Creative ways to tell your story in your home’s decor

In this photo provided by Lisa Hathaway, this burlap wall hanging, designed by Hathaway for the store Emma & the Bean, turns a family's dates of birth and wedding date into a piece of art. Items like these add beauty to a home and also serve as mementoes celebrating a family's history. Lisa Hathaway via AP

Every home tells a story. Some only whisper it through a handful of clues: a wedding photo on a fireplace mantle, perhaps, and maybe a few other framed photos scattered around a living room. Others say much more, with dozens of items illuminating the lives of those who live there.

Crafter Lisa Hathaway has come up with one way to seed a living space with the story of where you’ve come from and who you are. Her “What a Difference a Day Makes” prints begin with a simple sheet of burlap – a fabric as textured as the lives her clients seek to commemorate. By printing their names and meaningful dates (births, marriages, etc.) in stark black on the pale brown burlap, she creates a frame-able wall hanging that invites conversation.

“With home gallery walls being filled with lots of family photos, the simple display of numbers adds a unique touch,” says Hathaway, who sells her work through her business, Emma & the Bean.

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Beyond celebrating names and dates, there are many ways to combine decorating and personal storytelling.

Here are four creative approaches to celebrating your personal story through your home:


Somewhere in the back of a closet there may be an old sweatshirt from college or a T-shirt that you loved for years but never wear anymore. Why not bring that memory-infused old clothing into your living space? A tutorial on offers simple steps for creating a pillow cover out of a treasured old T-shirt. Don’t have one that speaks to your history? Hunt at a vintage shop or online for clothing that captures a moment from your childhood or a decade of your history.

Several Etsy vendors will make quilts from old T-shirts, sports jerseys or baby clothes you’ve saved. You can also ask around in your community to find a quilter who will create the perfect throw blanket for your family room sofa.


Framed photos are great. But to share your history in a really compelling way, consider going really big. Choose a black-and-white image from your childhood or a vintage photo of your ancestors and have it printed on a huge scale.

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You can have it mounted on a canvas with no frame for a modern look, or visit one of many custom wallpaper websites to have it printed as a mural that partially or entirely fills a wall. will print a large wall mural from your uploaded photo (they suggest using a photo that’s 8 megapixels or larger), which arrives as a peel-and-stick decal. A 5-foot-square mural costs about $150 with shipping costs included.

At, you can order custom wallpaper printed from personal photos. They have an in-house designer who can help you plan the project, and they offer samples of your custom order ($9.99 each) so you can be sure you like it.

Another option: Search for photo collage ideas on Pinterest, then create a collage that combines vacation pictures and luggage stickers from your last trip. You can make a new collage or add to an existing one each time someone in your family travels to a new location.


It’s popular to decorate with inspiring phrases or well-known quotes. But what about the most meaningful words from your own history? Choose a saying that your parent or grandparent often repeated, or a quote from a relative that is meaningful to you. Then use stencils to paint it onto a wall in your home, or use decals. At the shop Dana Decal, you can have a personal quote printed as a wall decal for prices ranging from $24 to $71, depending on the size.

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Or create a memory wall: Paint one kitchen wall with chalkboard paint, and then let family members fill it with short notes about their favourite old and new memories. Don’t forget to photograph the wall before erasing a section to make room for new writing.


If you’ve lived in several cities or states, or your ancestors migrated, find artistic ways to bring those places into your home. offers a cork globe ($129) that comes with pushpins and string, so you can literally connect the dots between the places you’ve come from and where you are now. Or mark the locations of loved ones around the world, or the next five destinations on your list of dream vacations.

Many crafters make variations on local or global maps, marking special places with hearts or stars. To do it yourself, sketch an outline of your state, for instance, on a piece of heavy paper, then use a hole-punch (craft stores sell ones with holes shaped like stars or hearts) to mark the spot in the state where you live now or have lived previously.

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