On Memories + Souvenirs + Living In A Space You Love

I’m not really a stuff-haver. At least, I don’t really enjoy having stuff for the sake of it. Don’t get me wrong, I will very happily have cheese for the sake of it. I’ll own three gajillion bangle bracelets and wear most of them, but stuff? I’m not really into it. In a perfect world, I would live the William Morris quote “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

But I’d like to amend that quote to include “things filled with memories.” Really, I’ve spent much of the last year attempting to incorporate some of my favorite, most remember-ful pieces into my apartment. I love being able to pad through my space, knowing that I’m surrounded by things that my parents and grandparents loved. I like snuggling under a blanket I bought in Vietnam and drinking out of a coffee cup I bought in Louisiana.

It’s just making them look good alongside my Pier 1 sofa that’s the challenge.

I bought this blow dart gun at a floating market in Amazonia. I was 22 and teaching English in Rio Grande du Sol, Brazil and had booked a package tour through the rain forest. You can see a piranha head all tiny and bitey in the middle of it. It really is a properly functioning blow dart gun! In the orange frame are two black and white photos: one of Dad Von holding a prize fish and one of a bear in Yellowstone.

This dresser was used in my grandpa Larson’s clothing store for years. My great-grandpa Gustav was a tailor who opened a men’s clothing store and passed on the store to his three sons, who passed it on to my uncle. Isn’t that lovely? The lamp sat on my grandma Von Bargen’s sewing table for ages.

My grandpa Von Bargen collected matchbooks over 20+ years of travel. I love having a paw through these and imaging my grandparents exploring the world.

Like many an English major before me, I spent a year and a half teaching English in Asia. I loved (almost) every minute of it. My apartment was right around the corner from a tiny temple. These little wooden moons are used to tell your fortune – you think of a question and toss them. Depending on how they land, you have your answer. Unfortunately, I have no idea which landing position corresponds to ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ and ‘try again later.’

I grew up deep in the countryside. Like, dirt road countryside. So when we got our driveway paved, I saved my allowance for months so I could buy myself these roller skates. I have fond, fond memories of clacking slowly (and badly) up and down the driveway while I waited for it to be 3 pm so I could watch Scooby Do.

That crazy embroidered blanket at the end of my bed? It was hand dyed and stitched in Sapa, Vietnam where I bought it for $12. My friend and I booked tickets on the overnight train from Sapa back to Hanoi and I spent most of the ride trying to make myself comfortable, sleeping in jeans, covered in this blanket. I’m totally afraid to wash it.

Do you decorate with mementos and family artifacts? How do you incorporate them into your decor? Feel free to link to photos in the comments!

All photos by Meredith Westin

12 Comments

Mayumi

Uh, I love this post because I like to see how others live and what's the story behind things πŸ™‚

Love from Germany,
Mayumi

Reply
LynnieBee

Sarah, thank you! What a lovely peek at your space and it's awesome that you incorporate so much meaning into the things in your home πŸ™‚ I definitely try to do the same πŸ™‚ Don't have a cmaera handy to snap pics, but here's a word tour of something of the meaningful stuff in our space:

-Bedroom: A painting by my brother, a quilt on our bed made by my Mama, our handfasting cord draped over our mirror, a granny square afghan crocheted by my Nana, a dish of assorted meditation/prayer beads from Italy, Hawaii,Greece and Syria (I got the ones from Italy, hubs got the ones from Hawaii, the beads from Greece and Syria were gifts πŸ™‚

-Living Room: an original piece of artwork done by a friend of my husband's, a wall hanging by my Mom, a paper wreath from a friend (she rolled up book pages and made them into wreaths, so pretty!), my dried wedding bouquet, a throw blanket I made on the sofa, another afghan from my Nana, a rocking chair that was in my grandparent's house for my entire childhood,and a framed invitation from my great-grandparent's wedding πŸ™‚

-Kitchen: My grandmother's speckled roasting pans, several boxes of handwritten recipes from friends and relatives, handmade potholders, trivets that belonged to my great grandmother πŸ™‚

It made me really happy to read this and post this comment πŸ™‚ Thank you!

Reply
Rachelia G

I love this! I truly do believe surrounding yourself in memories and mementos makes a space so much more inviting and loving. I have a box of stuff from my childhood that I add to occasionally as I make memories. Most of my relatives are living so I haven't had much passed down to me, but I do have a few pieces and I am looking forward to finding ways to meaningfully use/display them when I get a place of my own.

Wonderful post and I love your sense of design πŸ™‚

Reply
Kim

Thank you for sharing this! Our home is filled with memories too. It's quite a mismatched thing too because I grew up on the east coast and have traveled in Europe while my beau grew up in Oklahoma/California/Arkansas and traveled to national parks growing up. Mine is very "fog on a Parisian bridge with a baguette and depressing French novel" and his is very "grizzly bear eating pie about to attack."

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Tam

My problem is that I have lived in so many places (all rental) that my place never has character or me/hubby in it. I have a few things but I lose a lot of things and I don't buy many things because its a "do I want to take this to the place/city/country?" Every time we move, we leave stuff behind.

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Becky

Beautiful! (In more ways than one.) May I ask about the paintings? Are they just thrifty finds or did they come from friends maybe? They add so much to a room.

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Anna

This is a lovely bedroom! It's great how you managed to pull in all those great memories and present them in a neat yet beautiful way. The blanket looks so snuggly!

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Anonymous

This is really cool! I definitely try and do similar things to, like prints of favourite paintings I've seen in galleries when in Europe and things like that.

I'd love to read about some of your favourite books and the memories you associate with them!

Reply
Meghan

Almost every decorative thing in my apartment is a souvenir. My husband was a Peace Corp volunteer in Ukraine, I used to live in China, I've inherited thing from my dad, an army brat who lived in Germany and Japan for many years as a child, and I've also inherited things from my grandmother who was a Philippine immigrant. When I travel, I only buy art or (inexpensive) jewelry as a souvenir. In other words, things that serve a purpose and will be used.

I find when you buy things you love, even the disparate elements come together nicely at home because the linking element is me and my experience.

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Samantha J. Bird

It's definitely my preferred way of decorating, that and things I have made or restored. We have hand-me-down furniture, some of it sentimental, lots of photos and special things from family. For me, these things are what makes our home more homely.

Reply

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