Trekkies: Bringing Global Design Home

Factory TourWanderlust Laura Kirar

Laura Kirar’s love of travel began as a young girl, when her adventurous great-grandmother would bring her back Japanese mini geisha figurines and Russian stacking dolls from her travels. Today, the Brooklyn-based interior and product designer collaborates with brands such as Baker Furniture, Kallista, Arteriors Home, Highland Court by Duralee, and McGuire Furniture. She also designs an exclusive private label collection carried by Global Home, made in and inspired by her travels to Mexico.

How does travel inspire your designs?
I’m passionate about travel, and I’m always planning my next trip. I’m on the road a lot – usually two weeks on the ground in Brooklyn and then two weeks traveling. I go to Mexico the most, as I’m restoring my 18th century hacienda in the Yucatan. I also travel frequently to China, India, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Brazil and Europe for business. I started traveling in my 20’s and it has expanded my sense of color and my knowledge of history and different types of architecture. Being in a place where you cannot speak the language is both challenging and inspiring because it forces you to rely on the kindness of strangers. Ultimately, you realize we are all more similar than we are different, and it creates real empathy.

What kind of traveler are you?
I used to travel to recharge and to just sit on a beach with a book. Now my travels are about taking it all in – with my camera, my sketchbook, and my ears, eyes and stomach!

Where are your favorite places to shop?
I’m a huge fan of Mexico City. I love the Condesa and Roma neighborhoods. They have great restaurants and interesting, independent boutiques. In Colonia Polanco, Masaryk Street is basically the Madison Avenue of Mexico City. El Palacio de Hierro just had a grand reopening and is bringing many European brands to Mexico City for the first time. I love the work of the fashion designer Carla Fernandez. There’s real vision behind her work, which I totally appreciate, as she works with indigenous artisans to make her modern clothing. She’s about to have a show at the Jumex. In the Lomas area, there’s Blend, a four-story, mixed-vendor retail center for fantastic home products. It also has a great restaurant, bookstore and event space. I also like to go to the Sunday flea market. La Lagunilla Market is one of the best and biggest in the world. It dwarves the flea markets in Paris. The majority of it is people selling t-shirts and socks, but if you know where to go, you’ll find vendors selling important furniture, unusual antique objects and vintage rugs. Last week, one dealer was selling 15 pieces of Murano glass. I bought all of it because we will be doing a small home boutique in San Miguel de Allende, a great place to shop.

What do you like to buy when traveling?
I always have my eye on rugs, vintage textiles, linens and pieces of furniture smaller than skis that the airline can take for you!

How do you incorporate global finds into your home without it looking like a mishmash of styles?
I don’t think about it too much in my own home; I feel like I’ve cultivated my own style at this point. For people just starting out though, I’d say start with a material, a favorite color, or something you love, like Mexican copper pots, which are beautiful on their own and even better when grouped in a collection.

What are some of your favorite pieces you’ve bought when traveling?
We have a favorite vase we bought on honeymoon in Positano. We were collecting Czech glass at the time, and this one is a heavy purple vase with Austrian Jugendstil flair. It’s not perfect or particularly valuable, but we love it. In La Lagunilla, I bought a gorgeous vintage blanket from Oaxaca that is geometric with hot pink and blue stripes with an ombre effect.

Tell us about your collaboration with Global Home.
This is the first time I’ve had the chance to create a line that was directly inspired by my travels and the artisans I met in Mexico. Global Home is carrying two different lines – one is copper-, silver-and nickel-plated pieces and the other is a collaboration between myself and a family in Michoacan. We’re creating copperand silver-plated candle holders and vases. We’re also making signature fashion accessories with a collective of sisal-weaving women in the Yucatan. The line will expand into home accessories from many areas in Mexico.

B_TravelTempleGlobal Domination Vivian Hung & Joe Giamarese

Travel also fuels the creation of Global Home. Founders Joe Giamarese and Vivian Hung did something that many people dream about but rarely do: In 2000, the couple quit their corporate jobs to travel the world. They visited 21 countries on six continents, including Brazil, Morocco, Bali, India, Nepal and Australia. When they returned to New York, they launched Global Home, which sells a curated mix of accessories and furniture sourced from around the world.

What was the inspiration for Global Home?
Giamarese: Vivian and I have always tossed around the idea of doing a business in the home realm but never got serious about it until our big trip. Hung: Traveling opened our eyes and ears. It was a master class in culture, history and architecture, and it just opened up our world to how and where beautiful home products are created and decor styles are influenced.

What was the trip like?
Hung: We kept a loose itinerary and did things spontaneously. These places went from being abstract to concrete, and we learned that people are more similar than they are different. Giamarese: We saw how color and pattern were used in different parts of the world. At the end of the voyage, we came out with a different way of looking at design.

What kind of things did you buy for yourself on the trip?
Giamarese: We kept it to things that we could mail back, such as saris and textiles. In Morocco, we found a camel leather box with bone inlay. We sat with a Bedouin and traded in the desert. He was fascinated with our walkie-talkies, and they became part of the negotiation. Hung: We also bought baby clothes for our niece, Moroccan bowls that arrived smashed into little pieces, framed photos from India and hand-inlaid leather books. I also remember the items we didn’t buy – like a Moroccan rug I didn’t want to spend $600 on and an Uzbeki suzani – but now I wish I did.

How do you incorporate global design into your home without it looking like a hot mess?
Hung: People have this fear that if they mix styles it will end up looking crazy. Sometimes it can, but it just needs good editing. Put out all you like and then as Coco Chanel advises, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” We love to mix things up, but I’d suggest narrowing it down to five things that you love – a rug, a painting or a piece of furniture. How do you know if it works? That is the intangible of the design process: Design is an art, not a science. Giamarese: I have seen people who have a “travel room” in their house, which is like a museum space filled with all the things they have bought when traveling, while the rest of this house is mundane. You need to incorporate your finds throughout your house. You can also decide to highlight one item. One of our clients had a huge antique piece of Thai silk that was too delicate to use on the bed. We decided to mount it on a huge frame. It becomes art work and elevates the item. We did the same thing with a Turkish suzani in a Tribeca loft and hung it over a midcentury modern credenza to mix it up. It is still one our favorite examples of how to include global design into a contemporary home.

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