What’s your favorite item to collect on your travels? Is it the same item from different places, or do you switch it up depending on what you find yourself drawn to?
More often than not, I gravitate toward paper goods. I love finding prints to frame and hang at home… but it doesn’t stop there. Postcards, maps, ticket stubs, business cards, stickers, handwritten notes, matchbooks – the list goes on.
Like reading the newspaper or visiting the grocery store, these items are a glimpse into the local culture. I find the endless styles and subjects fascinating. Plus, gathering pieces of the smaller aspects of a trip help me to remember it more fully later on.
For a long time, I kept most of these items tucked away in a box, organized vaguely by destination and timeline.
Scribbled directions on a Post-it note from a friendly gas station attendant in Italy? Those were in there. A colorful card from a Couchsurfing host in Lyon? Mais oui. Free postcards I grabbed in Stockholm because I liked the design, although I have no idea what they are actually advertising? Naturligtvis.
For a long time, I struggled to come up with ways to gracefully incorporate any of these items into my home’s decor. Short of creating a weirdly large number of shadow boxes and hanging them on every square inch of wall space I had, I found myself at a loss. Meanwhile, I hated the idea of everything accumulating in a box in the corner, never to be seen again.
Over time I’ve been inspired by posts on Instagram, projects on Pinterest, ideas from friends and family, and trips to thrift stores and antique fairs. And while many of the items I collect still end up in their designated box, I love having the space to keep at least some of them on display.
Being surrounded by them makes me happy. They serve as regular reminders of some of the most special experiences of my life – and those regular reminders bring me peace and perspective on a daily basis. Plus, I like the way they look!
If you’re in the same boat as me and have been searching for ways to showcase more of your souvenirs, especially of the paper variety, this post is for you.
Here are five ways to display your travel finds at home.
1 | Fridge Space
It might sound silly, but don’t underestimate the blank canvas that is your refrigerator! I take a potentially* ridiculous amount of pride and care in arranging the layout of this could-be-boring appliance. Using a variety of magnets, I can display stickers, notes from friends, postcards and more.
As with many of the items on this list, this is an easily edited display area. No tools or detailed measurements are needed to set it up, and you can add and take away items whenever you’d like.
2 | Gallery Walls and Statement Prints
Gallery walls are a great way to maximize wall space and showcase more of your finds.
This idea takes a little more time and planning, but it’s worth it. There are many tutorials online if you need some pointers, as well as inspiration galore for different layouts and materials.
Before building this one, I laid everything out on the floor in the exact formation I wanted it to be on the wall. We then hung up the items one by one using tape, a level, a lot of eyeballing and a little finger crossing.
I was nervous that we’d have to make multiple holes in the wall and move things around to get the look we were hoping for. Luckily that wasn’t the case, and I’ve since only moved one piece to achieve better spacing.
That’s the great thing about a gallery wall, though: even if your spacing is a little off from what you originally intended, it likely won’t be noticeable. My favorites combine a variety of colors, shapes, items and spacing, and it’s okay for them to look imperfect.
That said, I love the method outlined in this Southern Living tutorial and will definitely keep it in mind for any future gallery walls.
A note on affordability
A great thing about collecting paper items while traveling is that many of the things we end up hanging at home are very budget-friendly – sometimes they’re even free. The tea revives you print below is actually a greeting card I found in England that cost just a few dollars. Years later, I still love it!
Another bonus? These items take up next to no weight or space in your luggage on the way home.
You may also love: 10 Packing Tips to Help You Stay Sane, Save Money and Feel Great
And while I’m a sucker for a grouping of prints, I also love the look of a single piece of art to make a statement and tie a room together.
A note on framing
I’ve bought many a print abroad only to bring it home and realize that it’s a non-standard size. (In other words, tricky to frame.) I don’t usually have the budget for custom framing, but $5 plastic poster frames no longer do the trick for me, either. For this reason, I was really excited when I stumbled upon Art to Frame.
Art to Frame is a Brooklyn-based company that will build a frame for you in whatever size you need. And I mean whatever size. The Portuguese sardinha print shown above is 18.9 x 26.77 inches. The Warhol print below is 15.75 x 23.62. (Like I said – not exactly frames you’re going to find at your local craft store!)
Once you’ve got the size down, you can further customize by choosing the material and color of the frame itself, what kind of glass you’d like, whether or not you’d like matting and more.
3 | Curtain Rod Display
I was so excited to find this idea on Instagram last year. All you’ll need is however many curtain rods you’d like to use, the hardware to mount them on the wall (which usually comes with the rods), and the tools to do so.
I wasn’t sure if I would like the finished product, but I really do. It’s nice to be able to easily switch things out, and you can achieve a totally different look depending on what rod and clips you choose. One side note is that the clips we found have quite strong teeth, so I wouldn’t hang anything on them that I don’t want to potentially mark long-term. Because of this, I tend to save this area for free items or cards.
What we used:
4 | Frame with Mini Clothespins
This was a classic Pinterest find years ago. I rescued an old frame from my parents’ garage and painted it gray. I then found the wire, screw eye hooks and mini clothespins at Michael’s to finish the job. Then – speaking of classic – it sat around unfinished for a long time.
Dan helped me complete it a couple of years ago. Like the refrigerator and curtain rod display, this is another great option for swapping things in and out. And despite my laziness in finishing it, it’s not too complicated!
How to Make it Happen
Step 1: Find the frame you’d like to use, or build one yourself if you’re crafty like that.
Step 2: Use a tape measure to mark where you’d like to anchor the wires on the back of the frame.
Step 3: Drill small pilot holes on each mark and then hand screw the hooks into the wood.
Step 4: Thread one piece of wire through each pair of corresponding hooks, wrap the end of the wire tautly around itself a few times to ensure it stays put, and then trim any excess wire.
Step 5: Use mini clothespins or something similar to attach whatever you’d like to display.
5 | Shelf Accents and Storage
This last one focuses less on paper finds and more on other items.
Up until last year, I was mostly living in furnished apartments where I didn’t have the room to display many of my own belongings. When we moved into our current apartment, I was excited to get things out of storage (thanks Mom and Dad!) and incorporate them into our space.
Faced with a lot of empty white walls, my brother made us four wooden shelves. We paired them with these simple Ikea brackets. I love the way they turned out – yet another space to display treasures that can be easily rearranged as needed.
Two of the shelves hang in our kitchen and are the home to one of my most cherished travel finds: a wooden Swedish dala horse.
On the shelf hanging by our front door, these three matryoshka photo frames hold cutouts of a map of Lisbon.
This glass Nutella jar from a trip to Europe many years ago now sits in my bathroom holding bobby pins and hair ties.
And this corner shelf in our bedroom – a garage sale find – is the perfect perch for this vintage glass jar full of matchbooks.
I’d love to hear about your favorite travel souvenirs and the ways that you incorporate them into your life at home. And if you have any other ideas for displaying paper items, I’m all ears! Let me know in the Comments section below.
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I’m sharing this post to one of my favorite blog link-ups: the Faraway Files, with Fifi + Hop, Hilary Style, Oregon Girl Around the World, and Suitcases and Sandcastles. Follow the links to check out their sites!