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May 4, 2020 – Published in Design & Decor Spring 2014 issue

Asian touch

Words: Kenneth Tanti – Interior designer

Asia was a turning point in my career.

Stepping off those steps from the airplane and venturing into my first Asian experience ten years ago was to completely change the way I see things. In retrospect, it now makes me feel as if up until then I had been colour blind.

My love affair with Asia is one that still continues today. It is a place where art is an intrinsic part of the culture and everywhere you look you are surrounded by beauty and detail. Imbued with a history of design, furniture making here has been elevated to an unprecedented level and it is only when you visit these places that you realize how much this artistic influence has impacted on the rest of the world.

Nowadays one can’t help but notice the Asian touch that I always leave behind in my projects. Sometimes the effect can be so subtle that it is not immediately apparent but it is always there. It is my signature and forms part of the modern classic spaces I create and can range from the simplest of ornaments to an entire wall paneled in gold leaf.

European design has been strongly influenced by Asian art since the very early days. The blue and white ceramics and patterned floor tiles are typical examples. The fusion of colours from deep red lacquers, to bronze, gold and emerald greens are truly a spectacle on which to feast the eye and are a demonstration of the freedom in which different colours are used within the same space.

These pieces certainly make a style statement and whether it is a modern interior or a classical home, they always manage to stand out. A good example was when we decorated a modern living room with plain lacquered modern furniture and used selected pieces to create an effect. In this case it was two oversized Asian ginger jars placed on a console table. The understated modern surroundings complemented them beautifully creating an obvious focal point. In another home we used an antique red lacquered cabinet as a base for a vanity unit in a modern bathroom. The result was fabulous as the cabinet not only provided a contrast with the bathroom tiles but was also a dramatic stylish touch.

Asian artifacts can also work well in the Maltese classical home. In one project that comes to mind we had a home full of Maltese chests of drawers and other beautiful pieces. The owner really wanted to draw attention to them so we covered the walls behind in a gold leaf panel. The contrast between the dark olive wood of the furniture and the glistening gold leaf gave the room a completely different feel. The look was completed by using Asian red ceramics and oriental rugs.

Outdoor space is another area where one can be very adventurous with Asian décor. When it comes to landscape gardening the Asians are masters at their art. Rather than taking the rather conventional approach of a swimming pool as we do in the West the Asian approach is to make it appear as a floating garden with bridges that allow you to cross over at strategic points. Far from the typical hole in ground painted blue, every corner will utilize natural resources and will usually be adorned by beautiful carvings. They also tend to incorporate an abundance of shade into their designs with Asian huts often covering dining and relaxation areas making it a true paradise.

Indeed, there is nothing more amazing than walking in off a busy street into a house that opens onto a peaceful oasis surrounded by nothing else but beauty and tranquility. One truly forgets that you are in a city.

I have no doubt that my love affair with Asia is one that is set to continue and I find it hard to resist bringing over pieces to use when the right project arises. This influence can also be seen at the home store where we have created a mix of modern, classical and Asian with the latter being, in my view, that little extra touch that makes a house a home.

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