Time has a way of eroding the meanings of words. Oriental, for example, originally referred to what we know today as the Middle East. By the late 19th century it implied the Far East. And today, except in certain contexts like rugs, it is considered a pejorative. What happened? Good things: migration, education, exposure. International travel and the Internet have erased all physical barriers to our understanding of other cultures and ethnicities; the only ones that remain are those we foolishly and regrettably erect ourselves.
You can see this everywhere from the tiniest village to the largest superpower (another term, incidentally, I hope will drift into obsolescence). So when we say something is "exotic" we might reasonably ask: Exotic to whom, exactly? Westchester has tremendous diversity: some 14,000 Indians, around 8,000 Chinese, and 30,000 West Indians. As a Cuban-American, I'm sure a man from Mali would think me an exotic creature indeed.
Which is why I wanted to do an international issue. We have a Columbian designer revamping an American family's house with objects the owners bought in Morocco ("Come to the Casbah"); a Jewish Bronx kid of Polish-Russian heritage channeling neoclassical French and Italian grandeur ("Doing the Continental"); and even a mix of antique and contemporary Turkish design ("Young Turks"). Admittedly, you may still have to pop down to Manhattan to find some of the products we've featured, but no one place on earth—even this highly sophisticated and worldly county—can lay claim to material supremacy. Remember, it's the desire for silk, spices, even tulips, that sent the great explorers wandering the globe. The joy, they found, was in the journey, wherever it led. At times they encountered conflict, but often they also discovered commonality.
And for those of us who can't easily travel to a Moroccan souk or the Paris flea markets, it's wonderful to know that obtaining anything in these pages requires no more than an hour's drive in any direction. Happy travels from your comfy chair.
Jorge S. Arango