LIFESTYLE

Exuberant colors, textures and patterns of Latin America enter contemporary U.S. homes

AP

 (AP)

The exuberant colors, textures and patterns of Latin America crafts are injecting an easy, comfortable and fun aesthetic into home decor.

The look includes textured rugs, throws that evoke serape motifs and furniture with an authentically hand-turned appearance.

House & Home magazine recently featured designer Heidi Merrick's Los Angeles home, with cowhide rugs, Bolivian "frasada" blankets used as daybed throws, and spicy hues like orange, marine blue and pink.

Ralph Lauren Home's La Hacienda fabric collection includes traditional florals and graphic woven prints in earthy reds and turquoise with punches of black, white and sunbaked brights.

It's not all about the fiesta, however. Mexican Modern is a look characterized by contemporary furnishings and quiet color, with one or two artisan pieces as counterpoints.

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New Yorker Katherine Ponte works with indigenous Brazilian artisans to bring sustainably produced traditional crafts to a wider market through her e-shop, Ecostasy. "I'm focused on the aesthetics as well as the cultural and environmental context of each piece," she says.

She offers bowls made by hand-tying banana fiber and recycled paper. Tropical vines and herbs are fashioned into trays by the people of the Mamiraua Reserve, in the Amazon rainforest. Slabs of ipe and pequia, two South American hardwoods, are transformed into organic coffee tables.

Novica's fair-trade craft e-shop features pieces found at local markets throughout Latin America (and in developing countries worldwide). The site not only offers artisans a platform to sell their waves; it also provides marketing and technical support. The craftspeople control the creative, production and pricing aspects, Novica says.

Finding a charming and beautifully carved cedar statue at a Lima, Peru, market, for example, Novica's co-founders, Roberto Milk and Mina Olivera, searched the countryside for the craftsman. Johnny Chamba's little "Ekeko," or good luck token, is now on the site.

Also at Novica: Peruvian artist Alejandro Chavez uses ceramic plaster to make tiny detailed "retablos" or dioramas depicting daily life in the Andes. Farmers harvest prickly pears; merchants sell blankets and masks in a market. The figures are mounted in wooden chests and can be hung on the wall.

And Zosimo Laura weaves soothing, rustic hues of cotton into a striking, contemporary, bird-print tapestry.

From Brazil, you'll find Elizabeth and Eduardo Prado's fused glass-bead bowls in an emerald green they say was inspired by tropical rain.

Leandro Mantesso's black-and-white photographs of Andean topography and daily life are evocative, and Andre de Miranda's woodcuts are modern art with heart.

Guatemalan ceramic artist Lilyan Benecke's offers winsome Margarita daisy-strewn tea sets and plates. Fellow Guatemalan Patricio Coroy crafts alder wood into serving trays which are lined with hand-loomed traditional prints under glass.

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