This is One of My Favorite Design Tricks—and It's Completely Free

Books of matches in a glass bowl on a cane tray.

Lauren Zillinger for Laura Metzler Photography 

I’m all for designing on a budget, but truthfully, it can be difficult to come across items that are completely free and still look chic. But I have good news for you: restaurant matchbooks, which cost $0, can double as majorly stylish décor—and have become a staple in my apartment.

Of course, the easiest way to build your matchbook collection is to grab a few every time you’re dining somewhere or picking up takeout. However, I’ll let you in on a little insider’s trick: you can often ask a hostess for a matchbook if you happen to be passing a cute place while on vacation or strolling through the city.

During a solo trip to Charleston, I made a point to ask for matchbooks at most of the adorable spots I frequented, which was a great way to start building a collection. Now, they’re all displayed in a little trinket bowl that usually sits on my coffee table or built-ins and reminds me of my travels. 

Now, they’re all displayed in a little trinket bowl that usually sits on my coffee table or built-ins and reminds me of my travels. 

Bowl full of matchstick packs on coffee table book stack.

Lauren Zillinger for Laura Metzler Photography 

If you don’t care about your matchbooks being functional once you bring them home, you could also get crafty and display a few as unique artwork. While scrolling through Instagram, I noticed that someone had adhered matchbooks to a piece of cardboard and popped the piece into a shadowbox frame to give as a gift.

This idea is extremely easy to replicate and would make for a sweet Valentine’s day present for a partner or a thoughtful going away gift for a friend who’s leaving town. Given how many significant moments in our lives occur at restaurants, bars, or hotels, it won’t be difficult to find matchbooks that represent places close to your recipient’s heart. 

While my matchbook collection certainly isn’t much compared to others I’ve come across on Instagram or Pinterest, it’s always an instant conversation starter and reminds me of fun times I’ve had all across the country. Not to mention, being the candle addict I am, having matches constantly on the ready throughout my house certainly doesn’t hurt.

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