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.