Monday, June 27, 2011

Timeless Travel Treasures

Treat your decor to a fabulous vacation with vintage souvenirs.

Ah, Florida! The Sunshine State! We recently took a trip to see our folks in Tampa and couldn't resist popping over to Renninger's Antique Center and Flea Market in the quaint central Florida town of Mount Dora (about 30 miles north of Orlando). On the third weekend of every month, Renninger's fills its sandy parking lot with antiques vendors, attracting shoppers from far and wide in search of one-of-a-kind finds at bargain prices.

What did we find at Florida's largest antiques flea market? Floridiana, of course! We found a vintage Gatorland pennant, a Miami Beach license plate topper, and a Weeki Wachee vase promoting the famous mermaid city. But when we spotted nostalgic, souvenir linens, we fell in love. Vintage travel linens have made a big comeback, and we found tablecloths printed with maps of the Sunshine State and graphics of dolphins and mermaids from $20 to $50. This look is so popular we've seen new pillows embroidered with old state maps at boutiques for over $100. Jennifer preferred the $12 price of the "real thing" and took home two tea towels to turn into throw pillows.

Although there are travel collectibles at every flea market, when in Florida shop for Florida souvenirs! They will be the most abundant, and you might even find something rare. For example, on this trip one vendor had pink flamingo lawn ornaments, but not the bright pink, brand new ones sold on the Internet. These were authentic vintage lawn flamingos with a weatherworn pink patina. Kitty had to have those beautiful birds and plans to perch them on a guestroom chair. Kitschy chic!

Local Color
Whether you visit a flea market in Maine or Mississippi, you are sure to find keepsakes from all over the country. To add just a little souvenir style to your home, keep an eye out for one colorful piece to accent your decor. A large porcelain flamingo would bring a splash of fuchsia to a mantle. And a classic flower bouquet made from shells painted yellow would make a whimsical home accent.

If you are more of a collector at heart, focus on several versions of one type of souvenir and display them together in one room. A group of spoon rests with sea horses, pelicans, and palm trees would make a playful arrangement on a kitchen wall. A dozen decorative trivets can be hung in a row around a doorway. No matter what your obsession--Floridiana, Hawaiiana, or Indianaiana--grouping your collection will add visual impact and transform old souvenirs into great conversation pieces.

Prints Charming
Vintage travel posters make for gorgeous works of art with their idyllic scenes meant to entice mid-century travelers to take an exotic vacation. On our trip, we saw large prints featuring Florida attractions like Coral Gables, Bok Tower Gardens, and Key West. These posters can cost as much as $500, so when we discovered one for less than $50, we knew we had the find of the day!

Photo Op: When visiting far-away flea markets, don't forget to bring your camera. While a life-size, aluminum alligator may be the ultimate tropical souvenir, a snapshot is much easier to pack!

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