Smart Solutions: When you're on vacation, decorating inspiration takes flight

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News
A beach vacation provides endless inspiration for the home like how to maximize a waterfront view, whether it’s the ocean or a pond.

As soon as the school year winds down, summer vacations are in full swing. For us, that meant another trip to Florida where we try to meet my Mom in different locations. This time it would be a beach resort in Fort Lauderdale for a week of winding down.

The towel animals that greeted us in our villa had paper eyes affixed to their faces making me feel welcome upon arrival. Each day, we went to see the local sights. Among the highlights were Las Olas Boulevard and Lauderdale-by-the-Sea where shops and restaurants converge for tourists and locals.

For me, food always provides inspiration in a new setting, like my lunch that featured fresh fish with french fries cascading out of a paper sack for a creative presentation. At a local Italian restaurant, an assortment of cookies was served on a cutting board. For a similar effect, cheese and crackers could be placed on a platter normally reserved for desserts.

One day, I was able to persuade my daughter to join us at a wine and cheese event when I saw they had her favorite butterfly crackers which I now plan to have at home.

The colorful cups we bought with the frozen rumrunners at Lulu’s Bait Shack will make the perfect vessels for flowers and vertical edibles when entertaining. The crab might be filled with red licorice while the alligator holds asparagus.

They might even inspire me to create a beachy table theme with some of the other sand and surf ideas I’ve seen like the live miniature palm trees that were being sold at the airport gift shop. Though they were tempting, I’d rather find a decorative one that doesn’t require as much care.

Despite the fact that the weather did not cooperate at first, an ocean view never gets old; rain or shine. Watching the waves and the freighters from our window became my favorite pastime during our stay.

Facing the ocean from the dining table in our villa made me realize that I need to rethink my seating arrangement at home. Though our pond may be in another league, it’s still a water feature worthy of watching when I work.

Our bedroom offered inspiration too, like the deluxe mattress and pillows that were hard to part with each day. Even the unique location of the ceiling fan above my side of the bed made me want to adjust the one we have at home.

When you’re on vacation, you never know where the next decorating idea may be, so it helps to pay attention wherever you go. For instance, the colorful bowls installed on a wall in a local marketplace lend more dimension than an array of plates.

Even an escape room we visited was surprisingly well-designed with comfy leather seating in the lobby and themed décor like the wise owls we hoped to resemble when trying to solve the puzzle at hand.

Though the lure of Florida still exists for us, it’s always a pleasure to return to Michigan, especially in the summertime. The fact that we came back to incredible weather was a bonus that motivates me to make my environment feel like a getaway every day.

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