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!
Artist and chef
I am obsessed with ceramics and I buy them whenever I travel. On a trip to Lisbon, I was walking around the National Tile Museum, when I saw a woman pickling mackerels and I instantly had to jump over the road to sneak in a taste. The marinade looked glossy and fine with herbs, garlic and chilli. We became friends instantly over fish, and I spent almost two hours with her pickling and talking about my love for ceramics. She pointed to a house where her relatives painted on ancient azulejo tiles. In the midst of tiles and my excitement, I chanced upon a ceramic mackerel—hand-painted and glazed to perfection! I had to take it, and more! It’s one of my favourite pieces to use on the table as an objet d’ art or when I am dreaming of a surreal set up.
When travelling, I rely on my instinct and collect things that are unusual and spark joy. For my table, I sometimes buy one plate that is unique, and use it just for myself as a Sunday treat. It’s a guilty indulgence, and a happy one.
Founder, Come Away
My travels are never complete until I get my hands on something that is unique and one-of-a-kind. On a recent visit to Karaikudi, a small town located in Tamil Nadu, I was on a mission to find vintage ceramics which can be found in the local markets of Chettinad. A visit to the bazaar is an insightful lens into the culture of a place, and you’ll be surprised at how much you will experience—through different sounds, smells and colours.
In my quest to find something unique, I stumbled upon a large porcelain platter made in the 1800s by the famous Dutch ceramic manufacturer, Petrus Regout. What caught my eye was the crescent moon and five-pointed star motif, hand-painted in the centre. This typical style of pottery was once upon a time manufactured in Europe for export to the Islamic markets, and marked the beginning of my obsession with European ceramics made for the East. Paired on my dining table with vintage brass vessels engraved in Tamil with the initials of its first owners, the platter on some days holds a fresh fenugreek leaf salad, and, on another, an indulgent biryani!
Co-founder and COO, Nao Spirits; associate director, Dasra
While the few pieces we’ve brought into our home have mostly been paintings in different forms and styles, this black pottery tiger from Dastakar was the first sculpture that really caught our eye on a trip to celebrate our anniversary at Ranthambore National Park—which makes it even more memorable. The tiger, which was created by local artisans from the Sawai Madhopur program for women’s economic empowerment, sits at different spots around the house—in front of a black and white photograph of us from our wedding day on top of a dresser or the living room coffee table.
More than imagining things in our house, we like to form a connection with the pieces we collect, and, recently, record stores have become a whole new world of culture to immerse ourselves into every time we walk into one. We’ve discovered fascinating local artists and music styles that have a long history behind them, bringing back tunes from every corner into our home.
Co-founder, Food Matters Group
I usually run a mile when it comes to museum stores, which tend to be very merchandise- and souvenir-focused. But the MoMA Design Store in New York is the opposite of that. I could spend as much time there as I do viewing exhibits. Contemporary design is such an integral aspect of the artefacts in the store, and they not only make for great collectibles but also for thoughtful gifting.
Food is such an integral part of my life—but beyond eating in restaurants, the one meal I never leave home without which I love the most is breakfast! So, I’m always on the lookout for anything that makes my breakfast table setting more beautiful. This time it was this humble fruit bowl from the museum’s store.
I inherited a home with objects that hold layers and layers of stories and personal narrations—I come from a family of keen collectors, and grew up seeing them constantly bring back art from their travels. As a quarterly affair, we would sit together over tea, discuss art and rearrange the pieces—new ones are mixed with the old; artefacts in storage pulled out, dusted off.
These seven apsaras with the musical instruments were carved in the late 18th century from Saurashtra, and sourced from a Jain temple on a family trip to our hometown in 2008. These were typically mounted in the central atrium of every temple to create a celestial theme. What's unique about these figurines is that they are intricately carved from solid wood, with hand-painted details in natural pigments. They now sit perfectly in the dining room along with other curiosities, such as ceramic pots made by my mother, Sri Lankan frescos on wood, and an antique temple in brass circa 1890, nestled between ferns, which was inherited from my grandmother's aunt.
Check out the second part here.