Many, many years ago, my mother purchased a delicate wooden keepsake box at a local souk in Kuwait. This box lay around the house for as long as I can remember, and it was one of those small pillars of my childhood. It was simply always there, and, at least for me, it never went unnoticed.
One day, I asked my mother if I could have it, and she gladly agreed. What was tiny and insignificant to her held some very special memories of home for me.
That wooden box with detailed Iranian handwork became the inspiration I needed for my own home. It influenced the color palette of my living room, and to this day, every time I walk through that room of my home, I am reminded of my mother and my childhood. It makes my heart happy.
During my lifetime of travel, I’ve accumulated a number of objects like this one. They may be as small as a piece of fabric that carries a memory, as sentimental as a childhood photograph that evokes a smile, or as substantial as the first piece of fine art purchased on an international adventure.
No matter the origin and no matter the size, however, meaningful pieces are what make any interior design special and personal. And often the most important items in our home come from life experiences and world travels.
So, today, I want to share with you 7 places I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter that have influenced me and played a role in not only creating my own home, but in making me who I am as a designer…
The 7 Wonders of the International Design World
Okay, okay… unlike the actual 7 Wonders of the World, there isn’t one set list of the 7 Wonders of the Design World. This list is subjective based on my travels and own personal experiences. But I firmly believe that you’ll find as much inspiration in this list as I did by visiting each of these corners of the earth.
Each international destination is meaningful in its own way and brings a different perspective with a new design dimension. Let’s dive right in.
Situated at the tip of the Persian Gulf, bordering Iraq to the north and Saudi Arabia to the south, this tiny nation holds the highest currency value in the world! It is a small, stunning country where the cost of living is still low AND where a bottle of water is more expensive than gas! Can you believe that?!
Growing up in Kuwait, my childhood was immersed in breathtaking design and architecture. Boasting a true international style coupled with modern influences and Middle Eastern themes, this compact country (about the size of Rhode Island!) is big on design and beautiful to behold. And a piece of my heart will always live there.
#2 Lake Como
Set against the foothills of the Alps, Lake Como is a high-end city in northern Italy’s Lombardy region, known for its dramatic scenery and Renaissance architecture.
When I visited, it was like a slice of heaven on earth. And I mean it when I say I truly believe Lake Como is one of THE most beautiful, scenic little cities in the world!
Add in the fact that it is also the home to lots of iconic movie scenes such as the Star Wars wedding (which was filmed at Villa del Balbianello in Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones), Oceans 12, and more, and you have yourself a cinematic paradise. Being the nerdy movie buff that I am, you know I was simply drooling over the design and its long-standing Hollywood history!
Although Germany’s capital dates back to the 13th century, this city is anything but dated. While reminders of its history of turmoil still adorn the city (like the graffitied remnants of the Berlin Wall), the vibrant art scene and modern landmarks rise from the ashes of the past.
The street art and murals in Berlin are like no other, and the stories this city has to share through art are truly one-of-a-kind. There is so much to learn and experience around every corner. With a larger-than-life personality and a penchant for bold colors, I found myself swimming in a sea of international design inspiration that I never wanted to leave.
As cliche as it sounds., Rome was NOT built in one day! And taking a trip there will show you just how true that statement is. Roman design, although inspired by Grecian architecture, focused on the arch instead of the column, and over time, Roman interiors developed a standard of luxury that had not yet been known to Europe. All of this is prominently on display around the city.
During my visit, the fact that that architecture was built in 113–125 AD just BLEW my mind! Besides the Colosseum, the Pantheon was my fave! The accuracy of the squares in the dome had me in complete shock. I mean, how did they do it?! Without the modern day equipment, I cannot fathom how it came to life. Mind. Blown.
While not as ancient as Rome, Munich is home to centuries-old buildings that proudly display their Bavarian heritage. Styles range from Baroque to Neoclassical to Roman, each playing a role in the construction of this gorgeous city. The only architectural design truly rooted in Bavaria is their version of a farmhouse, which we erroneously call a chalet to this day.
Known for its annual Oktoberfest celebration, the beer in Munich did NOT disappoint. To be honest, I am not a huge beer person, but for the 4 days I was there, I had converted. Seriously, who makes beer that good?! Take me back…
London is not only the capital of England (and the wider U.K. for that matter), but it is no doubt the finest city in Europe. Housing royals, it is no surprise that the city is grandiose in every way. From its long-standing history to its luxurious art scene…from the culture of high fashion to up-and-coming music…from the upscale dining opportunities to the iconic landmarks (Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and more), this city has just about everything.
Oh, and did I mention the high teas? Add in a few Harry Potter settings and potential celebrity sightings, and really, what more could a girl want?! Well, maybe just a few more days surrounded by modern English interior design that is distinguished by oh-so-romantic patterns and lovely floral prints…ahh…
Known for its unparalleled architecture, and the Taj Mahal (which IS one of the actual 7 Wonders of the World, by the way), India is a bastion of design inspiration.
While I loved every city I visited in India, my time in Hyderabad really spoke to me. Not only is it a major center for the technology industry and full of historic sites, it is also one of the cities with a massive Mughal influence. The exquisite food, bright and varied colors of clothing, and unique architecture simply felt like home. And what more can you ask for when traveling than to feel like you’re exactly where you belong. Am I right?!
Bringing Pieces of International Design Home from Faraway Places
In every city that I have ever been to, I’ve made sure to look for something to take home with me. Something that is not only unique to that city but also resonates with me.
Oftentimes, this isn’t even a traditional souvenir. It might be a ceramic plate with hand-painted art, or a beer stein with historical carvings.
No matter what, though, it is always something that tells a unique story about how I stumbled upon it. At home, I display these treasures as intentional pieces of art in my space. Because each item holds a special memory, the spaces come alive with their story, beauty, and remembered joy.
I’ve also had the privilege of working with clients who have traveled the world, and it is my personal mission to incorporate inspiration from their international design excursions, too. After all, I want each and every client to have a home that resonates with them and expresses their narrative — the one they have now and they one they want in the future.
Telling stories and reliving memories is what I was created to do. I firmly believe that. So if you’re looking for a designer who can visually share your journey in a way that transports you back to all of the wonderful, worldly places that you love, let’s chat, my friend.