"New Mediterranean" style is something we've been obsessing over for a while now. Blame it on the amount of time since our last vacation (no comment...), but there's something about this breezy, seaside-inspired look that just feels incredibly refreshing and new—and if there's any décor trend that can transform your home into something resembling a home-away-from-home, this has got to be it.
However, the actual calling cards of this décor style are a bit difficult to pin down. Mediterranean style undoubtedly ascribes to a "less is more" approach, making it appealing to the minimalists among us (as well as those who are outright color averse). Natural elements, from slubby woven fibers to imperfect stone and gnarled wood, are certainly present—but in an aesthetic moment that seems infatuated with bringing the natural world inside (hi, plant moms!), even that isn't enough to differentiate it.
What is Mediterranean Design?
Coastal but with a distinct twist, Mediterranean design is all about embracing a "less is more" philosophy and adding plenty of texture—often in the form of plaster walls and organic, natural finishes.
What's a Mediterranean style-seeker to do? We've attempted to define this traditionally tricky style, dividing its elusive qualities up into a few categories that can help you get the look at home (even if you live as far from the Mediterranean as humanly possible).
Read on to see what Mediterranean style is all about—and to learn how to master it in your own abode.
Elegant, gently sloping archways are a hallmark of Mediterranean style—but of course, not every homeowner is lucky enough to have one built in. If you're not feeling ambitious enough to create one yourself at home (which can be a deceptively big undertaking—especially if you aren't sure which walls are load-bearing, or if you live in a historic home), don't despair.
The best way to fake an arch or alcove is to paint a contrasting hue in a classic arch shape on a flat wall—it may not trick your houseguests, but it will create a unique "architectural" element that adds interest to your home. Placing shelves "inside" the arch can also help sell the visual effect. (Bonus points: add a half-circle open pass-through doorways as another clever trompe l'oeil).
Opt For Perfectly Imperfect Paint Jobs
White-washed walls are another major calling card of this look. They add much-needed character and variation to the strict palette of whites and creams that characterize sunbleached Mediterranean style, and keep everything feeling warm and well-loved, instead of stark. A thinned wash of white is preferable to full-strength white paint in many cases—and if it lets some of the natural imperfection of your walls underneath show through, all the better.
Tap Into Texture
By that same token, texture is king when it comes to achieving this age-old look. Plaster products can be applied to your walls if you're starting from the classic "white box" stage of decorating—and again, don't feel the need to aim for perfection. A little timeworn attitude is right at home in this aesthetic.
Mix It Up
If you don't want to feel like you're living in a historic replica villa (hey, it's not for everyone!), then a little visual variation is necessary. One of the best parts about this new Mediterranean style is how it plays well with others. Intermingle antique influences with Art Deco pieces, overstuffed and curvy furnishings, and hard, polished stone to create contrast. There are very few aesthetics that truly clash with this look, since it's based on creamy whites and natural textures—the perfect blank slate for putting your own personal spin on things.
Bring Nature Inside
In a design style that prizes natural texture, it's only fitting that one should incorporate nods to the living world as well. Vining plants or classic botanicals like lemon trees or olive trees (climate permitting!) make for a natural complement to this aesthetic. (Bonus: planting them in rustic, imperfect pots lends a little added authenticity to the look.)
Try Some Terra Cotta
On that tip: peppering in some warm, earthy terra cotta hues can be just the thing for interrupting all those white and cream shades. Hand-thrown ceramics, earthenware tiles, and small accessories that bring a hint of reddish hue to your space add variety, texture and visual interest to the color scheme.
Get In Neutral Gear
A clean and airy palette of whites, muted greys, and creams will be your best friend when designing a Mediterranean-inspired space. But in this instance, imprecision is key—make it too matchy-matchy, and you'll miss the mark. Instead, pick a few white hues from different color families—some with a grey undertone, some with a blue undertone, some that skew more toward true white. This mix of colors will provide enough variation to keep the eye interested, while helping you achieve a look that feels accumulated over time. (The same goes for textiles and furnishings.)
Get A Little Abstract
For pattern-loving people like ourselves, a home entirely comprised of solid white fabrics, solid white stone, and solid white paint jobs can feel a little...constricting. Infuse a little fun and modernity into your Mediterranean scheme by adding abstract shapes and sculptural accents to your space. Blurred and sun-bleached watercolors and zany, abstracted ceramics feel right at home with the Mediterranean vibe—just be sure to keep the colors muted and natural.
Bring In Some Blues
It wouldn't be Mediterranean style without a hint of blue lifted from the Mediterranean sea. From super-saturated cobalts to deep navy blues, this color family is an important part of this stylistic influence—so it's only right to incorporate it in your decorating. Hand-painted tiles like these infuse indoor and outdoor spaces alike with a little whiff of the seaside—we can almost hear the waves crashing now.
Warm Up With Wood Tones
Wood tones—and any natural materials, really—can go a long way toward warming up a sleek white interior. Whether your home has functional wood beam ceilings or you decide to add them for the aesthetic points, a little wood is always in style. Particularly, burled and rough-hewn wood elements are a smart fit for this look, because they echo the hand-touched quality of plaster, tile, and other staples of Mediterranean style.
Expand To The Outdoors
Indoor-outdoor living is the epitome of the Mediterranean lifestyle, so it only stands to reason that you'd emulate this element, as well. Many staples of this style (durable plaster, stone accents, breezy linen fabrics) work just as well out-of-doors as they do indoors, so extending your living space out into the elements is a snap. Opt for a simple, sculptural fire pit (or rustic metal fire bowl), then pull up some chairs and enjoy your outdoor oasis. (Almost as good as a vacation, right?)
Add In Some Artifacts
No, we're not talking about ancient remains swiped from your local excavation site. But personal touches are what make any house a home, and a few artisan-made items or pieces of personal significance deserve to be shown off. Give them a museum-worthy treatment by placing accessories on pedestals, and framing up favorite artworks (then fitting them with gallery-style spotlights to complete the effect). The more unique, the better.