Local crafts, furnishings and foods are a major part of the whole travel experience. Here are some of my favourites – those gems that pack easily and forever remind you of a favourite destination.
Original artwork Unframed pieces, which are nearly indestructible, should be at the top of your list.
Pottery and porcelain French Barbotine, Spanish majolica, and Japanese Arita, or Imari, can be called into practical service or simply enjoyed on display. Wrap more delicate pieces as carry-on items.
Antique boxes A variety of materials, such as lacquer-finish wood and wood inlaid with marquetry, or shagreen, are widely available. Larger antique boxes, a precursor to the laptop, allowed travellers to store stationery, ink and quills at hand. Big among today's collectors: boxes that once held toiletries, stationery or tea.
Serving trays They might be made of acrylic, wood, pewter or silver, depending on the region.
strong>Copper cookware Its mellow glow adds a classic French accent to a kitchen. Chefs prefer copper because it distributes heat evenly and quickly.
Antique textiles and lace Purchase these at antique shops and flea markets. Frame them or turn them into decorative pillows.
Dishtowels or bedding Vintage pieces often feature embroidered details or monograms, and pretty dishtowels work beautifully as guest towels. Look for items made of linen, cotton or hemp.
Local delicacies like jam, pâté, cookies and tapenade These can be savoured for weeks following a trip. I also search for beautiful sugars wrapped in unusual packaging, infused with lavender or decorated with fanciful details to give as hostess gifts once I'm home.
Leather-bound books You'll find them at flea markets and fairs for reasonable prices.
Small chandeliers, lanterns or sconces Those from Europe and Africa can easily be rewired to North American standards or converted to candle use. A six-arm chandelier could cost around $200 to rewire, a pair of sconces somewhere around $40 to $50.
Dos and don'ts of travel-inspired decorating
DO incorporate a region's indigenous colours. Aqua blues and greens evoke carefree Caribbean afternoons, pastels accented with crisp white echo Miami Beach, and spicy oranges and saffron yellows suggest India.DO use authentic fabrics as the main indication of a style and locale. Large-scale blue-and-white checks on linen or cotton are a staple of Swedish interiors, and oak leaves and naïf animals adorn the printed textiles typical in Alsatian and Bavarian homes.
DO make room for furnishings that look well travelled or well loved. A Turkish table inlaid with mother-of-pearl and ivory says Morocco or Turkey while a vintage trunk suggests a trip on the '30s cruise ship Queen Mary.
DON'T copy any regional style literally or your home will run the risk of developing “Epcot Syndrome”and looking like the Florida Walt Disney World theme park with its pavilions of different nations. Santa Fe style is appropriate in New Mexico and works in Arizona and Los Angeles, but it may fall short in Eastern Canada, where the geography and light are vastly different.
DON'T mix more than two or three styles within a room. It's important to consider compatibility. For example, painted Pennsylvania Dutch furniture will work beautifully with casual Canadiana or country styles but isn't a match for a more formal decor.
DON'T paint the exterior of your house in colours found in a foreign region; it should be in harmony with other homes in the neighbourhood.