Solutions: Trip to the Big Apple inspires design ideas

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

Despite growing up in a New Jersey suburb right outside New York City, a recent trip to the Big Apple had me seeing the one-of-a-kind location through a tourist’s eyes. The fact that we were traveling with friends who were visiting for the first time and that I hadn’t been back for a while both contributed to my renewed point of view.

While much had changed since my daily trek to Manhattan, one constant was the kitschy gifts on every corner. As someone who now considers Metro Detroit home, these trinkets appealed to me.

One of the items I purchased was a DRAMA DEPT. sign from Theatre Circle that represents my theater background while also serving as a reference to teenage behavior.

Another keepsake was a pair of Statue of Liberty sunglasses that now embellish a bust in my living room as a tribute to the lovely lady we approached by ferry during our stay.

I can’t seem to get all of those iconic symbols out of my head, like the yellow taxi cabs and the “I Love New York” memorabilia that filled the gift shops.

Perhaps these seemingly simple pieces left a lasting impression because there are so many creative ways to incorporate them into your home. For instance, I was reminded of an old friend who collected miniature metal buildings. With them, she made a virtual cityscape on a side table that was absolutely charming.

Seeing so many souvenirs also made me think about other collections I’ve noticed over the years that include everything from snow globes to shot glasses gathered from people’s travels. Why not group these items together for an intriguing centerpiece or table display to admire each day?

When entertaining, you can easily transport your guests to Manhattan or Paris or anywhere else that comes to mind. For starters, you might try a few model taxi cabs on a tray with a handful of little buildings in the background.

Then, fill a bowl with I Love New York chocolates and toss a tote bag on the back of each chair as a giveaway for guests.

Pieces such as these can be found on along with a Chrysler Building Metal Photo and Memo Clip that can also hold a place card or a postcard that serves as a reminder of your stay.

Souvenir shot glasses are the perfect vessels for flowers, while a mouse pad with a subway map motif becomes a graphic platform for the arrangement.

When not in use for a unique centerpiece, these tokens can sit atop boxes and books for a distinctive display. Paper cubes that feature colorful scenes like Times Square can also be risers for other objects in your vignette.

These keepsakes are likely to spark conversations about favorite tourist sights and destinations like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge. So, the next time you feel the need to escape, a travel theme may do the trick.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at