How to infuse your love of travel into your home

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 5/16/17

If you have been finding that your living space has been looking a little drab and you’re eager for some redecorating, you may be able to find some inspiration in a seemingly unlikely place — your passport.

That’s because these days, a new trend in interior design — one that’s easily re-created using your own past experiences — is to use your travel aspirations, favorite destinations and “happy places” to inspire your interior décor.

“Travel is a really big part of my life, and by decorating my home with photos and trinkets from my travels, I am constantly reminded of some really great memories,” said Fiona Andrews, Montclair resident and avid traveler. “Plus, it’s unique — I don’t know anyone else who has a tapestry from Lake Titicaca hanging in their kitchen.”

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Andrews, who works as a marketing consultant, said that she finds it inspiring for her creative profession to be reminded of the places she has been and the people she has met.

Plus, since she loves to cook, she enjoys being able to make the dishes she has experienced abroad using the same ingredients and tools that she purchased while there, such as her copper jug from Greece for wine serving and her molcajete from Mexico for making guacamole.

“It’s also always a conversation starter,” Andrews said. “People ask a lot of questions about where I’ve been and often they say they are inspired to travel more, too.”

Amani Thorpe-Lee, director of sales at Ethan Allen of Whippany, Wayne and Somerville who has also worked as a designer, said that people don’t usually consider using their favorite destinations as inspiration, but designers will often ask travel-related questions to help visualize what a client’s ideal space would look like.

An Ethan Allen client’s home that is influenced by shore living. The room references the deep blues of the North Atlantic Ocean and the warm light of sunset reflecting off the boardwalk. This family room was designed by Pat Henao of Ethan Allen, Wayne and incorporates the homeowners special keepsakes. ~Courtesy of Ethan Allen

“Most clients go into the interior design process not really knowing what direction they want to go in,” she said. “We had a client recently that wanted to redesign their living room — the room was cold and dreary and they never wanted to go in it.

“When we asked them about what they like to do, they said that they have a house in Nantucket where their grandchildren visit them and they lit up immediately, so we knew those colors and themes would be great inspiration.”

Thorpe-Lee said that destination-inspired design has gotten a bad reputation because some have gotten too literal with their interpretation — one option, she said, is to allude to a destination using colors or other small aspects that will tickle a memory of a place.

Interior designer MaryAnn Alvine of Ethan Allen Whippany once helped her clients preserve the serenity and joy they feel on their yearly visits to St. Maarten.

A ganesh from India, plate from Fez, tapestry from India, jasmine that inspired Andrews of the shala where she lived and Mala beads from various ashrams in India in Fiona Andrews’ home. ~Courtesy of Fiona Andrews

“Pinpointing the shade of teal blue reminiscent of the waters surrounding the island for their sofa and incorporating the sea grasses of the many dunes on the beach in the form of natural woven shades gave the couple a connection to their happy place,” she said. “After all, it’s how a room makes you feel that is the best part of a design.”

In order to help those looking to redecorate incorporate their travels into their interior design, Thorpe-Lee offered these tips:

  • Integrate your destination-inspired design elements into your space in a way that doesn’t seem disjointed. Souvenirs should be highlighted, but not stand out in a way that detracts from the overall décor.
  • When traveling to exotic lands, decorate with potted fauna from the region. A distinctive plant that you remember from your trip can be featured in a grouping under an overscaled cloche which will call attention to it. Found treasures can also be featured under cloches such as seashells, stones or fossils and pressed flowers onto watercolor paper set upon a mini easel.
  • Sort through the photographs of your travels and set your color scheme based upon the images. Surrounding yourself with the colors of your favorite destination is a way to subtly engage your memory of what it was like to be there.
  • Further stimulate your senses with scents that remind you of the places you’ve been. Group candle holders with a variety of scented candles inspired from destinations from around the world.
  • Use textures and forms in your space that mimic the architecture of your favorite getaway. The trussed barns of a trip to the English countryside can be honored in a coffee table or other pieces of furniture.

If you would like to enlist Ethan Allen to help decorate your travel-inspired room, you can visit the design center and speak with a designer for free. There is no obligation to meet with a designer and have them put together a plan of action after getting a feel for what you are looking for. The cost of going through with a plan ranges from $5,000 to $20,000.

A tapestry hand-woven on the floating islands of Lake Titicaca at Fiona Andrews’ home. ~Courtesy of Fiona Andrews

A room also can reflect an aspirational destination,  said Thorpe-Lee, adding that Pinterest.com is also a resource for beautiful photographs of exotic destinations.

“People who are incorporating ‘destination design’ into their interior decorating are just regular people who love to travel, no matter if it’s to an exotic destination, their home country or a summer home,” she said. “Everyone loves to see these inspiring destinations in their everyday environment.”

Ethan Allen local design centers

Somerville: 870 Route 22, 908-725-3100, ethanallen.com/somerville

Wayne: 475 US-46, 973-256-3310, ethanallen.com/wayne

Whippany: 245 NJ-10, 973-887-0022, ethanallen.com/whippany

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