Certain pieces of furniture or styles of fabric are synonymous with the countries from which they come. Over time, they've become national icons — a Bergere chair is to French furniture what baguettes and brie are to French food, or the Bourdeaux grape is to French wine. Here's a short list for starters...nominate your own international icons in the comments.
- Murano Glass from Italy: Murano is a small island in the Venetian lagoon, home to over 100 workshops that produce glass objects well known for their purity of color and form. Glassblowers on the island still make chandeliers and lighting using the same techniques that have been passed down through generations.
- Bamileke Stools from Cameroon: Carved from a single tree trunk, they're distinguished by their round shape and crisscross pattern. They're often referred to as "king's stools" because the most intricate ones were used as seats for Bamileke chiefs.
- Bergere Chairs from France: A French tradition, these chairs are defined by an upholstered back and seat (usually with a loose, overstuffed cushion) on a carved wood frame. Marie Antionette used them in her country home, Petit Trianon.
- Marimekko Fabric from Finland: This bright, colorful fabric is made in Helsinki and exported throughout the world. Used for everything from bedding to curtains, its style is instantly identifiable as Scandinavian modern.
- IKEA Furniture from Sweden: We thought about choosing one iconic IKEA piece, but it's really the company as a whole that embodies contemporary Swedish style. The fact that words like "Poang" and "Karlstad" have become international brands proves the dominance of this affordable mega-retailer.
- Ming Tables from China: The Ming dynasty was one of China's golden periods of design, when craftsmanship was valued so strongly that a table was made from mortise-and-tenon joints with no nails, only carefully carved pieces that fit into one another so snugly that you can't even see the seams.
- Klismos Chairs from Greece: Apartment Therapy's Retrospect columnist, Anna Hoffman, writes, "While big ideas like democracy might have stuck, the only piece of ancient Greek furniture that can still be found in contemporary interiors is the klismos chair. The key components of a traditional klismos chair are: saber back and front legs; wide, curved tablet back rests; and curved stiles."
- Jali Screens from India: Carved from stone, these intricate window lattices (also known as jali walls) have survived hundreds of years. You can see them at the Taj Mahal or the Red Fort in Agra, and they continue to inspire designers today.
Photos: Murano Glass Chandelier from Design Within Reach, Bamileke Stool from Sueno Studio, Bergere Chair from Objets Plus, Marimekko Patterns at FinnStyle, Catalogue Photo from IKEA, Ming Table from Pagoda Red, Klismos made by Edward & Roberts, a London firm, ca. 1892, after Thomas Hope's design, originally published in his book, Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, in 1807, Now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, Flickr member colros used under Creative Commons license