Summer travel leaves many of us with memories of ocean sunsets or foreign street scenes or other only-on-vacation sights. Once we’ve returned home, how can we hold onto some of that beauty and bring it into our living spaces?
The weeks after a trip can be the perfect time to make small but powerful changes to your home. “I love what traveling does to people’s imaginations and to their creativity,” says Los Angeles-based interior designer Betsy Burnham.
With minimal effort and expense, she says, you can live year-round with a bit of the charm and feeling of your favorite travel destinations. “You don’t have to redecorate. All you have to do is kind of pinpoint what it is that evokes the sensation of still being there.”
“Look back through your photos and just think about the sense of place,” she says. “It can be as simple as a jar of shells that appears in your guest bathroom,” or as dramatic as repainting a room.
Here Burnham and interior designers Kyle Schuneman (author of “The First Apartment Book: Cool Design For Small Spaces,” due out Aug. 28 from Clarkson Potter) and Brian Patrick Flynn, founder of decordemon.com, to share advice on bringing your travels into your home.
“When people get stumped on colors or decorating ideas for a room they spend a lot of time in, the first thing I’ll do is ask them to think of a time and place that they went to that really made them happy,” says Flynn.
For one client, he repainted a bathroom the exact shade of robin’s egg blue that was used throughout a hotel where the couple stayed during a memorable anniversary trip. “Every time she thinks of that color, it brings her back to that time before they had kids and got busy with their careers,” Flynn explains.
Another client, living in Los Angeles, wanted to be reminded of his sun-drenched Australian home. “In his breakfast nook, we went with pure, bold, almost radiation yellow,” Flynn says. “It always feels sunny and reminds him of how it feels to be in Australia.”
Begin a collection
Schuneman suggests picking up similar items from different places to create a collection that will grow with each vacation. “Whether it be something free, like ticket stubs from everywhere you’ve been to together, or pottery that you can display together,” he says, “incorporating these memories are what good design is all about.”
“I think creating a collection in your home from your travels is such an important part of design,” says Schuneman. “I actually have a chapter in my book called ‘The Collector,’ as I think those collections are what are so important to making a house a home.”
Burnham agrees: On her family’s first trip to Paris, her children bought inexpensive Eiffel Tower statues sold on street corners. “It’s so corny when you’re there,” she says. But if you gather similar items during and after a trip and display them together, it becomes a design statement and conversation piece. Her family’s Eiffel Tower collection has grown over the years, and “all of a sudden we’ve got this kind of funky collection.”
Locally grown items
Flynn urges travelers to buy original, local art. Whether it depicts your destination or just captures the area’s sensibility, the work of local painters and artisans can commemorate your trip and add beauty to your home.
Local art is often extremely affordable, Flynn says, “and it’s a permanent story sitting on your walls. You’re filling the walls and telling a story about your vacation.”
Along with appreciating artistic beauty, also keep natural beauty in mind: Burnham suggests taking note of the plants and flowers you saw during your summer travel. If the climate is at all similar, try to use the same or similar plants in your own yard. “Maybe it’s a topiary in a pot, something European,” she says, or beach grass that evokes a sleepy seaside town you loved visiting.
Fresh use of photos
When you return with photos from your trip, skip traditional frames in favor of something more creative.
“A great idea for displaying photos is taking some of your favorites and finding a rustic slab of wood or maybe a sleek piece of metal,” Schuneman says, and decoupaging the photos in a random pattern. “For little or no money, you have a cool art piece that will forever be a memory board and can be customized to just your taste and the trip’s feeling.”
Choose the material based on the vibe of your destination – perhaps mount camping photos on unfinished wood or photos from an urban destination on metal.
Another option is choosing “a more artistic-feeling photo – maybe a landscape or a close-up shot – and having it blown up on canvas. Canvas On Demand is one of my favorite sources for this and their quality is great,” Schuneman says. “It’s a total conversation starter.”
Flynn says another powerful way to use vacation photos is to have them printed in black and white. Against a colorful wall, the images will pop out, bringing back vivid memories.
As you look through travel photos or remember favorite spots, think about the details: Maybe you saw unique, beautiful doors in a city or town you visited, Burnham says.
“How about changing your front door hardware to something that’s really like a Londoner would have? It’s those kinds of touches,” she says, like painting a door the same color as doors you saw on a trip, that keep a trip with you. “It becomes a conversation piece” when people visit, she says.
“For a coastal, beachy vibe,” Schuneman says you can accomplish the same thing by “layering textures like a chunky sisal rug, wood tables and linen curtains. By keeping the color palette fairly subdued with shades of blues, grays and creams, the room will work all year long but still give a relaxed and breezy environment.”
And always pick up something for your home during every trip, he advises: “It could be a small accessory or a larger item like a chair, but these are really what make a room interesting.”