How to Bring Your Vacation Home With You

Carry this feeling over to your living room. See more beach pictures.
Carry this feeling over to your living room. See more beach pictures.

Ah, white sandy beaches, cobbled streets, quirky little shops with merchandise you can't pronounce, breathtaking vistas and enough history to keep you intrigued through the cold, dark winter. What is it? It's your vacation, or that wonderful time of year when you can temporarily outrun your problems and live the good life. Being a grown-up can be brutal, but one nice thing about reaching the age of majority is being able to enjoy the traditional pilgrimage away from things familiar and into the abode of daydreams. OK, so it may end up being a weekend camping with your brother-in-law, but still.

You may have had to settle for a staycation last year -- but who said that's as good as getting away from your overgrown landscaping and sagging roof shingles? This year, you can invest in an airline ticket and leave your woes in a fragrant cloud of jet fumes.


A nice vacation is going to cost you, so make the effort to get the most out of the experience. Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of a new place, and drag some of that ambience home to console you when the vacation bills come due. Let's take a look at some resourceful ways you can integrate that walk along a distant strand into your back-in-the-saddle-again existence.

Souvenir Ideas for Home Décor

The huge elk horn candelabra you picked up for a song at that street bazaar may work better in your imagination than on your dining room table. One problem with souvenir décor is that it can look out of sync with the rest of your stuff. Imagine an Elvis-on-velvet masterpiece crammed in with your mother-in-law's botanical prints -- never going to work out no matter how hard you try.

Bringing the vibrant colors and wonderful textures of your vacation getaway home is a great idea, but use restraint. These tips will help:


  • Do a little research before you head out on your vacation adventure. There may be some specific items, like Irish crystal when you're visiting the Emerald Isle, which you'll want to shop for specifically. These types of purchases make great gifts and conversation pieces.
  • Buy one good piece instead of three or four mediocre ones.
  • Opt for shops away from the main tourist areas that specialize in specific décor items, like hand-blown glass, rugs or leather goods.
  • Stick with what the local artisans do best. If a label says something is made in Taiwan -- and you aren't in Taiwan -- you've made a wrong turn somewhere.
  • Be discriminating. If you aren't sure you'll like something when you get it home, take photos and inquire about the store's shipping policy. Ask if they have a Web site. You may feel you have to make a decision right away, but that's probably not true.
  • If it's made of feathers, shells or hair, take it out back and set it free.
  • Pass on anything that looks like it's made from an endangered animal.
  • Size matters. If it's bigger than your oldest child, leave it for the next busload of tourists.
  • If it contains two or more primary colors, consider it for your kitchen, deck or sunroom, but for heaven's sake, keep it away from your granny's traditional stuff.
  • If there's a chance it's a replica of a fertility god, reserve it for special occasions.
  • If it smells like goat when it gets wet, consider giving it to your ex next Christmas.
  • If the salesman says it's a steal at that price for brass, silver, crystal, semiprecious stones, hand-tooled leather or old-growth forest wood, get a second opinion.
  • If it looks like something you'd never buy, then don't buy it.

Bringing something exotic home from your holiday is always tempting, but if you think that cuckoo clock will clash with your grand piano, buy a nice sweater instead.


Tips for Bringing Your Vacation Home with You

Revisit the canals of Venice every night.
Revisit the canals of Venice every night.
Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock

You're wandering along the rue de la tourist trap when you see a vintage carousel horse outside a music shop. It takes a minute, but you finally realize that it's not the hideously priced music boxes that are giving you that warm, happy feeling. What's really getting you excited is the idea of the cheerful merry-go-round. The same can often be said for castles, garden gates, oriental dressing screens, cheval mirrors, hand-loomed wool throw rugs, brightly colored blown glass and original art prints depicting sail boats. It's the notion behind the object that sparks your imagination and inspires a desire that can feel almost like a physical pang.

This is a good thing. An expensive antique garden trellis may cost a fortune to purchase and transport to your own little castle in the suburbs, but recreating it at home out of reasonably priced materials? That's doable. The same goes for lots of vacation-inspired favorites. You don't need to redo your home in red lacquer to give it Eastern flare, and you don't have to install a fountain in your backyard to give it Italian piazza pizzazz, either. Bring home a few nice mementos of your trip, and use your imagination to reconstruct the compelling essence of the places you visited.


If you haven't been introduced to eclectic décor before, prepare to be wowed. It's a decorating method that unites objects according to something other than period or style. Eclectic décor takes seemingly disparate items and groups them in ways that showcase their intrinsic harmony. That's designer speak for giving you permission to do what you want as long as it looks good in the end.

If that hand-tooled camel saddle makes a great foot rest, use it. If the brass nail-studded serving tray is a nice counterpoint to your Bombay chest, hey, no guts no glory. This works very nicely when you bring vacation booty home with you. Eclectic décor uses color, texture, theme, size and number to create harmony. When you're integrating your vacation finds or ideas into your design, rehearse your choices, and trust your instincts. That's what the experts do.

You don't need to splurge on overpriced vacation purchases to incorporate the ideas they represent into your décor. That wall-mounted serape or balalaika might look cheesy or be way too expensive to bring home, but you can use the idea of them to inspire a feature in your space. Framed prints, wallpaper borders, textiles like pillows and throws, and other accessory items can give your home the feel you want without overloading the space with lots of touristy objects.

Like that heavy Mediterranean furniture look? Add a wrought iron screen to your fireplace. Think those bright south of the border colors are perfect for your kitchen? Incorporate them into throw rugs and café curtains. Need some French charm in your den? Go for a cheerful blue and yellow color scheme.

Want more ways to bring the thrill of your vacation back home? Reproduce the meals you enjoyed while you were away. Yes, those tasty foreign dishes may be easier to make than you think. Add a couple of exotic herbs to your usual repertoire and you'll be able to recreate that bistro experience in your own cozy kitchen. Turn on some authentic mood music, and it'll be déjà vu all over again.


Lots More Information

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  • Bailen, Cindy "Bring Home Your Vacation Colors." Wicked Local. 6/27/10. (3/28/11).
  • Firestone, Lisa. "Five Ways to Bring Your Vacation Romance Home." PsychAlive. Undated. (3/28/11).
  • HGTV. "Eclectic Style 101." Undated. (3/28/11).
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