It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with the same meals, décor and so on. Sometimes it takes a summer vacation to shake things up and get some creative inspiration.

On a recent trip to Naples, Florida, where we may end up living one day, we discovered the quieter side of the state. You can feel the friendly energy of the people at the quaint little airport in nearby Fort Myers.

There were plenty of ideas I saw along the way.

Upon our arrival at the Naples Grande Beach Resort, I was delighted to see iced coffee in the beverage dispenser at the front desk, which I’ll take over flavored water any day. I’ve seen everything from lemonade to iced tea in those glass containers, but this was so refreshing after being in the heat and the flavors changed throughout the week.   

At one of the restaurants in the resort, a simple arrangement of seashells and a standing starfish propped on some sand inside a bubble bowl had a calming effect. I’m planning to try a similar display at home.

A casual eatery had a table covered with a nautical map that seemed to suit the waterside setting. The fact that they served a jar of pickles instead of a bread basket was a fun surprise.

Even a Greek salad I had at a local chain called Zoës Kitchen was different from any I’ve tried before. The bottom was like finding the prize in a Cracker Jack box. Their menu describes the tasty combination as tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, olives, onions and feta over potato salad.

During our stay, my cousin and his wife who live in Naples had us over for an amazing barbecue followed by an impressive brunch the next day. These avid entertainers were willing to share their trade secrets, including the source of the tender steak (Costco) and the marinated mozzarella balls that were served as appetizers (also from Costco).

At brunch, we learned that cooking sausage and bacon in the oven makes them taste even better. And my cocktail at dinner the night before, made with vodka and tangerine juice, was another first for me that proved to be a great mix.

While touring their lovely home, I found that my cousin’s wife and I have similar taste. Like me, she has glass jars filled with wine corks along with wine crates on display. She also has a wreath made from wine corks that reminds me of the one I once had that eventually fell apart. Now I’d like to have another one made.   

The glass canisters filled with nuts and such in their kitchen inspired me to get some clear containers for our snacks.

Our shared love for art was apparent with a painting I admired that was done by my cousin’s wife and some drawings by my mom displayed together. Family photos hung throughout the home include one of my late uncle who looks like a young Marlon Brando. I was told I can have a copy of the image that will make a great addition to my home.

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


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