Between the hustle and bustle of their travels, these globe-trotting tastemakers seek out the most fascinating finds for their own homes. Here’s how the do it!
If you think about travel souvenirs around the house, chances are the odd fridge magnet, shells, sand in a bottle or even the unseemly shot glass come to mind. But a holiday can be the best time to pick up something unique for your home—with a fascinating or sentimental story behind it. From tribal art and local handicrafts to tableware and even musical records, every corner of each country is brimming with pieces to echo tales of your travels (and tastes). With a keen eye and knack for discovering. Here’s how these designers and tastemakers have collected something special for their home while trotting across the globe!
Interior stylist and decorator
A few years ago, just as the lockdown eased up, while visiting Kochi for a sourcing trip with my clients, I was rummaging through dozens of dusty warehouses and hunting for bargains in Jew Town. While adding a plethora of sculptural objects to my fantasy bucket list, I narrowed down my ever-growing list of pieces that I fell in love with (at first sight), and zeroed in on this Theyyam headpiece in one of the grand warehouses of heritage arts. I was immediately attracted to its imposing and divine presence. Creating Theyyam headgear requires exceptional artistic skill, seen in its intricate flora and fauna patterns, and a meticulous attention to detail. I was absolutely thrilled when it arrived home a couple of weeks later.
Area Director, Singapore Tourism Board
After eyeing them since I first travelled to Mexico years ago, I finally bought these barro rojo (red clay) mezcal cups from Oaxaca this summer. Each small vessel is hand-built by a community of indigenous Zapotec craftswomen in the rural village of San Marcos Tlapazola, in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains. As has been done for thousands of years, these women gather a specific type of clay from the misty highlands surrounding the valley their workshop is situated in, crafting precious earthenware that turn a vivid red in their wood-fired kiln. Each clay piece is shaped using little more than strips of leather, dried corn cobs and smooth river pebbles.
These cups are traditionally used to serve mezcal—the smoky Oaxacan spirit distilled from roasted agave plants—that locals sip around the dinner table late into the night. I find them particularly charming for the customary after-dinner pour of homemade mulberry liqueur, which I serve guests alongside artisanal Singaporean chocolate at my supper club, SALON Colaba.
This knup—a traditional tribal rain shield made from bamboo in Cherrapunji, Meghalaya—was bought at the local weekly market which takes place on Saturday. My team and I were working there on a project, and this would end up being our one outing for the week, where we discovered and took in the place’s sights, sounds and culture, making friends along the way. I love this piece as it is a visual memory of my time there—one would often see the locals wearing larger ones to cover their heads and backs when working in the fields. Today, the knup finds its home in my studio in Goa, which brings together all the things I’ve collected over the years—each piece echoing tales from a trip. I always enjoy visiting the older parts of a town or its local markets, compared to popular places. One tends to find more unique, fascinating pieces there. That’s how I also found this planter in a vintage store in Chettinad, Tamil Nadu, while visiting a friend. At the time, I had no idea what I would do with it; but when I opened it here in the studio, it immediately found its home!
Senior associate designer, Kiran Gala and Associates
This is a memory for my husband and me from our honeymoon in the Caribbean. While walking the streets of Saint Martin, we came across a gallery and saw paintings by the artist Nena Sanchez. We were immediately drawn to her work and decided to commission a painting for us. I was designing our house in Bombay at the time, and I had given her my preference for the colours of the house and the flowers. Four months later, the piece was delivered to us, and today hangs in the foyer against a black wall, which highlights all the bright colours depicting the island we fell in love with.
I eventually bought the red zig zag chair because I liked the idea of “more is more” over here! Paired with a black metal table from Pottery Barn and the blue lamp from Ikka Dukka, it fills the entrance of the home with a riot of warmth and colours.
Co-founders, EKAA and KMC*
This metal mortar and pestle from Nagaland is used by the locals to make their traditional chutneys. A lot of vegetables are mashed up in it, hence its flatter shape. It’s super light, and there is a special hand movement and technique one has to use to work with it. The wooden one next to it is also from Nagaland for making an assortment of dry spice mixes. The wood absorbs the flavour of the spice, with its fragrance lingering within forever! For me, it’s symbolic of the layers of food memories preserved in one object, and today, these sit on my kitchen counter as I cook a lot of stews and hearty meals after a hard day at work.
I was inspired to buy one for myself when I went to the village Khonoma and an aunty named Apeno, who runs a homestay, made me an Axone potato chilli chutney in this. When I saw her making it, with an almost-meditative repetitive method, I tried it myself and thought this is something I would like to keep with me forever.
Founder, Peepul Consulting
I love bringing back mementoes from trips—pieces that are playful and make people smile when they enter the house or spark curiosity. These Kokeshi dolls are from my first trip to Japan, and I picked them up in a tiny flea market antique shop in Nara—an hour from Kyoto—which is a city filled with beautiful old Buddhist shrines. While they’re toys, they’re also symbols of hope for bountiful harvests, and wishes of good luck and fortune. For me they were also symbolic of Japan’s rich craftsmanship, culture and rituals. These dolls’ faces are usually painted with simple lines, but quite expressive! I was on this trip with my husband and daughter, and sentimentally felt this was a playful representation of the three of us.
Check out the first part here.