A boy jumps on Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro.

Rio de Janeiro - Almost no other country will be dominating headlines in these upcoming months more than Brazil.

Ground zero for the for this summer's Olympic Games, and an unfortunate turn from South America's most promising economy to a quickly diminishing one plagued by urban crime, political unrest, negative train wreck of events.

But on my recent stroll along the iconic Portuguese pavement of Rio's famous Ipanema Beach, I could easily (and mistakenly) conclude that Brazil's ducks are all in one perfect row. The seemingly carefree, famously attractive faces of this ethnically diverse and broadly mixed population are adorned with warm, easy smiles.

This is the country that bore uber-model Gisele Bundchen after all. And there is so much other wellknown beauty to behold within Rio and far beyond. Towering mountain ranges, nearly 5 000 miles of coastline, the Amazon rain forest and Christ the Redeemer are all world-renowned.

You've maybe even read about the in-the-know vacation spot of Trancoso, a once sleepy 17th-century fishing village brimming with Unesco-protected architecture and unspoiled beaches. What you probably aren't hearing about is Brazil's wonderfully fresh and rising interior style fuelled by a creative spirit forged from the confluence of its diverse cultures, abundant access to natural resources and an energy that comes from living among some of Mother Nature's proudest achievements. Naturally, it's eclectic and reflective of Brazil's harmonious marriage between the modern and primitive.

And it perfectly sets the stage for laid-back lounging, languorous summer meals and, of course, watching the world come together during this summer's Games.

With vases, lamps, rugs, wallpaper and other items available from such retailers as Crate & Barrel and Frontgate, you can have a taste of Rio in your home.

Brazil's complex cultural tapestry - woven with threads from indigenous Indian tribes, Portuguese conquerors and a wide array of settlers hailing from the likes of Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan and China - might have blended uncomfortably into a cacophonous aesthetic.

Instead, it telegraphs an approachable ease that's also palpable in its people, food and culture. It's attractive, soulful, rustic and elegant. It has been pulled together with an inherent appreciation for natural materials. Wilbert Das, former creative director of the global fashion brand Diesel, fell in love with Brazil while on holiday in Trancoso and never left. Now he's the proprietor of its UXUA Casa Hotel, perhaps one of the best examples of this trending Brazilian look, and designed almost entirely with furnishings, art and decor crafted by Brazilian artisans.

“There is a rough beauty in the local artisanal work that leaves a lot of space for the natural textures of the materials without over-manicuring,” Das says. “The sincere connection to nature is very visible. Brazilian products and design have an honesty and simplicity that brings everything back to the essence of things.”

And this makes perfect sense. Most Brazilians, whether raised in the dense urban centres, the remote outskirts or somewhere in between, have a more-than-healthy respect for nature's gifts, understanding that they are perhaps their country's most precious resource.


The Independent