Specialists hunt for exotic building materials around the world

Traditional Thai-style house on a canal in Bangkok. Photo: TheLawleys / Flickr Creative Commons

Traditional Thai-style house on a canal in Bangkok. Photo: TheLawleys / Flickr Creative Commons

As more people travel, they want to bring home the experience by “globalizing” their houses. To help, they hire special contractors who scour the world for rare and exotic building materials. In this New York Times article, they come off as a blend of Indiana Jones and Philippe Starck:

Trophy hunters with their eye on interiors

Also be sure to check out the great accompanying slideshow: Searching the globe for authentic materials.

How many of us have dreamed of having a cool home filled with art and furniture from around the world?  However, the article did raise a number of important issues. Does taking natural materials hurt the environment? Will buying artifacts rob a country of its cultural heritage?

These specialists also charge steep rates, as this excerpt illustrates:

“Last month, Mr. Sanchez traveled for two weeks to Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand, a trip he estimated would cost $15,000 to $18,000.”

For many people, it can be hard to imagine how anyone could spend that much money in a cheap destination like Thailand.  Especially in only two weeks.  There are hard-core backpackers who could live in Thailand for a year or longer on a budget like that.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a Silicon Valley billionaire or a Wall Street hotshot to bring an international flavor to your home. One of my favorite decorations I have is a hanging scroll I got for free as part of a calligraphy lesson in Japan. In Hong Kong, I met travelers with their luggage bags full of paintings and souvenirs they’d purchased in China.

Have you brought back any cool mementos from abroad to decorate your home?  How much did they cost?  Please share your stories in the comments.

Posted by | Comments (3)  | July 16, 2010
Category: Expat Life, Notes from the collective travel mind, Travel Bargains

3 Responses to “Specialists hunt for exotic building materials around the world”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    Great post! Didn’t think to bring back or ship back cool mementos to decorate the home? It’s a great idea. In fact, you could dedicate a room to your travels and decorate it with items you buy along the way.

  2. Janice Says:

    What a great idea to “globalize” your home.n As you say, hunting for exotic building materials around the world does bring up questions. I work for McGraw Hill and the McGraw Hill Sweets Network in full of outstanding solutions for building supplies. building supplies

  3. John Says:

    I used to work for a company that did something like this (just helping out for about two weeks). The owners used to go to Shanghai every few months and buy a container load of old/damaged traditional furniture dirt cheap. Then they restored them and sold them for a small fortune. My job was to deliver them to houses owned by people with more money than they know what to do with, which was an interesting glimpse into another world.