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Gazette Premium Content House To Home: Finding a spot for the exotic

By DEBBIE TRAVIS King Features Syndicate - Published: November 16, 2013

If you love to travel, as I do, you are sure to come across items of special beauty and interest that you'd love to take home.

Fabulous finds that will fit into luggage present no problem. A few yards of Moroccan textiles or a collection of beaded napkin rings are easily transported. But what about that 17th-century hand-carved Spanish trunk that you can picture in your family room, or an intricately wrought Indonesian entry door that would make a handsome headboard in the master bedroom? And once home, how would they mix and mingle with existing furnishings?

These are challenges that designer and author Sandra Espinet has met and solved over and over again. Espinet brings the exotic home to North America and creates stunning interiors that champion the blend of traditional style with prized pieces from other cultures. In her book "The Well-Traveled Home," photography by Hector Velazco, published by Gibbs Smith, Espinet shares her passion for seeking out the rare and exquisite in places less traveled. Then, small or large, each piece is integrated into home and family life thousands of miles away. If you are more of an armchair traveler but long to have art and artifacts from other lands in your life, the rooms on these pages will inspire you to find a resource close to home that imports these gems.

The author has showcased each room to illustrate the versatility and repurposing of objects that are both practical and works of art. In the dining room shown here, hand-painted dishes from a street vendor in Hanoi and iridescent mother-of-pearl napkin rings set a casually elegant scene on a travertine tabletop.

On other pages in her book, light fixtures set the style and tone, from delicate glass sconces to oversized iron chandeliers. Chairs are upholstered in a mix of fabrics new and old, leather seats with tapestry backs.

"Every great living room should have a dramatic moment, a stellar piece or something unexpected," says Espinet. This can be an imposing fireplace with a carved fireplace hood, a large iron and glass coffee table or an Italianate console.

A bathroom can be as uniquely fitted out as you please. Espinet shows a rustic antique Afghan cabinet fitted with a bowl from Thailand and repurposed as a vessel sink. Wall-mounted faucets and the drop front of the cabinet keep the plumbing pipes hidden.

Bedrooms lend themselves to an eclectic array of dramatic and romantic elements that relate to your ideal restful space that welcomes dreams and repose. Shown here, simple bedding in bright blue is enlivened by vibrant pillows made from vintage textiles - Guatemalan stripes and Mexican florals. The headboards are antique Guatemalan screens. The wall color glows with the same tone of dark honey gold found in the woven chair and footstool.

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Debbie Travis' House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Email your questions to house2home@debbietravis.com.

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