Escape rooms: Decor evoking favorite travel destination can extend your stay

By Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

In the midst of winter, many in Metro Detroit and beyond crave an escape. Though vacation getaways may come and go, transformative interiors that reflect a favorite travel destination can extend your stay. Here are some ways to create an everyday oasis, whether you prefer a tropical paradise or an urban landscape.

As an avid traveler, Terry Ellis gets plenty of inspiration from places near and far. She also collects little treasures from her trips, like old postcards from Paris and spices from Istanbul. “I bring things home that I really love and are easy to carry,” says the owner of Room Service Interior Design in Troy. “Creating a space that reminds you of another place is not tangible. It’s a mood or a feeling or a color.”

Interior designer Terry Ellis created this vignette to depict a girls' reunion in the dunes area of upper Michigan. She captured the elaborate color palette seen in the dramatic sunsets with a wall mural accented by textured sheers.

For a vignette she did to depict a girls' reunion in the dunes area of upper Michigan, Ellis managed to capture the spectacular sunsets with a mural on the wall. “There’s a little surprise you find with pinks and a really dramatic explosion of color,” she says. Weathered wood, seashell-covered vases, and glasses filled with sand contribute to the replicated setting.

Other accents that convey that casual coastal feel include floral artwork, classic lanterns and model sailboats. Folding screens with mirrored panels reflect the beachy scene. A neutral rug grounds the grouping, while textured sheers keep the space feeling light.

In her studio at the Michigan Design Center, Ellis assembled another vignette of the Left Bank that portrays the city of Paris in an earlier era with a modern twist. The dreamy Bohemian study has a collected feel. “I imagined it being inhabited by an interesting literary writer or some sort of creative,” she says. Deep blue walls provide a dramatic backdrop for an assortment of portraits and wrought iron accents. A commissioned painting displayed on an easel emulates a Picasso.

Even a kid’s room can be inspired by a coveted location, like a boy’s bedroom with a tropical feel designed by Ellis that could easily go back to the basics as he gets older. Another child’s room she did with a Manhattan theme features a giant poster of the Chrysler building. “It can be an urban retreat,” she says.

This dining room turned wine room encourages the homeowners to relax and enjoy the new space that was inspired by Italy. The cozy seating arrangement that features a handmade hickory table is conducive to wine tastings and late-night conversations with friends.

One of her clients likes to relax in a master suite reminiscent of her trips to northern Michigan. Cerulean blue walls signal the color of water, while textured elements suggestive of sand include linen pillows and a weathered shutter on the wall. These details create a peaceful respite that continues in the master bath with soothing blue accents and river rock tiles.  

As Ellis demonstrates, any area of the home can simulate another setting, like one of her projects that resulted in a winery-inspired lower level kitchenette. Sunflowers strike a cheerful note in the transformative space that features a custom table topped with wine crates. “All you need is a touch of something to evoke the mood,” she says. 

A different way of life

When Tracey Garcia, owner of TG Designs, won a wine fridge at an ASID event, a wine room was born in her Farmington Hills home. Inspired by Italy, the laid-back space allows Tracey and her husband Al to enjoy their Italian wine collection with friends. The two, who share a passion for travel, have visited the scenic country on several occasions.

Now their former dining room turned wine room lets them relive their trips with a bar cabinet designed by Tracey and made by Al complete with a brass sink from a local flea market that doubles as an ice bucket. As Tracey explains, she wanted to keep the look of the custom piece clean and streamlined in the modest space.

Al also made the coffee table. “I wanted to introduce an organic element and I wanted something unique,” says Tracey. A trip to Michigan Timber Shack in Ortonville yielded a thick slab of hickory that her husband planed by hand. He even made his own beeswax and mineral oil mix for the finish. Custom legs from a metal fabricator complete the one-of-a-kind piece that centers the seating area.

“When you’re sitting in a circle, the conversation flows better,” says Tracey who likes talking about Italy and the wines. “It’s a little more cozy and intimate like a lounge.” For a recent get-together, they served a charcuterie tray and desserts like dark chocolates were paired with a variety of wines.

On the walls, a world map joins a vintage map of Italy that was a flea market find, while a sign from Etsy says in Italian: A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine. A chalkboard features a handwritten message in Italian that says: Welcome to our wine bar. Phase Two of the travel-inspired environment will include new chairs, sconces, and glass and brass shelves.

Though the tole-style chandelier was a local score, it originally came from Italy. Still, for Tracey, their casual gathering space is more about the experience than a theme. “I didn’t want it to feel kitschy,” she says.

As she explains, travel inspiration can be as simple as placing a mason jar by the bed filled with sand and shells from northern Michigan to remind you of trips that hold happy memories.

Another memorable trip she and her husband took that could inspire a space would be their visit to Cuba. “It’s so lively and the colors are so vibrant,” says Tracey. “Right now in design, all the bright colors are coming back.”

One of their daughters is currently following in her mom’s footsteps by studying abroad in Spain. “It has a similar flair to Italy when it comes to the culture and the attitude of the people,” she says. “There’s a slower pace in the southern countries. They’re very family-oriented and relaxed. When you’re there, you can get into the same mood.”

That’s the atmosphere in their new wine room where maximizing a modest space also parallels the European lifestyle. “The houses are smaller there and the people don’t care,” says Tracey. “Everyone is welcome; the more the merrier. It’s about the gathering.”

Jeanine Matlow writes the Smart Solutions column in Homestyle. You can reach her at