Shea McGee, Kelly Wearstler, and More Share Their Favorite Travel Mementos
Worth the baggage fee.
Published Aug 5, 2019 7:00 AM
What’s the best thing you ever brought back from a trip? Perhaps it’s a matchbox from that trattoria in Puglia where you had the best spaghetti alle vongole of your life. Or it might be a 20-euro ceramic dish you picked up that miraculously matches your existing tableware collection. Whatever it is, it likely wasn’t anything super-extravagant—the most meaningful keepsakes rarely are—and it turns out, designers’ mementos are similarly simple.
Since it’s literally these 10 creatives’ job to carefully consider every tiny addition to a home, we were interested to find out about their favorite travel finds and how they factor into their spaces. Their stories definitely don’t disappoint.
I love to collect ashtrays from hotels I stay in all over the world. Most recently I was at the Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole, Italy, which was a very scene-y place in the ’60s and frequently photographed by Slim Aarons. I wanted to capture that same glamorous Italian coastal vibe in my New York City home, so I took an ashtray as a little travel token. It adds a sense of happiness and adventure to my coffee table. —Sasha Bikoff, interior designer
The Door Decor
I have a little hand-carved wood “Do Not Disturb” sign in the shape of a Buddha holding his fingers to his mouth saying “Shhh.” I got it in Bali 13 years ago and always hang it on the front door, no matter where my husband, Dewey, and I have lived over the years. I love it not only because is it pretty and unique, but also because it makes a little jingle sound when the door closes. That would always let me know when Dewey had come or gone in the early morning hours when he was in med school. —Bobby Berk, interior designer and host of Netflix’s Queer Eye
The Glass Plate
I have always loved the idea of a proper entrance in a home as a place to stop and pause, no matter the size. In our apartment, it’s a hallway facing our kitchen, but we have a wall mirror and console that defines our “entrance.” There are photos stuck to the mirror, important reminders, scents we love, and some treasures we have collected. My favorite little treasure is a vintage glass plate we found in Japan this past year. Going to Japan was a dream for [my wife and business partner] Fabiana and me, and this little leaf plate serves not only as a memory token for us but also a way to share that trip with our visitors. —Helena Barquet, cofounder of Coming Soon
The Colorful Tableware
We bought these four plates on our honeymoon in Ibiza; the colors really spoke to us. I thought the lavender and orange was like Helena, and the green and blue more like me. We love mixing plates and don’t feel like you have to have one all-matching set—it’s fun to have a mix and pick your favorites. —Fabiana Faria, cofounder of Coming Soon
The Handcrafted Tote
Due to unexpected circumstances, I found myself traveling alone throughout Spain for nine days. I love my forest green handbag made by a Spanish leather-maker in Barcelona (hats, clothing, and bags make great home decor!). Not only is the bag functional, but it instantly gives life and humanity to any room—the feeling that someone really lives there and uses every inch of the space. In addition, I am reminded of my wonderful solo adventure in Spain every time I see it hanging in my entryway or bedroom. —Anita Yokota, blogger and interior designer
The Flea Market Table Lamp
One of my favorite travel treasures is my table lamp by artist Jacques Duval-Brasseur. It’s a limited-edition design from the 1970s that I fell in love with when I first saw it in vintage magazines and books, but it was rare and expensive, and I wasn’t able to find one. Then I happened upon it about four years ago at the Paris Clignancourt flea market. I was so thrilled to see the lamp peeking out at me from one of the stands.
When I first brought it home, I put it on my desk so I could enjoy it every day. Then about two years ago, I moved it onto a console in my dining room. It doesn’t give off a lot of light but rather glows, so it’s perfect for a night-light. We keep it on all the time to light the way to the kitchen. It’s not super-functional, but it truly makes me happy to look at it. —Kelly Wearstler, interior designer
The Walking Stick
My favorite souvenir is a Fuji Pole, which is a wood walking stick I got while hiking Mount Fuji with my mom when I was 20 years old. It’s a long climb, and you get little stamps burned onto it at different stations along the way, as well as flags to decorate it. My mom planned our hike so that we’d arrive at the top of Mount Fuji before the sun rose; we watched it while holding those walking sticks covered in stamps and flags. It was a completely magical experience, and every time I look at my Fuji Pole, which is leaning in a corner in my bedroom, I’m reminded of it. —Orlando Soria, interior designer and HGTV host
When in Barcelona, I found a hole-in-the-wall shop in the Gothic Quarter that sold the most amazing crystals I’ve ever seen. Before I knew it, I had brought so many crystals to the counter I had to go out and buy another suitcase to transport them home, and, of course, I was stopped while going through security. But they made it home safe and now they are sprinkled throughout my house, giving me that Catalan energy! —Mat Sanders, cofounder of Consort
The Brass Catchall
I love bringing back tchotchkes for my home when I travel. I don’t have a lot of space, so typically I go for small items that I can display on my coffee table or bookshelf. One of my favorite souvenirs is a brass dish with an enameled jeweled inlay that I got from the old souk in Dubai. I use it to keep matchbooks in. —Nicole Gibbons, designer and founder of Clare Paint
The Kids’ Dresses
So this isn’t necessarily a memento for myself, but every new country or state we go to I buy my girls a special dress. After they grow out of them, I save them, and I hope they will pass them down and have a story about the places we have visited. —Shea McGee, blogger and interior designer
See more travel stories: 10 Travel Pros on the 1 Item They Never Board a Plane Without 3 Zesty Color Combos We’re Stealing From an Ultra-Cool Roman Hotel 7 Designers on Their Favorite Summer Destinations