Piece In To Peace Out

Dana Asper

Spring is in the air, May showers are around the corner and then the sunshine of summer will soon follow! My guess is by now you have planned or are in the process of planning your summer vacation. SO, I want to cease the moment to challenge you on your home design front:

This season of travel, how about you bring back something special for your home, rather than another unnecessary t-shirt that gets stuffed in a drawer? 

Why? Here’s the deal, y’all. Our homes should be filled with more meaningful things than mass marketed materials.  Let your home be a collection of things that speak to your journey and experiences. This is how we make our homes timeless and create conversation inside our walls. 

Once I read the book “The Comfort of Things,” by Daniel Miller. Inside the pages are 30 documented short stories highlighting 30 different residences on ONE street in London, England. Through intimate conversation as a welcomed guest in each home, the author, with unbiased ears, documented the “things” residents had filled their homes with in order to bring comfort in the chaos of a big city.  The results were astonishingly unique amongst the neighbors. 

Travel and inspiration for design go hand in hand. Exploring the world, nature and other cultures fuels my creativity and makes me a better designer.

In life to this point, I have made it a priority to travel. Did you know it’s the 25th Anniversary of Dr. Seuss’  “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” For high school graduation, a family friend gave me this book, and I still have it.

One of my favorite song lyrics says, “I had the itch to fly, so I flew”  (‘One Red Thread’ by Blind Pilot). You probably won’t be surprised when I admit that I’m writing this article on a Jet Blue plane right now. Seat 17B. My dad will tell you, starting as early as 3rd grade at Andy Woods, I was obsessed with the sky. He even sent me to U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville. Somewhere in his attic, I’ve got the ‘gravity defying’ blue astronaut jumpsuit to prove it!

I’ll be real honest with you. I don’t own a home yet and I don’t have a family of my own yet. At my age, that’s not the norm, I know.

I have found myself amongst garment factory riots in Cambodia, floating on a bamboo raft in Vietnam, listening to a symphony inside a Spanish castle, sifting through real Indigo in Marrakesh and rummaging the antique shops of Paris. 

Travel, like design, is deeply personal.
— Kim Lewis

I travel with the intent to gather ... things, experiences, memories, and friendships. Breaking the barriers of cultures or comfort zones cultivates creativity. 

When we go on vacation, our senses are heightened and we find ourselves taking time to soak up new smells, new sounds, new sights and new tastes. 

The best souvenir we can bring home is something to trigger the nostalgia of that peace we found on vacation.  Think about it … Why do people gather beach sand and shells in a Ziplock bag? (You may laugh, but we’ve all done it.)  

No matter how near or far you go for a family vacation, let me encourage you to take these steps on your journey. Load your suitcase with treasures for your home with these tips: 

People behind places: 

Be willing to have conversations with strangers. If you see a ‘mom and pop’ shop, stop in and explore. Get to know the local coffee shop owner, the hotel manager, the baker … the soap maker. People are fascinating, y’all!  

The people I’ve met along the way truly make the journey. There’s “Pearl” selling her goods off a boat in Halong Bay, Vietnam. There’s the elder man chiseling wooden chess pieces with his toes in Morocco. There’s Bismark, the wood carver in Ghana, who became my dear friend. There’s the leather shoemaker in West Texas … I could keep going. 

There’s this beautiful lady in Cambodia that lost all of her children in the Khmer regime in the 90s. I immediately adopted her as my Cambodian ‘ye’ (Grandmother). 

Soaking up other people’s stories has helped me understand my own. It is when I make an effort to support small business; I have a more meaningful experience overall. 

In Maryland, I found a full-time mom with a pottery business in her basement.  She had her work on display at the local coffee shop. I reached out to see if she had a particular clay color. She was so excited she made a matching set in 3 days in a kiln housed in her backyard, just for me. Was it a little challenging to carry home eight handmade clay mugs in a backpack without breaking them?  A little … yes, but if I managed it with my dog on the plane, you could do it!   The key is to keep your eyes open for things that embody the nostalgia of your vacation.

Don’t let “I have no room in my suitcase” be an excuse. If you have to, ship something home. Cease the moment of where you are and don’t assume you’ll be back someday. Sometimes you can save money purchasing from a small business or artist than if you were to purchase a similar item in a department store … and you have a priceless story to pass on!

Textiles, art, photography, tabletop décor, they are all easy enough to travel with. In Thailand, I purchased scrap yardage of a hand loomed fabric to use as a throw at the end of my bed. 

Photography behind Places: In the least, don’t get too busy during vacation to stop and take pictures of the scenery. Will people have to wait on you a bit to get the “right angle” … maybe, but they will thank you later. Be the person in the group that slows down long enough to capture the moment, the space, the nature, and the colors. Some of my greatest color inspirations in design have come from nature itself.  Get up early to watch a sunrise!

In Greece, I loved the blue shutters where we stayed. Our bed and breakfast owner painted a piece of wood with the same blue paint for me to take home as a memento. It’s funny how a color can just take you back to a place. 

Piece In to Peace Out: To travel is a luxury, an opportunity, a collection of experiences … all meant to be remembered and shared. 

Wherever you travel this summer, I hope you find peace out there. 

Listen though! Before you pack your bag to set sail home, find that one piece to throw in.

Gather your collection, so when an author walks through the door of your home, you’ve got your own stories behind the ‘comfort of your things.’

Guest post by Kim Lewis originally published on BSCENEMag.