It was summer 2012 in Bellagio, Italy. My son, daughter, and I had booked a 6-week trip to Europe, an adventure that I hoped would result in deeper connection and lifelong memories. On this particular morning, we strolled Bellagio’s waterfront taking in the sights. Cobblestones paved the streets. Wares peeked out of shops. A small art gallery caught my eye.
We stepped inside (“just for a minute”), and a piece in the back immediately grabbed my attention. I walked toward a painting perched on an easel, looking unassuming and out of the way… and I couldn’t take my eyes off it.
“You should buy it, Mom,” my son said, wandering over.
“It’s so expensive. And how would I get it home?”
He looked at the painting, then turned back toward me, smiling and shaking his head. “You have to buy it!” he said. “You work hard, and you deserve to do something for yourself.”
He said it so matter of factly, and suddenly, there was no other choice. I had felt “seen” by my twenty-year-old son, and in that moment, the painting became infinitely more valuable.
After crossing the Atlantic and most of Canada, the piece now hangs in a prominent spot above my headboard, reminding me of that moment, the love of family, and all the reasons I have to smile every day.
To this day, I’m still fascinated by the way the artist captured the effect of light so beautifully and completely.
How about you? Have you ever brought something special back from your travels? What was it and what does it mean to you? Is it stored away in a drawer or is it displayed proudly, reminding you of those special moments each time you see it?
The Deep Joy You Will Experience in a “Collected” Home
A home can only be a true reflection of you if it is filled with YOUR stories and experiences. Not necessarily what’s trending. Not what your neighbor or cousin finds attractive. Your taste and your life.
When each corner of your home holds special memories for you, it elevates your life. Ordinary moments become meaningful, lighthearted, and deeply joyful. To me, that’s a collected home — a place that layers beautiful stories past and exciting stories yet-to-be-made.
In my opinion? Incorporating found items from your travels is one of the easiest ways to achieve your collected home!
Artwork is the most obvious type of “found item” to incorporate into your home, like this stunning abstract piece that adds life and color to our Art Lover’s Infill Kitchen.
Step 1: The Hunt for Found Items
How to Approach Creating a Collected Home
When you move into your new home (or decide to love the one you’re with), I would suggest resisting the urge to fill every wall, space, and shelf. Over-full spaces compete for your attention, making it difficult for meaningful items to be seen, heard, and experienced.
Instead, take note of what you might like in the empty spaces, along with the ideal sizes for potential decor, whether it’s a piece of art, area rug, vase, or antique table. (I’ll share some examples further down.)
Where to Look for Found Items
Travel is one of my most treasured pastimes. I am always looking for off-the-beaten-path places to find unique pieces that inspire me. These unique items always end up being the most asked about in my home, too! It brings me such joy to share the story of the day I came across “this” painting, or the day I met “that” artisan. Some of the best and most fun conversations have started that way!
However, you don’t have to travel to faraway places to find treasures for your home. Look up artists in your local area and ask how you can view their work. Most have home studios or periodic shows to sell to clients. Farmers markets are also great places to find local makers for smaller items.
P.S. You can also look at the end of each of my blog posts to discover some of my favourite local makers!
Which Items to Look for
Despite common opinion, found items don’t have to be traditional pieces of art. If you need new everyday dishes, why not find one-of-a-kind stoneware from a local artisan? Or, try one of my favourite weekend activities and go browse a local antique or vintage store, where there are often amazing furniture pieces to add personality and history to your home.
As far as usefulness goes, items that have a practical purpose are the most likely to be seen and appreciated on a daily basis. However, buying something just because you can’t leave without it is okay, too!
How do you know which piece is right or if you’re settling? You’ll know by the catch in your breath when you find it. And the best part — you’ll get to experience that emotion again every time you see it in your home.
Our client found and loved this copper cauldron — and I knew just what to do with it. It now houses books and magazines, in addition to adding a touch of warmth and shine to this relaxing, neutral living room.
Step 2: Displaying Those Beautiful Items & Memories
Featuring your found items prominently in your home is the best way to integrate them into the home your story tells, your daily routine, and the way you feel each day. For practical items such as an area rug or artwork, incorporating them into your design is pretty straightforward. For more creative ideas, have you thought about these options…?
Shelves are a great place to display small collections. Add a collection of ceramic mugs or teacups, decorative ceramics, a short stack of special books, or prop a framed photo or work of art against the wall.
Kitchens often get overlooked when decorating, but they shouldn’t — you likely spend more time there than in many other areas of your home. Smaller pieces of art can be placed on an easel on your kitchen island, or leaning against your backsplash. The same goes for decorative cutting boards (I’ve seen some that really do look like works of art) or a beautiful vase with dried flowers.
In family rooms, living rooms and bedrooms, there are so many places to display your special items. Shelves, whether encased in glass or open, are prime real estate for placing items that will greet you each day in your space. Your mantel and walls, too.
Add framed photographs or art, antiques, or small collections. Mount that handwoven basket you found abroad or the painting you unearthed at that boutique gallery. The sky is the limit!
See more found items in this Family Friendly Heritage Home.
Any Room: Tabletops, Credenzas, Cabinets & Trays
I once had a beautiful stoneware bowl filled with matchbooks from pubs I visited around Europe. Opening a book with a match missing transported me immediately back to that hightop and the people I enjoyed it with.
You can display your finds in a decorative bowl, as standalone pieces (like the books below), or use a tray on a coffee table to arrange a few items of varying heights and colours.
From our Classic Craftsman Project
Tip: Lastly, as someone who believes strongly in a simple, unfettered life, I will also share a personal rule I have for myself: If I bring in something new, something old has to go. If you travel often, as I do, you can imagine how many treasures you could end up with!
This practise keeps my home feeling open, low-maintenance (for peace of mind and entertaining impromptu guests), and collected, not cluttered.
Where Will You Go Next?
The best part of incorporating items from your travels into your home is that the adventure is never really over. Those unique pieces are a constant reminder of adventures you’ve had and all the ones that are yet to be discovered. Where will you go next? What will you find?
Before I wrap this up, I want you to know that if you are looking for someone to help you transform your home into the personality-filled, meaningful, and collected space you know it can be, I would love to help. My passion is creating homes where you feel effortlessly you — so much so that you can’t help but enjoy your life to the fullest meaning of the word.
If you’re ready, you can book a complementary discovery call with me. If you’re not ready just yet, download my Guide to a Collected Home at the very bottom of this page to start your journey on your own. Whichever route you choose, believe me, it will be worth it.
Maker Spotlight: ASH Refillery
Every month, I feature a maker from Vancouver Island or nearby who is bringing beauty, creativity, and craftsmanship to our homes and community.
For natural, planet-friendly products for home and personal care (and great gift ideas!), ASH Refillery in Victoria, B.C. is my go-to…
I personally love their mint cleaning fabric softener, because it leaves my clothes smelling great and deodorizes my washing machine at the same time! I also love their candle program where you can bring in your own container (I love beautiful ceramic cylinders or bowls), and they will fill/refill it for you from the scent of your choice. Such a great gift idea!