Is design inspired by travel? Travel has always been a big part of my life. I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii when my father was stationed there after graduating from the Naval Academy. My mother recalls how fun it was to live in Hawaii in its early days of statehood and how they enjoyed the local culture and exotic lifestyle. I only lived there six months or so before they made plans to move to Massachusetts for my father to attend Harvard Business School. I flew across the Pacific Ocean at a very young age. My parents picked up a new car in San Francisco and proceeded to drive across the country, visiting national parks all along the way! They did this with me as an infant – wow – and again, my mother reports that it was a lot of fun. They heated up food and bottles for me on a hot plate in their motel rooms and fortunately she says I was very well behaved when they ate in restaurants. So, although, I certainly don’t recall that trip, a love of travel and adventure was instilled in me from my youth!
We moved up and down the eastern seaboard and my parents were great about exposing us to the sights and history of each state. We ate lobsters on picnic tables on Cape Cod and whacked at crabs in crab shacks in Maryland. We bought sacks of oranges and orange blossom honey in Florida and dined in elegant Spanish restaurants in Saint Augustine. We visited Paul Revere’s house, Plymouth, the Canadian Maritimes and went to several World’s Fairs (Quebec and Spokane) as well as hitting many theme parks and the latest that Disney and Sea World had to offer.
With both of my parents having been raised in northern Virginia, Colonial America was a strong influence. We had an appreciation for Colonial and Federal architecture and loved going to Williamsburg, which was a favorite of my mother’s. Travel and learning about our surroundings definitely influenced my interest in art and design.
Many years we returned to Virginia for family Christmases, and visiting Georgetown, Old Town Alexandria and celebrating Christmas at my aunt’s house (right next door to Mount Vernon) was always a treat! To this day I adore Colonial Christmas décor and remember marveling at the beautiful fruit wreaths and displays that many Virginians use during the holidays.
Mid-way through elementary school, my father took a job as a marketing director for a resort developer. We moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, which opened up a whole new world of travel. We loved living in the West and visited more national parks and cities as diverse as Las Vegas, Phoenix and Jackson Hole.
To this day I remember marveling at the majesty of nature as well as the interesting architecture. As you can see, we return to these treasured places! The Lodge at Snowbird near Salt Lake City still has the concrete and wood brutalist ‘70s design that I recall from my youth. As a kid I found Las Vegas pretty amazing – all those lights and all of the energy! Jackson Hole was still a cowboy town when we first started going there and we loved the Elk antler arches, the curio shops and the western vibe.
We continued to take great family vacations, including a return to Hawaii where the Hilton Hawaiian Village really wowed me! We visited Mexico City and Acapulco, both of which were pretty fantastic and continued our pilgrimages across the American West with the occasional prodigal return to Virginia from time to time.
Fast forward to high school, where I was thrilled to be invited on a grand tour of Europe with a dear friend and her family. I adored the history and architecture of Europe. Having read many of my mother’s historical romances, I felt quite at home, especially in London with all of the details I had memorized. We visited Holland, England and France and really saw all the sites. It was a fantastic trip and made me fall in love with Europe. Most of the souvenirs I bought were decorative, despite the fact I was only 15. I purchased a Toby Mug for my mother (King Henry VIII of course!) and porcelain from Sevres and Limoges. Design was already in my blood!
I loved it so much, I decided to become an exchange student. I spent my senior year of high school in Italy and lived with a family in a large villa in Turin. The house was fabulous, painted a soft yellow with dark green shutters. The kitchen was tiny, even for a large house but the bathrooms were quite large and modern. The floor in the entry was black and white tile checkerboard. I was swooning!
Through the years I enjoyed many more trips to Europe and spent my junior year of college abroad. I transferred to the Sorbonne in Paris and lived in the 14th arrondisement in a house for girl students. The building was old and cold and our room was painted a bright orange red! The bedspreads were blue and yellow plaid. Clearly the decorating was not a priority! I also discovered that the armoires in my room did not match. I had arrived a few days early and found many armoires were lined up in the hallways so I searched all five floors until I found two that I liked and I moved them myself before my roommate showed up.
I spent much of my meager funds in Paris on décor for my room. The housekeepers always came in on Mondays to see if I had shopped over the weekend. They liked seeing how I decorated. I really only bought a few things, knowing I could not take much home but I still have my lap desk, a water carafe and matching glass, and a big tube of art posters. Exposition posters were often available after the fact if you asked, so I collected quite a few either from shops and cafés or splurging on them at the museum shops. Going to museums, exhibits and shows was a major pastime for me that year.
I continue to love to purchase local items, meet the artists and tradespeople, take snapshots of interesting buildings and scenery and focus on art and design wherever I travel. Whether it’s the majesty of the Alaskan waters, my mother-in-law’s beautiful garden on Bainbridge Island or our most recent trip to South Africa.
Here are a few favorites. First is the verdant Tongass National Forest that encompasses much of Ketchikan, Alaska. This is a five-minute drive from where we stay.
Below is a night view from the Lodge at Snowbird and my husband Jon enjoying the view.
Next are the vibrant blooms on Bainbridge Island, WA.
Below are colorful houses in Bo Kapp, Cape Town, South Africa.
Check out these charming woven baskets in Limpopo Province, South Africa. These are made of telephone wire!
Below are the stately Dutch gables in downtown Cape Town.
Here is some beautiful scenery while we were on safari recently in South Africa. Just breathtaking!
I always notice airport design. Hamad Airport in Doha, Qatar is luxury from end to end!
As you can see, travel has a profound influence on me and my design. I wish you lovely and design-worthy travels this summer. Until next time, find your inspiration in travel or call us and we’ll help you discover it.