Have you ever been on vacation, found an item you loved, brought it home, and realised…
I have nowhere to put this travel find. Or maybe once the initial shiny newness wore off, you decided that you don’t like the item as much as you originally thought.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone!
When we design homes for clients, we always talk to them about the items that will become focal points or accent pieces in the final design. And, inevitably, there are always travel finds that still have the clients looking dreamy-eyed and others that have lost their emotional luster.
But when you’re abroad, in the moment and deciding whether to buy a piece, how do you know if you’ll love it long-term? And once you have it, how can you display it well in your home?
All good questions, and today, I’m sharing some answers…
When I tour clients’ homes with them during the design process, the travel finds that end up becoming an important part of the final design aren’t necessarily the ones that are the most traditionally beautiful.
Instead, it’s the pieces that have stories and memories behind them, the ones that will you remind you of happy times long into the future. These are the treasures that keep on giving.
A local story can also add deeper meaning to your finds, especially if you get to meet the artists and artisans to talk about their art. In fact, one of my favourite finds to date is a watercolour by Christopher Gorey from Cape Breton Island.
Luckily, it isn’t difficult to find talented locals. You can check out markets, vintage/antique stores, or ask for recommendations wherever you’re staying.
Another great way to add meaning and a story to your finds is to start a collection! I’ve seen collections of matchboxes, champagne corks, stamps, pins, and more. Not only does this focus your approach (and help avoid impulse buys) but it gives you a sense of adventure as you hunt down your next discovery.
Pro Tip: Remember if you love something and have to have it, but it doesn’t fit in the overhead bin, you can always ship it!
1. TOURIST TRAPS
Tourist traps have earned their name for a reason — they draw us in and tempt us with all the things locals know we’re most likely to buy. While there might be some decent items in places like these, you’re also less likely to find meaningful pieces. And those cartoon caricatures will definitely find their way to that wall behind the furnace. 😉
2. IMPULSE BUYS
This is the “love at first sight” scenario, and it’s not necessarily wrong, but I’d say there’s about a 50/50 chance that your initial joy will endure years of seeing the item displayed in your home. If you feel that initial jolt, my best advice is to sleep on the decision and go back another day to see if you still love it!
Okay, it’s time for hard truths. I love vases as much as anyone, but I have seen so, SO many vases in people’s homes. SO MANY.
If you already have a few vases at home, I strongly urge you not to bring more back from your travels. They will add up faster than you can blink. They also get easily crowded on shelves, and are the most likely contenders to end up in storage! *Mic drop* 😉
1. GALLERY WALLS
Gallery walls are a great way to showcase travel finds. Proper framing and handling can make the most of utilitarian finds look special and interesting. In addition to art, I’ve framed keys and key rings, magnets, plaster letters, and print blocks for this client’s basement, featured below. (Another of my favourite personal finds are Napoleon and Josephine, my taxidermied locusts from Claude Nature in Paris!)
2. GROUPED ON SHELVES
Collections are perfect candidates for displaying on shelves together. Matchbooks, stamps, and postcards all look great when styled in groups. You can use bowls, glasses, trays, baskets, or other containers… maybe from your trip!
Pro Tip: Group items in odd numbers and in varying heights and visual “weights” to keep it looking diverse and well balanced.
3. SPRINKLED THROUGHOUT THE HOUSE
Sprinkling your travel finds through the house — on tables, shelves, walls, dressers, etc. — is my preferred method. This allows for small reminders and discoveries throughout the day.
For styling and display ideas, you can take a look at the photos in this blog post. All of them showcase travel finds in our clients’ projects!
So, while you’re spending time with family this season and dreaming of your upcoming travels, I hope you’ll keep these little tips in mind…
After all, a home that inspires your most joyful and fulfilling life is the one that makes you smile, stirs up fond memories, and keeps you inspired to make more. Don’t you think?
If you’re ready for a home that feels personal, comfortable, and timelessly classic, we would love to help! Come chat with us.