For roughly 10 years, Melissa Lee has helped her clients find approachable designs that add serenity and joy to their homes. Here, the owner of Charlotte, North Carolina-based New South Home shares practical travel inspired home decor tips.
1. Create a gallery wall
“Family photos on vacation evoke joy and calm,” Lee shares. “Having those pictures displayed in your home [makes] you feel back in that moment and time.” To incorporate those stories into your home, Lee suggests a gallery wall.
“Gallery walls of photos with consistent frames and sizes can be hung in a symmetrical grid,” she adds. Featuring multiple trips over the years can also be a good option. “We do a lot of that for our clients in master bedrooms or the foyer to introduce people to your home,” Lee says.
2. Feature eclectic items
Unlike the symmetrical gallery wall, the eclectic gallery wall features an edgier blend of memories. From bull skulls to cowboy hats, Lee has seen a wide range of nontraditional items make their way onto her clients’ walls.
“A mix of art and objects and family photos or maybe letters from some places — those are all good ways of displaying places you’ve gone,” Lee explains. “You could take a road trip and get into the RV with your kids … think of all the different things that you could collect along the way that you could figure out a really cool way [to display].”
3. Capture your own collection
Every year for Christmas, Lee and her family visit historic Williamsburg, Virginia, an area known for its colonial Christmas wreaths. “One year, I walked down Duke of Gloucester Street and took pictures of the Christmas wreaths on the doors and put them each in the same frame so now I have a collection,” she shares. “I call it ‘The Doors of Williamsburg,’ and it’s over my sofa. It’s meaningful to us.”
To get the effect, Lee selected eight pictures and featured each in the same 11 x 14 frame in rows, four across and two down. Any meaningful travel spot will offer the same, she says. “Charleston has those secret gardens and gates. Savannah has the cobblestones and Spanish moss. If you go to Italy, you have the churches and duomos.”
4. Incorporate special items
On another trip to historic Williamsburg (the William & Mary graduate visits often), Lee picked up a special statement piece. “While visiting the glass blowing in Jamestown, I got a pretty blue decanter,” she explains. “I can put it anywhere, and I use it as a vase.” Keep a special eye out for objects that match your home’s decor.
Items don’t have to come from the travel itself, Lee says. “How cool would it be to buy vintage postcards of all the places that [you’ve] traveled, and then frame them?” “Postage stamps could be pretty, too,” she adds.
One of Lee’s clients found a series of prints of cities she had visited on Etsy. “You could choose your colors and the coordinates of the city were printed below,” Lee says. “Her scheme was green, white and aqua, and she chose her favorites, framed them, and put them up above her TV.”
5. The full-home theme
For those who want to go for an all-out commitment, a certain room or entire house can take on a place-inspired theme. “I had a client who told me, I want to walk into my home and feel like I’m at the beach,” Lee shares. So, they worked together to incorporate thematic colors — coral and aqua — and textures like rattan chairs and Capisce shells throughout the home.
“[You] might opt for that Tuscan-style theme with a crackle backsplash in the kitchen,” she continues. “Others might want to have the feel and design of Mexico while cooking in the kitchen.”
“That’s one of the great things about being able to travel and go to different places,” she says. ”There are design elements and cultural details that we [can bring home.]”
6. A “collected home”
While one theme can work for some, others prefer a “collected” aesthetic, Lee says, adding that furniture is a good way to bring the world home. “Very few times do you see a whole set of bedroom furniture anymore,” she said. “If there are pieces that mean something to you, I’d rather use that than some art that matches the room.”
This story originally appeared in AAA Go magazine online on May 17, 2021.