Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Using Travel Souvenirs in Decorating

We all take vacations. Some near, some far away.  We tend to want to bring back a souvenir to remind us of the fun times we had. Do you have some ill-chosen objects that hang around gathering dust? That little Eiffel Tower sold at every street corner in Paris? An "Illinois State" spoon from a truck stop?  Yeah, been there, done that.

Years ago, when I got to start traveling  because of my husband's business travels, I realized that I didn't just want another object to collect dust and clutter up the house.  I started looking for things from each place that I could decorate with.  I wanted objects that reminded me of my trip, but added to my home's decor.  So much of my decor has a story attached to it now.

It all started with these violins:
When I travel overseas, I like to check for local flea markets and look for my souvenirs there.  I can often find very unique items for a much lower cost.  I found these violins on two seperate trips to Paris and got them for under $15 each.  My husband and daughters all play the violin, so they were objects that would not only remind us of our trip, but match our family's interests.  That makes our decorating more personal to us.

My husband has always loved money and coins from other countries. After dusting his mason jars full of it for years, I finally decided it was time to figure out how to display them.

We can pick up a few coins for just a dollar or two and keep adding to the collection.  In fact, we have enough bills from new countries that I need to make another collage of them.

Smaller items can be grouped together to make a stunning display.  I used old postcards, bookmarks, and a few inexpensive prints from various places to put  together a disply in our master bath.  Maybe a weird place to some people, but we're the ones that see it every day and know what memories are attached to each of those objects.

Another fun souvenir you can get for decorating  are maps.  Both my husband and I love them.  We picked this one up in Bermuda:

One of the best things I've ever found at a garage sale was a mat cutter.  Now I can frame these maps and these unusal-sized prints easily and cheaply.  I love maps, but you can run out of wall space quick.  That's why I like to keep looking for other objects to use.

While we lived in Japan, my daughters and I scoured used shops to find these traditional Japanese wooden "Kokeshi" dolls.  Grouped together, they make a cute display:

(see those other objects that DON'T match- momentos from other trips before I started shopping for a purpose-jade elephant from China, wooden frog from Malaysia and a German house!)

Of course, your trip photos can make some of the best decor around your home. Blow a few up nice and big or photoshop or picnik them to Black and White or Sepia tones.

(An antiqued photo I took in Italy and 3 photos I took in B&W in France.)

You can also make one of these huge map boards to keep track of where you travel, as well as display a few photos:

(see details of how to make this in my earlier post here.)

Internet Inspiration:

I found some more inspiring ideas of what you can bring back from your vacations that can cost little or no money, but have great decorating possibilities.

Memory jars: Fill jars with sand, shells, driftwood, small photos, etc and label. Display together for added effect. 

Look at those shelves full of jars!  Cool vintage effect.

I love this idea of writing the trip location, date and simple memories on a rock or two from everywhere you go. Display in a unique glass urn or vase.  You could do this same thing for your golfer. Have them write their score and date of those golf trips and start a collection that is full of memories and looks fun when collected together.

How cool would a display of these collected rocks be?  Pick up a heart shaped rock everywhere you go, label and display in a shadow box. The kids would love helping with this, yet limit the number of rocks they're allowed to bring home! I really want to start this tradition with my kids.

As you travel, have the kids help you look for objects and architecture that looks like letters.  Plan to spell out your family name or the trip location and put together in a frame when you get home.

Look how fun this simple-to-make display of matchbooks would be.  You could use new ones from you trips or look at flea markets for vintage ones.

This is a fun display of just vintage and visually grahic book covers! I love all the colors and designs.  There's nothing I love more than an old book shop in Europe. The dusty leather small is wonderful!


(country living)

How about framing your trip fliers, menus and tickets like this:

(Martha Stewart)

What about looking for unique pieces of china at flea markets and put together a stunning display like this:

Here are a fun few ideas using your trip photos:

I love the proof sheet look to these framed collage of summer shots. Heck, if you can find a turtle shell, bring it home!

I love the bright colors used in this summer vacation display.  Many of the photoshop and picnik(free) let you turn those colors up to really pop.

(southern living)
I love how these are grouped and themed so that each framed collage is a seperate trip, yet the whole wall is of all the family's travels. I like how they labeled each collection.

