Adventurous interior decorators who look to bring the world into their living room can give the passport a rest with the arrival of Ethnic Origin Company, a start-up from founder Petra Gurin that brings cultural artifacts and adornments from around the world into a curated online collection. More than an aesthetic enterprise, Gurin views Ethnic Origin as an opportunity to expand the appreciation of indigenous peoples through their work, and every piece comes with a story. “If you don’t know the story, then you’re not going to love it,” says Gurin. “Learn the story and you’ll understand what’s behind it.” Gurin, who selects each piece personally, will not buy without first hearing that story and learning about the people who made it. Aesthetics aren’t enough. “It has to have both,” she says. “And I’m hoping that by showcasing these pieces, more people will want to hear the story.” Born and raised in Hungary before moving to the US in her early 20s knowing no English, Gurin says globe-trotting and culture-spelunking come naturally for her. “Other cultures have a different perspective on life and you learn from it,” she says. “Cultures have different values and we need to cherish that.” 

Opening this past February, Gurin’s online enterprise focuses mainly on the African continent at this point. The collection showcases furniture, vessels and sculpture from as many as 20 tribes across 15 countries, including the Lozi of Zambia, the Makande of Mozambique, the Tonga of Zimbabwe and the Senufo of the Ivory Coast. A recent trip to Kenya should mean an influx of material from the country as well. Working through South African sources she trusts, she feels sure these tribes won’t be exploited. In the future, Gurin hopes to expand to include art from the indigenous peoples of Peru, Bali, Hungary and North America.