If you follow me on Instagram (and if you don’t, I wish you would), you may have seen that I’ve been visiting other people’s homes a lot lately.  I snap pictures of objects and decor that catch my eye and inspire me.  More times than not, it’s the personal touches that steal the show.  Those intimate artifacts that aren’t likely to be found in anyone else’s house (or apartment) are what make it a home.  Here are some highlights from my visits and the web…

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Travel Souvenirs

This is a little shrine my mom erected to showcase the souvenirs she and my dad picked up on their trip to China a few years ago.  For them, it serves as a reminder of a thrilling and enchanting vacation.  For visitors, it’s an attention-stealing focal point in a Southwestern style home (think Native American drums, Mexican textiles, and rustic pottery).  Rather than feeling out of place, this Asian-inspired vignette functions as a conversation starter and a testament to the kind of people my parents are: adventurous, curious,  and appreciative of other cultures.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Repurposed Antiques

I wasn’t able to find the original source for this photo, but it’s all over Pinterest.  Here, an antique church pew is repurposed as a dining bench.  Think of how much history is ingrained in that wood.  Isn’t it a much more interesting choice than something that came off an assembly line earlier this year?  One wonders: is it a family heirloom?  Did the church it came from have special significance to the homeowner’s family?  How did he or she come to own the pew?  (Coincidentally, my parents also have an antique church pew–placed in their foyer where we sit to put on and remove our shoes.  So, naturally, this image struck a chord with me.)

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Seashell Wall Hanging

Those crimson shells against that dusty turquoise wall instantly drew my eye.  Wall hangings are definitely having a moment and this nautical-themed one is a fresh take on the trend.  However, it was only when I thought about its owner that I truly appreciated how perfectly this piece fit into her home.  She’s an environmental scientist who spends her working days commuting around on a seaplane to sample and test the waters of Washington state.  She and her husband were married on a boat and–most weekends–that’s where you can still find them.  To put it plainly: she loves the water.  She’s built her life around it.  And so, in her home, seashells aren’t just pretty little curios.  They bear witness to a life spent seaside.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Not Your Average Floral Arrangement

This is designer and celebrated entertainer Windsor Smith’s entrance hall.  A monochromatic palette of cool grays, sparkling silver, and white give way to the warm, gold raffia-clad great room beyond.  Flanking that beacon are two zinc, peacock-shaped planters perched on tall etageres with tails of cascading greenery that welcome guests.  Talk about making a first impression!  This scene sets the tone for a night at the Smiths’, where everyone is greeted with a cocktail, served appetizers straight from the oven, and summoned to the dining room by the ringing of sleigh bells.  Smith compares entertaining to choreography and goes to great lengths to ensure that her parties are luxurious but relaxed affairs.  So, it makes sense.  A hostess of this caliber doesn’t just buy a large flower arrangement and set it on a table in the foyer.  She creates a unique, dramatic floral statement that echoes her whimsical entertaining style.  Besides, table space is better used for mixing cocktails.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Collections

Collections also tell volumes about a home’s inhabitants.  Here, a collection of framed, antique spectacles sits on the mantel.  This may seem like odd way to decorate what is perhaps the home’s utmost place of prominence.  However, when you consider that the home decorator is a retired ophthalmologist, the choice seems appropriate.  But it goes deeper than that.  This collection previously belonged to a relative who worked in a similar field, long before these objects of apparatus were considered antiques.  This a deeply personal and sentimental collection that befits the stage on which it sits.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Guest Graffiti

At this end of this hallway–studded with museum-worthy art and costly furnishings–is a fireplace covered in graffiti.  Why?  While renovating the space, Manolo March simply could not resist the urge to throw a party and wasn’t going to let a little thing like unsightly construction stand in his way.  So, he erected (what was supposed to be) a temporary wall in the spot reserved for a mirror-surrounded fireplace.  Next to it, he placed a basket full of spray paint and encouraged party-goers to let loose on the “canvas”.  Well, maybe it was a particularly good party, because–in the end–he couldn’t bring himself to tear down the wall and proceed with his original plans.  Instead, he just cut a hole in the wall and let the impromptu art serve as the fireplace surround.  And that is quite possibly my favorite decorating story EVER.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Waste Not Want Not

Visiting my sister earlier this year, I was very impressed with how she topped her mirrored nightstands with faux fur runners.  It provided for great, textural contrast and a heavy dose of glam.  When I asked her how she got the idea, she admitted that it was not exactly premeditated.  She had purchased a length of faux fur fabric for another DIY project (to create an animal-shaped rug).  However, the fabric had cost her much more than she had hoped to spend as a full-time student and she had significant portions leftover after completing the rug.  Still salty about the expenditure, she was determined to use every last piece of fabric and get her money’s worth.  She took the smallest of a trio of nesting tables and turned it into a an upholstered, furry stool.  Then, with the final remaining pieces of fur, she casually tossed them on her nightstands and voila!  She’s not only stylish, but clever too and her apartment is a reflection of that.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Motley Decor | DIY Seashell Bed a la Marian McEvoy

Another DIY gone right, glue gun wielding Marian McEvoy took all of our DIY goals to a new level when she went wild with hot glue and thousands of seashells.  Above is a bed in her guest room, painted black and adorned with white seashells arranged in striking, symmetrical patterns.  Think about the hours of work that went into completing that bed.  And think of how honored her guests must feel to sleep in it.  It’s an understatement to say that there’s a little piece of Marian in that room.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Framed Family Recipe | Motley Decor

And one final example of adding a personal touch…here is a wall in my kitchen.  Above my knife display is a handwritten recipe that I framed.  The recipe is from my Tata (grandfather) and explains how he makes his famous pickled jalapeños, which are so good that people in my family actually fight over jars of them.  I am constantly referring to this recipe and adapting it to pickle various other vegetables.  So, having it on the wall is both convenient and sentimental.  Having trouble reading it?  That’s intentional.  This recipe is a family heirloom and top secret!

So, frame your own family recipe!  Or put something else deeply personal on display in your home, because it’s those touches that will make your space exceptional.