(tracey vue)
Make a vintage-looking poster of your trip.  Use that 70's effect on one of your photo editing programs.

(via poppytalk)
How easy would this display idea be to change out? Put new photos, vintage postcards and your trip maps up after each trip and rotate the display regularly.

Of course, you could go overboard with your trip photos and do this:
Watch out for a strong breeze!!

How about taking your trip photos and using your editing software to turn them into coloring pages for your kids?


Wouldn't that be fun for a present to help the kids remember during the year the fun memories they made during summer break?

How about finding a couple of pieces of driftwood and make a version of these cute sailboats?  Love these!

Some countries I've been to have been very famous for their fabrics.  I've been known to look up fabric shops so I could buy a meter or two of a gorgeous fabric and us it to make a pillow or recover the seat of a chair!

When you head out on your next trip, try to decide what it is you would like to find to decorate with and be a more meaningful momento.  Enjoy looking for that unique something that just screams YOU!

I'm Linking up to:


  1. Love all of your displays. Your violins look lovely.
    What a neat idea for displaying coins. Hubby has his stashed in jars too. I'm going to give this a try. Thanks for sharing.

  2. So many cute ideas. Thanks for collecting them all into one place! Lori L

  3. Wonderful ideas. Your violins are stunning. My aunt, who has long since left this world, would bring back dirt from everywhere she visited. It sounds 'dirty' but really she had these cool vials and she displayed them all together, unbelievable the different colors and textures. It was really neat, thank you for sharing and bringing back memories of my auntie.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Great post Erin! Love all the ideas! I kept looking at the alphabet collection... Are those really rocks?~~~ crazy cool!

  6. Gread idea! We have lots of foreign bills and coins just sitting in a drawer. I'm inspired, tks for sharing.

  7. Hi Erin: Thanks for commenting on my grill area re-do. So fun you were in Portugal recently!Makes me wonder what momento you picked up here! I started an etsy shop with all the cheap and fun things I'm finding at flea markets here (when I have time to go!). I LOVE all your ideas for travel momentos you've posted. I hope to try some of them soon!

  8. I always buy at least one thing when traveling. Great ideas.

    I wanted to let you know about Atticmag's new linky party - Giveaway Friday! It's a convenient place for bloggers to link their giveaways each week. We've kicked it off with a fantastic giveaway of our own. Five lucky winners will win material to do a backsplash in their homes. Hope to see you there!


  9. Fabulous post, I enjoyed that. You have done some great displaying of your travel treasures,love it.

  10. Hi Erin - I couldn't find your email address and I wanted you to know that I'm highlighting your blog today for my weekly Sunday Blog Love. You're very talented! Congrats on beginning your blog and the sharing your creativity!

  11. great idea for displaying souvenirs.'ve been to lots of places. love the japanese kokeshi dolls

  12. Erin I love what you have done with your momentos the best!! The violins are fabulous!

    I have a New Giveaway from the French Basketeer I think you will love!

    Art by Karena

  13. I just found you through Tatertots and Jello and am now following. I love this post. We live in Germany (courtesy of the US Army) and have TONS of travel souvenirs from our travels. I'm always on the lookout for cool ways to display them. These are wonderful!!!!

  14. Funny thing, I've found it hard to find a nice collage of pictures of how to decorate with travel souvenirs. And then, I found your blog! Thanks! I am sharing this on Twitter.

    For international and unique home decor ideas, check me out. A portion of proceeds goest toward reducing poverty in East Africa. So, great authentic art + support for people in it!

    Twisuka: Exotic Home Decor With a Purpose

  15. Great ideas! We just moved from Japan and have all sorts of odds and ends of souvenirs from all over Asia. I have a big bag of currency that I've been trying to figure out what to do with. Love your ideas. Love your kokeshi doll collection.

  16. I am popping over from the Gallery Wall party. I love seeing your work. (Mine is #10.)


    Gg - Notes on the Journey

    ps. I loved the idea of framing the foreign currency.

  17. Great ideas!!! My travel agent had a beautiful bracelet made with her foreign coins.

  18. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  19. Wow! Very nice and awesome travel collection, for sure majority of all traveler really like this too.

    Travel Advise


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