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Bring your holiday home

Keep travel memories alive by working them into your decor
Left: The yellow design was inspired by a client's love of golden sunlight in his Australian hometown.

Summer travel leaves many of us with memories of ocean sunsets or foreign street scenes or other only-on-vacation sights. Once we've returned home, how can we hold onto some of that beauty and bring it into our living spaces?

The weeks after a trip can be the perfect time to make small but powerful changes to your home.

"I love what travelling does to people's imaginations and to their creativity," says Los Angelesbased interior designer Betsy Burnham.

With minimal effort and expense, she says, you can live year-round with a bit of the charm and feel of your favourite travel destinations. "You don't have to redecorate. All you have to do is kind of pinpoint what it is that evokes the sensation of still being there.

"It can be as simple as a jar of shells that appears in your guest bathroom," she says, or as dramatic as repainting a room.

Here Burnham and interior designers Kyle Schuneman (author of The First Apartment Book: Cool Design For Small Spaces, due out this month from Clarkson Potter) and Brian Patrick Flynn, founder of, share advice on bringing your travels into your home.

- Colour palette: "When people get stumped on colours or decorating ideas for a room they spend a lot of time in, the first thing I'll do is ask them to think of a time and place that they went to that really made them happy," says Flynn.

For one client, he repainted a bathroom the exact shade of robin's egg blue that was used throughout a hotel where the couple stayed during a memorable anniversary trip. "Every time she thinks of that colour, it brings her back to that time before they had kids and got busy with their careers," Flynn explains.

Another client, living in Los Angeles, wanted to be reminded of his sun-drenched Australian home. "In his breakfast nook, we went with pure, bold, almost radiation yellow," Flynn says. "It reminds him of how it feels to be in Australia."

- Begin a collection: Schuneman suggests picking up similar items from different places to create a collection that will grow with each vacation.

"Whether it be something free, like ticket stubs, or pottery that you can display together, incorporating these memories are what good design is all about," he says. "I think creating a collection in your home from your travels is such an important part of design."

Burnham agrees: On her family's first trip to Paris, her children bought inexpensive Eiffel Tower statues sold on street corners. "It's so corny when you're there," she says. But if you gather similar items during and after a trip and display them together, it becomes a design statement and conversation piece. Her family's Eiffel Tower collection has grown over the years, and "all of a sudden we've got this kind of funky collection."

- Locally grown items: Flynn urges travellers to buy original, local art. Whether it depicts your destination or just captures the area's sensibility, the work of local painters and artisans can commemorate your trip and add beauty to your home.

Local art is often inexpensive, Flynn says, "and it's a permanent story sitting on your walls. You're filling the walls and telling a story about your vacation."

Also keep natural beauty in mind. Burnham suggests taking note of plants and flowers you see during your travels. If the climate is at all similar, try to use the same or similar plants in your own yard.

- Fresh use of photos: When you return with photos from your trip, skip traditional frames in favour of something more creative.

"A great idea for displaying photos is taking some of your favourites and finding a rustic slab of wood or maybe a sleek piece of metal," Schuneman says, and decoupaging the photos in a random pattern. "For little or no money, you have a cool art piece that will forever be a memory board and can be customized to just your taste and the trip's feel."

Choose the material based on the vibe of your destination - mount camping photos on unfinished wood or photos from an urban destination on metal. Or enlarge on canvas "a more artistic-feeling photo - maybe a landscape or a close-up shot. Flynn says another powerful way to use vacation photos is to have them printed in black and white. Against a colorful wall, the images will pop out, bringing back vivid memories.

- Unexpected accents: As you look through travel photos, think about the details: Maybe you saw unique, beautiful doors in a city or town you visited, Burnham says. "How about changing your front door hardware to something that's really like a Londoner would have? It's those kinds of touches."

And always pick up something for your home on every trip, Schuneman says. "It could be a small accessory or a larger item like a chair, but these are really what make a room interesting."