italia is one of the most popular destinations for Swiss travelers. You need to go no further than Ticino to see walls typically decorated with patina in pastel shades, and gardens lined with palm and lemon trees.

Terracotta is the color of Italy and the Mediterranean. Whether flowerpots, jars, house facades or patio tiles – everything is decorated in the shade of “cooked earth”, which is the translation of the Italian word terracotta. The charm of the often unglazed ceramic decorative elements is reminiscent of historical buildings that set the tone in Tuscany, Rome and Milan.

Italian furniture is often made of olive, pine or walnut wood and intended to last for generations. Items of furniture made of marble such as tables or seats for indoors and out are even more robust, but also popular. This is because marble is mined in the Mediterranean area and resists even the fiercest rays of sun. Woven armchairs, beds and tables made of rattan or hyacinth fiber are less heavy but just as popular. The same applies to wrought iron furniture.

Alongside all the natural materials, people in Italy also like things that stand out – especially when it comes to decoration: mosaics with floral patterns and marble art objects with elaborate decorations belong in an Italian living room just as much as opulent ceiling lamps.

A round table made of marble stands in front of a wicker chair. There are colorful cushions on the chair.

Marble is a typical Mediterranean stone. Combined with simple armchairs, the patio stirs memories of Italy.

5. New York – the industrial look

Admittedly, not everyone can call a factory loft with meter-high ceilings and exposed pipes their home. However, the industrial look created in New York can still be brought into a Swiss home thanks to a few tips.

Imperfect, raw, often rusty and extremely solid – that’s how to describe the industrial style. Coarse wooden and metal furniture that has been deliberately scratched and scraped is just as popular as plain steel lamps, bare light bulbs, open brick walls and coarse textiles with visible rivets and obvious signs of wear and tear.

The current upcycling trend generates numerous DIY ideas that are a perfect match for the industrial look: home-made pallet furniture, decorative elements such as concrete flower pots and candle holders, or old fruit boxes that have been converted into shelves or side tables.

A room with unplastered walls. The shelf on the right and the armchair and sofa contain metal elements.

Individual rooms can also be furnished in the industrial look: here, unplastered walls and lots of metal create a loft atmosphere.

6. Scandinavia – Hygge sociability

Whether you’re trying to create a Hygge, Lagom or Scandinavian country house style – virtually no other region has been talked about more in recent years when it comes to the subject of “cozy furnishing”. This can be explained by the fact that the inhabitants of the Scandinavian countries are found to be among the happiest and most carefree people in the world each year according to the World Happiness Index.

What we can learn from the life philosophies Hygge (Denmark and Norway) and Lagom (Sweden) about ensuring a homely atmosphere is that sociability, coziness and security are the most important aspects to take into account. Probably because the winters in northern Europe are long and dark, the home is the constant place of action – and a real oasis of well-being.

Simple, light furniture and white paneled walls create a homely atmosphere, even on gloomy winter days. Native woods such as spruce, birch and pine are distinctive of the style. The large dining table is centrally located, representing the ideal setting for social evenings with friends, family and neighbors.

Plenty of cushions, candles, glass lamps and lanterns made of porcelain, spread throughout the room, create a feeling of security. In addition to accessories in natural materials such as wool, sheepskin, cotton, felt and linen, natural colors such as sand, rosé and blue tones are used. The Scandinavians add contrasts with extravagant, large-format patterns on cushions, blankets and curtains.

View into two rooms with white walls that are given a cozy feel by the use of earthy natural tones.

Bright and tidy, yet cozy: a living room with Scandinavian flair.

7. Japan – minimalism from the Far East

Wabi-Sabi is the name of the furnishing style from Japan. “Wabi” stands for abandoned and “Sabi” for old. It may sound sad, but true to the spirit of Zen Buddhism it concentrates on the essentials, recognizing the beauty in old and traditional things.

The Japanese style is minimalist. In Wabi-Sabi, people remember things they have grown fond of and inherited. Kitsch is allowed if it has meaning for them. Otherwise, the following principle applies: avoid gaudy colors and unnecessary bits and pieces.

High-quality natural materials such as bamboo, wicker, wool and driftwood are typical of this puristic style, as are cushions and blankets in natural earth and sand tones. It is true that a few elements from Wabi-Sabi even remind us of the Scandinavian style of furnishing. And there is now even a word for this Japanese-Scandinavian mix: Japandi.

This Wabi-Sabi living room looks puristic with only a few natural colors and shapes.

This living room looks puristic in Wabi-Sabi style. But much-loved striking features, such as a work of art or handmade baskets, are essential.

8. England – overloaded colonial style

Deliberate breaks in style and full overload – that’s what the classic English furnishing style is known for. Ancient armchairs, Chesterfield sofas and bureaus/dressers with unrestored scratches from colonial times are often combined with modern furniture.

Whether wallpaper, carpets, curtains or blankets – a mix of patterns is a must in England. Check patterns and extravagant floral motifs are thrown together in a colorful way, while ceiling lamps are replaced by several floor lamps. A house bar, often in the shape of a globe, is almost obligatory.

A curious detail, which is supposed to declutter all the colorful mess: English rooms often have a central point, for example a fireplace, in front of which two armchairs, two vases and a small table are symmetrically arranged.

A bed is framed by two floor lamps, in the background two leather armchairs can be seen in front of a fireplace; above them several antlers hang on the wall.

The overloaded colonial style plays with breaks in style – and patterns that don’t really fit together. Floor lamps, heavy leather armchairs and the wooden bureau are important style elements.

Conclusion: a trip around the world is a lifelong dream that many people realize – if at all – only once in their lives. But with the right furnishing style, you can bring the world into your own four walls on a permanent basis.

Read next

On our website we use cookies and analysis tools to constantly improve user-friendliness. This allows us to offer you the best possible service and personalize the advertising for you, both on our website and with our advertising partners. By using the website, you agree to the use of cookies. You can find more detailed provisions in our Privacy Statement).