Clever decorating with collectibles |

Clever decorating with collectibles

If you are anything like me, three of anything makes, in your eyes, a collection.

You enjoy scouting estate sales and flea markets on weekend mornings, never fail to explore the nooks and niches of antique shops or canvas bazaars when traveling. You thrive on the thrill of the search, your pulse quickens when spotting a desirable piece in the middle of jumble. You live for haggling, light up when showing your latest finds to friends and family and love the challenge of figuring out how to display your finds in creative ways once back home. You even spend quite a bit of time treasure-hunting on ebay.

Collecting is not by any means a recent phenomenon. For centuries, the upper social classes all around the world have filled their homes with fine paintings, exquisite porcelains, exotic plants and other treasures that would convey to visitors the affluence and discerning taste of their hosts.

You may even have spotted in flea markets those antique portraits, depicting a prosperous merchant or wealthy landowner proudly posing with his possessions for posterity.

With the 19th century came the Industrial Revolution, whose technological advances contributed to the development of a middle class that had leisure time, disposable income and looked up to the rich for ideas about sophisticated interior design ” hence the widespread popularity of gathering and arranging precious objects in one’s place of residence.

This trend of incorporating collections into interior design schemes continued well into the 20th century, sparking a thriving market for home design magazines that carried new ideas for display to both urban and rural subscribers alike ” a market that only has grown stronger with each passing year.

I have a confession to make: If there were a 12-step program for home decor magazine addicts, my husband would sign me up immediately. Luckily for me, perusing through every home decor publication known to man is essential in my line of work …

Even television has caught on with the trend, with such shows as “Collector Inspector,” “Cash in the Attic” or “Flea Market Finds with the Kovels.”

Today, the collecting trend endures, and it is no longer about showing off one’s wealth or imitating the upper class. We surround ourselves with treasured antiques and collectibles to personalize and beautify our spaces, out of nostalgia for a bygone era or simply for the love of a certain type of aesthetic. And when years back silver, pewter, china and crystal were among the few traditional themes considered proper to collect, nowadays, anything goes, and eclecticism rules.

Converting your finds into eye-catching vignettes is an art. It is imperative to consider and take into account the size, scale, texture and color of the objects in your collection.

Large or heavy objects may look better arranged in small groupings away from foot traffic, while tiny treasures, which may get lost in expansive settings, will look much better when highlighted in a shadow box, a display case, or grouped on a mirror or a tray.

Always adapt the numeric size of your collection to the amount of display space available. Small collection owners or beginner collectors will have a lot more display options than those who have been accumulating treasures for years.

If you wish to make a limited number of pieces appear more substantial, concentrate most of your collection on one mantel, tabletop, console or dresser, and place single pieces elsewhere in the house, so that the eye registers a bit of the collection throughout the whole space.

Inversely, if your collection is in the hundreds of thousands of pieces, you will have to decide what to display and perhaps rotate pieces in and out of storage. This is not without advantages. First, it allows you to showcase your collection better when displaying it in smaller groupings. Furthermore, it protects precious collectibles from sunlight damage, dust and breakage. Lastly, it allows you to keep your displays always fresh, exciting and in tune with the season.

When placing objects in a display, making sure each object can be seen is as important as ensuring the final result looks intentional and not like a jumble of “stuff.”

Varying the height within one display is sure way to add interest to your collection.

Struggling with the ideal arrangement for your collection? Don’t panic.

Professionals tinker with accessories sometimes for hours, deciding on location, grouping, and switching pieces around until the placement feels just right … Simply follow the above tips and trust your instincts. Your eye will eventually tell you when the result is just right.

Ever looked through one of the numerous mail-order catalogues or walked into a well-appointed hotel suite and felt that even though the furnishings were tasteful, something simply didn’t look or feel right? That is because there simply was no personal connection between these objects and you …

The objects we surround ourselves with tell our personal story, talk about our interests and evoke the places we have traveled to, adding warmth, depth and personality to our space.

Whether you prefer an uncluttered minimalist look, or have your treasures spilling from every shelf, table and window sill, you should find the following guidelines helpful.

Living rooms are a great space to display objects that represent the interests of the whole family, travel memorabilia, favorite books that might spark conversations among guests … while dining rooms lend themselves to groupings related to eating, such as a china or tea-pot collection.

Food-theme collections such as antique canisters, colorful lunch boxes, vintage rolling pins or linens, old restaurant signage will look right at home in your kitchen.

Bedrooms can house more personal collections, such as antique perfume bottles, vintage mirrors or candle holders, while heirloom dolls and vintage sport memorabilia will look great in children’s rooms. If the items are of any value, be sure to keep collectibles separate from items that children can play with everyday.

Don’t forget that anything to be displayed in a bathroom should be impervious to moisture damage.

In offices, artful storage of office supplies can be a great, inexpensive way to decorate, while if you work in a creative field, you should use objects that get your creative juices flowing and change displays often to generate new ideas

Lastly, entryways and hallways can function as a repository for the overflow of a collection, or showcase a single, unique collection by itself.

Any large grouping on a table, a shelf or in a curio cabinet will become the focal point in a room. Wide ledges such as fireplace mantels or deep windowsills allow for greater flexibility when it comes to arranging your collectibles, because objects can be layered a bit. Be sure not to overcrowd your display in order to allow for natural or artificial light to play with your collection.

When displaying art or plates on your wall, it is always better to work first with paper templates and work your display on the floor first or on the wall itself, using non-staining art putty. Be sure not to hang your art too high on the wall. By keeping the center of your arrangement five feet from the floor, you enable others to enjoy your art whether standing or sitting in your space.

Don’t underestimate the power of lighting when it comes to displaying a collection. Your finds will stand alone if your space gets great natural light. However, a north-facing space will almost invariably need added lighting. Enhance your displays with lamps or track lighting.

Paintings, poster prints and photographs will benefit from a museum-style lamp installed directly above them on the wall. You can also find in home centers inexpensive portable accent lights that can be placed behind a sofa or a plant and oriented accordingly.

Lastly, regular care will keep your possessions in great condition, allow you to enjoy them longer and preserve their value for years to come.

Remember, you do not need to spend your life in antique shops and flea markets, or even break the bank to gather a collection. Our connection with objects is very personal and doesn’t lie in their numbers.

Please e-mail your decorating questions to and mention “Sierra Sun Column” in the subject line. Françoise will answer them in her column.

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