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With summer in full swing, it’s usually the perfect time to find inspiration in travel — all the destinations we’ve visited or are planning to see over the rest of the year. 2020 is… different, to say the least, with our grand European tours staying firmly in the “fantasy” category, at least for the foreseeable future. But that’s no reason why we can’t bring a piece of those destinations home with us, even if it’s simply to enjoy from afar. 

To invite an air of the Mediterranean into our own homes, we asked a few of our favorite designers how they imbue an essence of that magical region into their own work. Sadly, we may not see Santorini or Sicily in person this summer, but we can bring a touch of the bright blue seas, whitewashed buildings, and raw, natural materials from the islands into our spaces.

Lauren Nelson Design
Design: Lauren Nelson Design. Photo: Aubrie Pick.

Location, Location, Location – Even If It’s Not the Med

Make the most of the environment you’ve got, even if it’s not beachfront Mykonos. If given the advantage of a waterfront setting, keep your interiors natural (even if not entirely neutral) to make sure the location takes center stage. That’s exactly what designer Lauren Nelson did in devising the style of this beautiful beachfront home. “When designing spaces, we are very tuned into the project’s locale, as it often gives cues to the materials and finishes we use,” Nelson says. “This particular house is perched right in the dunes steps away from the sea. We wanted the material palette to feel like a natural extension of the surroundings — blue patterned tiles, whitewashed walls, sand-colored flooring, sun-bleached fabrics, rope art, and unfinished woods.”

Design: Cuff Studio. Photo: Daniel Hennessy.

Mix Old With New

It almost goes without saying, but one of the best ways to incorporate Mediterranean flair into a space is by selecting just the right vintage touches. Kristi Bender of Cuff Studio did exactly this for a 1926 Spanish colonial home. “To feel casual, this design — whitewashed with pops of soft color, classic and artfully inspired — required a keen sense of mixing new with vintage, collector pieces with contemporary works,” Bender says. “We stuck to a color palette of mostly oatmeal, white, ochre, brick, black, and blush. Layering with textures including boucle, rich velvets, loose linen, rattan, and woven and leather touches added richness to each room while blending into the architecture seamlessly.  We opted for varied wood types and finishes in the furnishings, floors, and cabinetry including white oak, teak, Douglas fir, and waxed walnut — all adding warmth and an evolved, rather than decorated, aesthetic.”

Design: Regan Baker. Photo: Suzanna Scott Photography.

Honor the Architectural Intent

What’s old is new again, particularly when it comes to updating traditional spaces. And just because a home may be older doesn’t mean that it needs to feel dated or unevolved — there are plenty of ways to honor a home’s style while keeping the interiors fresh. Designer Regan Baker does this regularly with her projects. “When we work with homes that have more traditional architectural elements, we prioritize finding ways to emphasize and celebrate a home’s character while adapting it to modern living,” Baker says. “This 1908 Spanish-Revival home incorporates many Mediterranean-style elements — wood beams, coffered ceilings, wrought iron details, and breezy archways. One of the ways we were able to update this space is by refinishing wood ceiling details in a modern gray finish. This preserved the architectural intent of the space while lending an overall brighter, lighter feel.”

Design & Photo: Jordan Shields Design.

Materials Matter

Furnishings are usually the most fun part of designing an interior, but they won’t really work without the right foundation to begin with. That’s where the selection of materials comes into play. Begin with the right materials and then plan your color story from there. “I think authentic and handmade materials go a long way,” says Jordan Shifrin of Jordan Shields Design. “I always start with a simple palette and incorporate more raw materials that have a lightness to them, like white stones and whitewashed light woods. With accent materials I think texture goes a long way too, so handmade tiles bring in a feeling of warmth. Once the base of the design has that easygoing but authentic feel, contrasting colors like blue accents work wonders. I love even mixing light blues with navys for a really simple palette that has a lot of dimension.”

Crystal Sinclair Designs
Design: Crystal Sinclair. Photo: Claire Esparros.

Viva la Vintage – and Viva les Layers

To embody the full breadth of a well-loved Mediterranean style, don’t forget to incorporate plenty of textures and layers when putting the room together — and that includes plenty of one-of-a-kind vintage touches. “When thinking of Mediterranean design, I imagine textures, soft neutral colors, warmth, charm, and history,” says designer Crystal Sinclair. “In putting together a Mediterranean-inspired room I keep those elements in mind — adding lots of texture where I can and layering them as if the room has evolved over years of living in it. Adding vintage elements is a must; here, I added vintage breadboards and salvaged wood shelves to really add the charm and warm up the neutral space. The finished result is a lived-in and inviting room — one where everyone feels welcome.”

Laura Hodges Design
Design: Laura Hodges Design. Photo: Tara Hope Thompson.

Mix in the Med Where You Can

Even if you don’t have a beachfront location (or even a lot of sun), you can incorporate recognizable elements of Mediterranean design. For this newly built home, designer Laura Hodges gave a subtle tip of the hat to a classic Greek element to add a sense of classicism to the eclectic dining room. “Mixing in a little Mediterranean style can give a space a warm and welcoming feel. These Greek Klismos chairs in a deep blue are a nod to traditional design in this more transitional space,” she says.

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July 7, 2020

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