It could be a collection of colorful carvings from South Africa, or brilliantly hued woolen rugs from Oaxaca. But whether they’re bamboo musical instruments from Vietnam, beautiful saris from India or miniature oil paintings from Paris, they’ll do no good if they’re tucked away in your attic collecting dust.
If you love to travel, you’ll want cheerful reminders of the good times to show up in your house, said Dallas-based interior designer Adrienne Sams, who travels frequently with her husband, David, and their two college-age daughters.
“David is a professional photographer, so our collections are his work,” said Sams, owner of Smalls & Interiors. “But when I’m helping a client, I try (to) see what needs to be put together in a collection, and what should be sprinkled throughout the house.”
When she works with a client, one of the first questions she asks is not what they have out for all to see, but what is tucked away from their travels. It’s not about boasting that you’re a world traveler, she said. It’s about preserving memories.
“You need a few things out to remind you of great trips,” said the designer. “You don’t have to dump everything in one room from that Honduras trip, though. The biggest thing I do is edit and put things in spots that work for a room.”
That might be something sculptural that goes on a wall shelf, mixed with family photos, or something found in Costa Rica that gives a collection some texture. Shelving can help with collections, she said, as can tucking a treasure or two in a spot that works. She likes stacking colorful blankets in Lucite boxes, so the hues and textures show through.
When she sorts through clients’ treasures, Sams often finds a few surprises.
“Sometimes I see things that make me scratch my head, but these are things that are meaningful and make people laugh so you know they have a place in the home somewhere,” she said.
Those who can’t afford to travel much beyond their own state, but spend hours watching the exotic wonders of the world in documentaries, can start their own collection, as well. Places like Ten Thousand Villages, World Market and Pier 1 Imports offer treasures from around the world.
“You can easily and affordably decorate your home with influences from other countries and cultures without ever leaving your neighborhood,” said Aimee Beatty, in-house stylist for Pier 1 Imports.
Michele Loeper, marketing manager for Ten Thousand Villages, said when searching for treasures, consider not just where the items were made but how they were made.
“You can purchase items that were mass produced in factories in China, or you can select handcrafted items that have been carefully sourced directly from the artisans who made them,” she said. “That’s a profound difference.”
Selecting fair trade items ensures you are giving yourself the gift of a story, Loeper said.
“Each item sold at Ten Thousand Villages has been handcrafted by an artisan in one of 35 different countries,” she said. “These items often represent cultural traditions that date back centuries ago.”
Like Sams, Loeper said such treasures can work well on their own – or grouped in a collection.
“By having an item sit on its own, you send the message that this item is important to you,” she said.
Other pieces, like handpainted plates or tile pieces from Vietnam or South America, make a bigger statement when grouped.
“You could use them as artwork by clustering them together on a wall in the kitchen or dining room,” Loeper said, adding that the home decorator should be sure there is some commonality among the items, whether it be color palette or pattern.