Following a recent trip through Vietnam, Liz describes the wonderful artwork, culture and colours of this beautiful country, and outlines how to introduce elements of Vietnamese culture into your own life and interiors.
When I think of Vietnam, I think of contrast and conflict-
- Quiet ancient streets, temples and traditional houses on stilts, juxtaposed with modern city buildings and crazy electricity pylons on street corners.
- Imported cars and designer watches next to poor street vendors and rice farmers doing backbreaking work in the fields.
- The giggles of children playing in the street, contrasted with the tragedies of the war, from which the country is still recovering.
The culture of Vietnam is difficult to define, with huge differences between the North and South and an amalgamation of the different traditions, ideas and styles introduced and cultivated by settlers, merchants and numerous ethnic groups whom have lived, worked or passed through Vietnam. So, rather than a rigid set of rules, I believe that it is in the conflict between the varying designs/ influences that the style of Vietnam is found.
Vietnamese style can be adopted within your own homes using:
The landscape of Vietnam is a mixture of the lush tropical greenery, vibrant green Rice paddy fields and limestone mountains. The colours of the landscape and plants is vibrant and colourful – the artwork and architecture reflect this. Many modern urban interiors have adopted the Biophilic approach, using natural materials, foliage in soft furnishings and traditional artwork or landscape photography to decorate.
Traditional crafts and natural materials
Vietnamese people have developed complex skills and crafts using traditional methods and materials which are easily and readily available – from bamboo flooring, silk weaved clothing and art work painstakingly handmade from eggshells and lacquer. There is a high value on art and crafts here, both traditional and modern.
My favourite items are these fabulous handmade and painted lanterns from Hoi An- where it is hard to not leave with a lighter purse and an extra suitcase! There are many rattan lanterns available on the high-street which also emulate a Vietnamese style.
Ceramics and tiles
With close ties to China, Vietnam has centuries of experience with ceramics. However, I found the skills of the artisans in Hanoi are best demonstrated in the modern ceramics they produce. I was surprised to find beautiful quality ceramics which would look just at home in a Hackney pop up shop… or in my kitchen at home!!
Tiled surfaces are ubiquitous due to their long-lasting, easy to clean and cooling properties. The range of tiles used is vast with traditional painted tiles similar to Marrakech designs, modern day porcelain and etched stone tiles.
Modern Vietnamese Architecture
Organic architecture abounds within civic buildings and spaces. The Turtle Lake roundabout in Saigon demonstrates this, with a beautiful contrast of concrete pathways over sparkling water, all surrounded by trees and traffic. It’s a modern city oasis where normal people can sit, relax or interact with the space. Equally successful Vietnamese architecture is the Reunification Palace which has a modernist facade mimicking bamboo, and a series of large open spaces inside with a blend of traditional art and modern shapes/ fittings.
Vietnam does modern materials extremely well and beautifies them with traditional decoration and craft. In your own home think paired back plain surfaces with beautiful lighting and traditional artwork.
People in South East Asia are some of the most resourceful people in the world- nothing is wasted. I constantly saw clever uses of old tyres, disks and ‘outside the box’ thinking for decoration! This is something easily repeatable at home- particularly in the garden.
Despite the country’s volatile past of invasion, civil war and reunification under the communist party, the overwhelming feeling I experienced was of happiness in the face of adversity. Whilst over 70% of the population is registered as atheist, much of Vietnamese tradition/ approach to life is linked to Buddhism and the concept of being happy in the moment. As our tour guide said- ‘you only have 24 hours in a day, you might not have another day- you must be happy and make the most of each day which is given to you”.