Brazilian Decor

brazilian decor
Bright colors, bold patterns, inventive reuse…decor in Brazil is anything but dreary. With five weeks and over 6,000 kilometers of travel, from the Amazon, down the coast to the big southern city of São Paulo, we soaked in our share of Brazilian style.

As much as I love a good design center, luxury design isn’t what Brazil is all about. Here is Brazilian decor and all its raw beauty, charms, quirks, and creativity.

(Above) Of all places, my favorite outdoor furniture of the trip was atop Rio’s Sugar Loaf Mountain.

brazilian decor ideas

A word on the coveted brazilwood, and foundation of early Brazilian design. It is not named after the country, the country is named after it. It grows all through the forests and with its ember-like color (or “brasa” in Portuguese) it inspired the nation's name. Today this hard wood is protected but found pieces are still used for accessories. With a little help from our Amazon guide, we carved this kitchen spoon out of a stick we found.

braziian decor

I won't get to much into folksy souvenirs, but the bright colors and happy disposition of the typical painted wood carvings are indicative of the Brazilian look and spirit.

brazilian decor

In central and northern Brazil, hammocks are an integral part of the home. More than just a backyard accessory, woven hammocks are what many people use to sleep. I was a little nervous spending five nights this way in the Amazon but it was surprisingly comfy! Beautiful, portable, and incredibly inexpensive, it's kind of a brilliant bedding alternative.

brazilian decor ideas

I fell in love with the flat-weave rugs and table linens that were sold all through the state of Ceara. They had the best stripes in the richest colors.

brazilian decor

In the coastal towns of Pernambuco, sculpture made out of old palm-tree trunks were everywhere. The spindly roots make for the greatest head of hair, right?

With summer weather year-round, the outdoor fabric choices were fantastic! This one company Voga Ledervin had spunky prints with palm trees, sail boats and this chic splatter stripe.

brazilian decor

Lighting is made out of just about anything in Brazil. Gourds, sea shells, wine jugs, you name it. Spotted in a corner food stand, this pendant lamp is constructed from a cluster of plastic two soda bottoms and connected to another bottle slit into a modern shade. Resourceful to say the least.

brazilian decor ideas

Adored these cheeky clay busts we saw at Cabral in Salvador. Vintage Brazilian design is fabulous when you can find it.

brazilian decor

Salvador's Afro-Brazilian roots give the decor its own distinct look. These tote bags celebrate their classic motifs of lacy headdresses and prayer bracelets of Señor Bonfim (the legend goes: tie them with three knots and make a wish for each. When the knots wear through, your wishes come true. I think mine has a few months to go.)

brazilian design

Who says a fridge should be a plain Jane? A canvas can be any ol' thing in Brazil and everything could always use a bit more color.

For more on luxury design, check out these chic Brazilian brands:

The Best of São Paulo Design

ibierapuera parkWalking into a 20-million person city is little intimidating but with our good friend and resident Paulista, Marcelo, as our guide, we saw the sweeter side of South America’s biggest metropolis. With a wild abundance of restaurants (12,500), bars (15,000) museums (110), and the craziest soccer scene, we had our hands full with good times but the day that sums up São Paulo culture and beauty was our day in Ibirapuera Park.

brazilian design

Set in the middle of the traffic-ridden urban sprawl, they call the massive city park "The Green Lung." To celebrate São Paulo's 400th year, the city commissioned Brazilian all-star architect OscarNiemeyer to design the park in 1951.

sao paolo design guide

Sao Paulo doesn't have the charming architecture of the colonial cities like Salvador, but famed Niemeyer still puts the city on the map for a number of stellar spaces. Governor Garcez Pavillion is one of his many buildings in the park and throughout the city.

sao paulo design

Niemeyer's Ibirapuera Auditorium is one of his most recent and magnificent projects (the 105-year old is still kicking). The red tongue-like entrance (top) beckons visitors in and the interior is just as seductive with high gloss floors and a sweeping red ceiling that swirls into a staircase.

brazilian design

The Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM) is the most notable museum in the park (there are about five). The gift shop had some particularly good design finds too.

sao paulo musuems

We didn't necessarily plan on going to the Museu Afro Brasil but with free admission, we couldn't resist popping in. Two hours later we were still roaming its four floors, completely impressed with the quality of the displays and range of topics--from tribal art to soccer memorabilia.

sao paulo design

This art exhibit of early Afro-Brazilians taking on Portuguese dress and culture was stunning.

brazilian design

At the foot of the park under the famed obelisk along the highway, a college drum troop practices some beats. Drumming is so much a part of Brazilian culture, but to see this resounding session set up under the hush of traffic seemed so practical and so São Paulo.

