ver since I was very young I have always found a soothing comfort, a certain dimensionality, and an intangible intrigue about homes designed with art and artifacts from around the world. Perhaps this comes from my earliest childhood memories being of Thailand, where I lived as a little girl. I was also fortunate to have a mother that appreciated the art and culture, and during our years in Thailand she very purposely gathered a handsome collection of art, furniture, and textiles from the region as well as surrounding countries. My father was military, and my mother would curate such collections wherever they moved, with Thailand being the last destination before my father retired.
This early influence is very evident in my current home in Colorado. But it is actually a recent conversation at a dinner party that prompted me to write this post. My husband and I were discussing interior design with a friend of his, when she commented that she would love to have a designed home, but everything they owned was gathered on their travels, and none of it worked together. The comment startled me. But it also made me realize that while people may appreciate a curated, and well-traveled home, being able to create such a space isn’t intuitive for everyone.
I would give the following advice to anyone who wants to create a sense of wanderlust in their home, but doesn’t know where to start:
Be purposeful in the pieces you acquire.
Take the time to do a little research about your destination and skip the souvenir t-shirt shops. Does your destination have a local market or bazaar? What are they known for… textiles, art, woodcarving, architecture, pottery? Taking the time to educate yourself on what you might find will help you to recognize it when you see it, as well spark some ideas prior to your trip of what you might want to look for.
Use your travel as inspiration.
Just because something calls my name doesn’t always mean that it comes home with me. Not every trip has to result in a purchase. Curating a home takes time. And shipping, especially on larger and heavier items, can be prohibitive. That is why I always travel with a camera. If I know I cannot get something home, I will take a picture of it, and search for local and online resources once I’m home (sites like Etsy are a fabulous online source). These sources also come in handy if you don’t have an opportunity to travel, but still love a well-traveled look. Framing photographs and collecting books of the people and places where you travel (or would like to travel) is also a cost-effective way to introduce a global feel into your design.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that travel doesn’t have to be exotic or expensive. When I drive up to the mountains here in Colorado I seek out small antique shops, galleries, consignment shops, and flea markets. There is a wealth of local finds almost anywhere you live if you take the time to look for them.
Now what do I do?
So, with some pieces gathered, we now arrive at the place where my party guest is at… making it all work together. The first rule of designing an eclectic mix is to have fun with it! See what works together… what speaks to you. Don’t be afraid to try mixing early American with Asian, or bold colors with more subdued pieces, modern with antique, as examples. In the photo for this blog entry you will notice that I have incorporated Thai textiles, an antique singletree from my grandfather’s cattle ranch in Montana, family photos, a Chinese abacus, and other miscellaneous pieces that are sentimental to myself or my husband. You may have some pieces that don’t seem to fit in, and that is OK. I find that if I set them aside for a little while, a solution for where to put them often comes along later.
While it may take some thought, planning, and a willingness to experiment… adding interesting pieces from your travels (or dreams of travel) tells a story, not only of where the pieces themselves come from but also of you and what touches your soul.