How to Shop When You Go on Holiday

How to Shop When You Go on Holiday
© Provided by House & Garden

By Charlotte McCaughan-Hawes, House & Garden

For anyone with a love of interiors and homewares, going on holiday provides ample opportunity to kit out your house with treasured and unique finds. From artisan ceramicists in workshops by the Mallorcan coast to the famous flea markets of Paris and Los Angeles and the rug-filled souks of Morocco, there are so many glorious treasures to be found when travelling. Of course, you have to go prepared to shop, know where to look and work out the logistics of getting your finds back. A few small pieces are easy enough and a spare suitcase for new glassware and pottery might seem like a good idea, but the three interior designers who give advice below have all had pieces shatter en route and all agree that carrying them yourself is the only way to be safe. In order to go best-prepared, we asked the professionals for their top tips.

Joanna Plant is always a good source of knowledge and loves to shop abroad, confessing “I love a souvenir! The challenge is to buy things that translate when you get them home.” In practice, this means for Joanna that you should “be organised and keep a list of sizes on your phone so that you can check if the rug is going to fit your sitting room.” Furthermore, “be careful with colour,” she warns, “as what seems like a beautiful pink in India can appear overly bright back in London or that particular shade of turquoise that looks so great in Greece and yet somehow doesn’t work in our cool northern light.” Joanna herself navigated this in a very clever way on an early trip: “on my first trip to India years ago I went clutching a few tear sheets from magazines that illustrated how best to use the textiles that I was excited about buying. That way, when faced with a sea of colour and pattern, I could refer to them and more easily spot the right tone of sari that was going to make a lovely, glowing lampshade.”

In terms of what to buy, it might sound obvious but Joanna's top tip is to “look for things that are useful–it’s better to find a small bowl that you will always use for olives when guests come for supper than a too-large tagine which you might never again get out of the cupboard.” If there's nothing you need but you want a keepsake, this is a particularly good idea: “A friend of mine had a lovely idea to collect match books from every restaurant she went to on her West coast of America road trip honeymoon and then had them mounted and framed–a brilliant and inexpensive reminder of a memorable journey.”

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In one of her columns for House & Garden, Rita Konig unpicked this conundrum and shared her expertise. “Although I am a shopper with a pretty strong constitution, I am hopeless in a souk,” she confesses. “Give me a proper shop and I can function.” Rita's advice when it comes to rugs, ceramics and the like in this part of the world is that “it is important to be controlled in places like Morocco and Turkey, countries with distinctive and different cultures to our own. A few things can slide happily into your home, but too much tat and you are in trouble. So do not get carried away.”
How to Shop When You Go on Holiday
© Provided by House & Garden

In terms of where to look, Rita favours the shop of Ben Rahal in Marrakech, an antique carpet dealer with terrific taste. Datça on the coast of Turkey is also good for rugs and a dealer she would particularly recommends there “is Posu Bazaar Antiques down in the port.” As for Europe, “my main advice for shopping in a foreign city is to search out an antique shop or junk shop. In addition to this, most cities and countries have certain things at which they excel,” Rita states. “If you are in Florence, look for bedlinen and pretty nightdresses. Also go to Pineider for the most delightful writing paper, which is still not available in the UK. The Italians have wonderful pottery, especially in Positano and Tuscany. In Paris, there are a few stops to be made round the Avenue Montaigne: Linen shop D Porthault, Fouquet’s for distinctive jars of chocolate coffee beans or brightly painted tins of hard sweets or caramels, Astier de Villatte on Rue Saint Honoré and La Tuile à Loup on Rue Daubenton, which stocks the most wonderful French pottery.”

Pallas Kallamotusis of Studio Krokalia favours Athens antiques market in Monastiraki on a Sunday morning in Platia Avissinias (Avissinias Square) for finding “lots of lovely antique bits and bobs, large and small! You can find ceramic and glass pieces from the islands, or old wooden tables and chairs in need of restoration.” Her advice when shopping there, however, is that you can “always ask the shop owners if they will fix items up for you, as most of them can do this themselves.” It's not just the market that Pallas recommends, but suggests it is always worth “going in and exploring the small streets around the square–there are plenty of hidden shops in there too!”

As for how to buy and what to look for, Pallas' advice is sage: “Generally when antique hunting abroad I would say if you like it, buy it! If you really enjoy haggling then go for it, but in the end you won’t wish you had haggled harder, you will wish you had bought it! Never ever feel embarrassed to ask questions about where the item comes from, how old is it, what was it used for? This is the only way to find out what’s authentic and what is tourist tat. It’s more important to know what you are buying than come off like a professional antiques hunter, and most dealers won’t mislead you knowingly… and if you feel thats what’s happening just ask more and more questions until you are satisfied!”

So, next time you're jetting off to somewhere with fabulous antiques shops, markets or artisan goods, you can go prepared to come back with things you'll love forever, not unpack and wonder what on earth you were thinking.

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item United Kingdom: How to Shop When You Go on Holiday
How to Shop When You Go on Holiday
One of the joys of going somewhere new is finding unique and characterful pieces to bring back home. United Kingdom
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