It’s only natural, for residents of a country where the British summer is often jokingly referred to as ‘my favourite day of the year’, to want to bring a little bit of sunshine back home when you do venture to warmer climes on holiday.
How many times have you found yourself, addled by a warm breeze and vast quantities of highly drinkable cheap wine, making wild holiday resolutions to improve your life back home and make it a little more like your summer holiday?
Sadly, a vow to spend every evening barefoot drinking Rioja in the garden may well result in hypothermia when practised in the UK, and a daily morning swim is a lot less glamorous if it involves a rainy bike ride through commuter traffic to get to the pool.
However, one way in which you can prolong that delicious feeling of being somewhere else, somewhere exotic and eye-opening, is to let a little of that holiday magic influence your home design.
No, you can’t bring back that pearl-encrusted wardrobe from India, or that Turkish carpet that was so insistently offered to you at a ‘special price’, but there are a few touches you can make to your home once you get back, and a few easily portable souvenirs you can bring home from holiday to keep that feeling alive for longer.
If you’re a fan of oriental travels, capture the aroma of ancient temples and teeming bazaars with incense. Ideally, pick some up during your travels that you’ve sampled and enjoy the smell of, although incense is readily available in the UK. Beautiful incense holders - for cones or sticks - are often much cheaper in Eastern countries, so find one you love and bring it home; it won’t take up much space in your luggage. The same also goes for essential oils and oil burners.
Countries like Greece, Spain, Morocco and Portugal make beautiful ceramics. While you may not be able to bring a huge fruit bowl or dinner plate set back in your hand luggage, consider buying a few small tiles or bowls. Tiles can be used as unique coasters or pot stands in the kitchen, or can be hung or fixed to the wall for a splash of patterned colour. Small bowls can be used in the kitchen, of course, but can also be placed decoratively on a hall table and used to store keys. These aren’t too heavy or fragile to carry home, but can add interest to a room.
Chuck in a throw
While you’re unlikely to be able to carry back a Turkish carpet, Eastern scarves and throws are lighter and more portable than carpets, but can be draped over chairs to add comfort and colour to a room. Similarly, cushion covers are often much cheaper in these parts of the world, and just a couple of dramatic cushions can change the look of a sofa or chair.
Framed artwork is hardly practical for the journey home. However, consider buying paintings on silk, which can be easily rolled into weightless tubes and packed in your luggage. India is particularly famous for its silk paintings, many of which are exquisitely beautiful and can be framed once you are home to make a gorgeous focal point in your house.
Another option for the walls of your home is to buy a set of artistic postcards – look at local markets or artist studios while abroad to find something unique that captures the feel of the place. Vintage postcards can be particularly special. These can be framed together in a special mount or individually in quirky frames, to give a snapshot of your holiday experience. Old maps also make wonderful souvenirs.
This is a technique that uses paper and special decoupage glue to cover furniture, and will transform everyday items into unique pieces. Decoupage paper is widely available online and in craft shops, but also consider buying special handmade paper on your travels - again, India is good for this, as is Japan - that you can then use to decorate a picture frame, small table, mirror frame, et cetera. It’s surprisingly easy to do, and will guarantee you an individual and memorable item in your home.
Similarly, you could also consider painting or stencilling an old piece of furniture in designs inspired by your travels. My work desk is an old Ikea specimen that I painted deep yellow and white and stencilled with red and gold elephants, with a dark red circular design on the top, copied from a plate I brought back from Marrakesh.
Choose a favourite holiday photo and have it enlarged and printed on canvas. These can look very professional and add a personal, memorable touch to your home rather than buying generic prints. Smaller canvas pictures in sets of three can look very striking, too, particularly on staircases.
If you’re travelling to north Africa or the Middle East, take advantage of the bargain leather prices and buy a couple of leather pouffes (footstools) for your lounge or living room. These can be bought empty, so they take up little space in your luggage, then filled with beanbag beans once you get home. They will lend any room an instant Moorish touch (not to mention being comfortable and practical).
The lacquerware of south east Asia is beautiful and very lightweight, so excellent for souvenirs that would otherwise be very heavy: pots, plates, vases, pencil holders, chopstick boxes, et cetera.
Choose a couple of beautiful souvenirs that will stand alone as striking pieces in your home. These don’t have to be heavy, bulky or fragile – some of my favourite souvenirs from travels include a coconut shell bowl from Vietnam, a small patterned silver mirror from Morocco, a brass ‘Aladdin’s lamp’ from Jordan and a fish-shaped incense holder from Thailand.
Elly McCausland is a food writer and blogger at Nutmegs, Seven. She has a passion for travel and all things gastronomic, with a particular emphasis on fruit, breakfast and proper British puddings. When not concocting recipes or planning her next cultural odyssey, she is an English literature academic, specialising in children’s literature.