Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Make your travel treasures part of home sweet home

A noren (Japanese door curtain) frames a collection of masks. Japanese postcards add the finishing touch on either side of this “Great Wall” of souvenirs.

If you follow of my articles, you may remember a month back I wrote about having a yard sale to help pay for the souvenirs for our upcoming family vacation. We had a wonderful time at Walt Disney World (thanks for asking). We came home with lots of goodies: stuffed animals, water bottles, caps, sunglasses, and, of course, Mickey Mouse t-shirts.

Mere days after our return from Disney World, Secret Agent Man left for Asia. He visited the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Xiamen, China.

We love to show off the things we collect from our travels. Nothing says, “Nah-ner, nah-ner, look where we’ve been,” than a home with well-placed souvenirs.

Whether your souvenirs are from your own travels or gifts from another jet-setter, here are a few tips on how to shop and incorporate travel treasures into the décor of your home.

Black, the universal color
When you are perusing the wares in Peru, it may be hard to remember the correct shade of green you have in your living room. One way to avoid a mismatch it to always buy a decorative souvenir with the color black in it. Black is the universal color of decorating. If it has black it can be worked in somewhere, somehow into your present décor. Black reads as sophisticated, simple, rich, clean, and modern all at the same time.

Buy in pairs in Paraguay or triples in Tripoli
One little Buddha statue may seem lonely on a shelf, but two Buddhas equal bookends! Sometimes it’s hard to find a place for one Chinese scroll or one bottle of sand from your favorite beach in Mexico. But, if you buy them in two’s or three’s then you have an instant grouping that can go anywhere.

If you buy in multiples you may end up, advertently or inadvertently, starting a collection. My brother-in-law has an impressive collection of masks from around the world. Some he has collected himself, others were gifts. Over the years it has become a prize family collection that’s displayed proudly in their Atlanta home.

Go big or go home
Instead of bringing home a suitcase full of magnets, key chains, and snow globes, invest in one big souvenir, perhaps a painting, a big pot, or carved wooden plaque that can be hung over a doorway or mantle. Larger items make a statement.

One of my favorite souvenirs is a giant fan that my brother brought home from his time in Japan. The intended receiver was my mother but, when I had a big niche above my stairs to fill, that fan turned out to be just the right size for the space. Everyone who enters Casa de Payne comments on it.

Hanging in an adjacent hallway is a kimono that my brother also brought back from Japan. Again, the intended recipient was my mom. After we all took turns wearing it for Halloween, the kimono found a place of honor on the wall. It hangs by the sleeves on a curtain rod.

Postcards from Paris
I don’t have a nice camera and I am not a good photographer, so I depend on postcards. But, I don’t just bring them home and stick them in a drawer, I frame them. One of my favorites is a collection of vintage-style postcards I bought in Hawaii. I used a dark wood, collage frame to show them off. I have another framed collection of postcards Secret Agent Man brought me from India. I picked three of my favorites that were taken in the palace of Mysore. I used a gold frame to compliment the throne of the Raja pictured in the postcard.

Show off a Great Wall of souvenirs with color
Every great wall of souvenirs I have seen has been displayed on a wall painted in a beautiful color, one that sets off the collection. I recommend a rich, dark color. Add enlarged, framed pictures of the origin of your collection, especially if you are in them.

Don’t travel globally, think locally
We are so lucky to live in an area with so much natural beauty, with artisans and photographers that have been inspired by that beauty. Buy local souvenirs. Create a “Colorado” room. I love pictures of our home state, especially over-sized pictures of the Colorado National Monument.
Epcot or Estes Park, gadabout or a homebody, you don’t have to have your passport stamped to have your own Great Wall of souvenirs.


  1. LOVING the vignette you made :)

  2. Why don't you have your own tv show?

  3. Hi. Great post...it has rally inspired me. I travel or used to travel quite a lot and I always bring something home. Now, the situation with different souvenirs is quite horrible in our house. I already tried to decorate living room but the rest of souvenirs just lie on the shelves in the bedroom. Hopefully, it will be better soon.


  4. I loved this post and learned so much from it! :)

  5. Lauren - Wish I could take credit for the vignette. The pic was actualy snapped at my sister's house. It's her husband's prized collection of masks.

    E-Dub- I'm too busy with volunteerism. I need a paying gig.

    realtor- For every 1 souveneir I love, there are 3 more, I hate.

    Nancy-Thank you! It's helped S.A.M. for when he travels w/o me and has to shop for something I'll be able to use in the house. Today, I'm hanging to wooded wall hangings with Chinese symbols flanking the Japanese kimono. It's like the United Nations at my house@!

  6. Very Cool!! I can't figure where you have this in your house. Is it your upstairs hallway?

  7. It's not my house, it's Lori's.

  8. crap that means something is so much better than the meaningless store bought crap i have in my house.

    best tip- go big on souvenirs...so much better than a bunch of little trinkets...

    now, can we see the framed vintage postcards? please. the description was good and all, but remember, i'm a visual person.


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