For a little street culture in a park chalk full of museums, go to the hill behind MAM and watch the dozens of skateboarders launching themselves down the road and looping back up for more.

seeingdesign and honeytrek

From the museums to the landscapes to the people watching, Ibirapuera Park is the best place to get bite of Brazil's Big Apple.


Chill Chic Trancoso

trancoso design restaurants
In our three-week journey down the coast of Brazil we encountered some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, but none as chic as Trancoso, Bahia. Accessed by a semi-paved road an hour from the nearest city of Porto Seguro, we bumped along assuming this was going to be a ten-shack town but instead we found the hippest side of paradise.

luxury travel ideas

If a town's center is meant to represent a place, then Trancoso planned it perfectly with the Quadrado, a wide open field surrounded by charming cafes and colorful casas. Though obscured here, the nighttime twinkle is one of my favorite features.

design travel

This Jesuit church was the heart of town in the16th century and still is. Though I am sure the church square still has its share of devotees, this is now where artisans sell their wares and wild horses tend to congregate.

design travel brazil

Trancoso is set on a bluff overlooking a beach filled by a system of rivers and lagoons. The change in tides keep them filling and falling, creating an ever-changing landscape that draws you down the coast. Just be warned, if you stay out too late in the may have to wade part of the way home.

brazil  design hotels

Trancoso is far from flashy but pay attention and you'll notice the beach is full of little paths leading to luxury hotels.

trancoso pinapple vendor

Just when you think Trancoso is all about the jetset, a guy like this will roll by to keep it real.

trancoso beach destinations

This washed up boat was turned into the rustic chic bar, Uxia. Love the sun hat umbrellas.

brazil design restaurants

Trancoso has found the winning formula for a beach-town restaurant: massive tree for shade, big wooden patio chairs for seating, and poppy pattern pillows to draw you in. Cafe Vitoria's fun floral cushions tempted me curl up here with a book and a caipirinha.

brazil design shops

With everyone on the beach all day, the town comes alive at night with art galleries and boutiques like Galleria Fulô and staying open until 10pm or later.

trancoso travel

Trancoso is a magical place (If a white wild pony grazing in front of a blue beach cottage didn't have you convinced.)

Essential Trancoso

luxury hotels bahiaLodging
Relais & Chateaux is one of the most selective hotel groups in the world and there only have one property in the state of Bahia that gets its seal of approval: Estrela d’ Agua. If you want to be directly on the beach this is the spot to be.

Casa Timbo is one of the chic lantern-lit restaurants under the boughs of the Quadrado but with a better price than its neighbors.

Aue Zum Zum has a great outdoor music scene by night. Snag a table early or just can grab a drink at the adorable pop-up bars and listen in from a bench in the square.

Essential Salvador

shopping in brazil

You could easily spend a week in Salvador, Brazil, getting a history lesson on the country’s first capital, antiquing through the Pelhourino, and tasting its Afro-Brasilian cuisine, but if you only have a days, here is where to stay, eat, and shop in the must-see Old Quarter.

Eating: Aracaje travel guide brazil

Aracajé is the most quintessential Salvadorian food and a nod to the city’s African-infused culture. Fried dough made from peeled black eyed peas, filled with a spicy paste of dried shrimp, cashews, and palm oil are sold at street stalls all over town. (Tip: If you are worried this may stop your heart, look for the vendors that sell the paste in the corn husk over the fried ball.)

Shopping: Cabral

salavador shopping
Cabral in the upper half of the Pelhourino was quite possibly my favorite store in the whole country. This cute antique shop has an amazing assortment of chic and funky finds from vintage furniture to games to photographs to music…it’s a delightful taste of old Brazil.

Lodging: Pestana Convento Do Carmo

A converted convent becomes a very unique and über luxurious hotel. If you can’t splurge at Pestana, try Hotel Arthemis on Praca da Sé for very reasonable rates and the best view in town (the vista from our window, below).
salvador hotels

For the full account from Mike and my trip through Brazil’s cultural capital, check out my post on our around-the-world travel blog,