Your precious mementoes, quirky hand-me-downs and souvenirs from the past are worth showing off at home. Artfully arranged, these collectables can have a powerful visual and emotional effect on an interior
Words by Sarah Heeringa. Photography by Jane Ussher
2 Make the most of really high shelves.
Collections that are more form over function are made for out-of-reach places. Popping them up high, as in Jill’s kitchen at right, allows them to be seen but kept safe.
3 Don’t leave things languishing in a drawer.
It’s the quirky bits and bobs that can turn a room from ordinary to extraordinary – adding colour and intrigue, offering visitors a glimpse into your private world and providing you with daily inspiration or amusement. Put your collectables to use or find a safe way to display them.
4 Put things where you can enjoy them.
It makes sense to surround yourself with things that are meaningful. “I like objects that have a story,” says Jill. “A lot of my things are either made by me or by people I know. Some collections, such as my art deco chrome and ceramic teapots, started with one I was given by my partner’s mother. My kitchen is where I tend to spend a lot of time – arranging things in there means I get to enjoy them.”
5 Add a plate rack.
Simple to construct, they’re ideal for storing plates you want to see and have easy access to. “I try to collect things I can use – but you have to be prepared for some breakage,” says Jill.
6 Put like with like.
Gather similar items – such as all your vases, or all your white ceramics – in one place. Collections of three items or more create drama and convey a sense of order.
7 Play with shapes.
Stick with the colour scheme, but mix up tidy arrangements by juxtaposing textures and sizes (see left). Place items off-centre or try adding larger or smaller objects until you like what you see. Step back to assess the overall balance of your arrangement. “Move things around until they look right,” suggests Jill. “Small items can get lost in the wrong place. Be prepared to remove things if necessary.”
8 Group and sort.
Group similar-coloured or same-sized books and magazines. Reduce visual clutter by applying the same color scheme to your bookshelf as to the wider room.
9 Add variety.
Stack books both horizontally and vertically. Use heavy ceramic pieces as bookends, or create spaces between or in front of books for framed photographs (see above).
10 Exercise restraint.
Resist the urge to load up shelves with as many items as will fit. Find a secure place for large or unstable items.
11 Too many books?
Use books on tabletops to create different heights for the items you choose to display – or build a bookish sidetable using a stack of your sturdier titles.
12 Look for texture.
Use old and weathered surfaces, such as stylist Sally Fullam’s wooden chest, at right, to provide an interesting surface for mini collections. Sally’s collection is unified by all objects being pewter.
13 Display things in unlikely places.
Assemble quirky arrangements in otherwise dull utility rooms such as the laundry, toilet or bathroom (at left), or use a jar collection to store basic items such as laundry powder. This both maximises space and provides something pretty and whimsical to look at in these unexpected places.
14 Mix it up.
Make your arrangements look less contrived by mixing art and other precious collectables together with aesthetically pleasing objects from nature, such as bird’s nests (below), twigs, shells or driftwood.
15 Make your walls work.
Walls keep objects in view and (mostly) out of harm’s way – creating a less cluttered look and freeing up tabletops and other horizontal surfaces for productive purposes.
16 Store collections inside collections.
For instance, you might place small items such as shells or vintage buttons in a series of recycled jars. On a larger scale, a stack of suitcases offers an ideal place to store fabric, sewing projects, out-of-season clothes or extra bedding and blankets.
17 Eliminate the ugly.
Creating a look is as much about what you take away as what you leave on show. Scan the room to see what needs to go: if it’s not attractive, get rid of it or hide it away. Use covered boxes to store DVDs or small toys, and a chest or retro suitcase for larger things.
18 Put it away.
Not out of sight but away from dust. If dusting gets you down, pick up an old glass-fronted cabinet to fill with your best treasures. Alternately, pop smaller collections inside a Victorian glass dome or vintage glass cake platter.
19 Mix old and new – and tie them together by colour.
“A mantlepiece is perfect for displaying collections. It’s at a good height for visibility, but up out of the way from little hands,” says stylist Sally Fullam. “Or use a bay in your bookshelf for this purpose. Aim to create a pleasing overall shape that has height and clusters objects together.” On Sally’s mantlepiece (above), found objects such as birds’ nests and sea eggs are mixed with modern pieces such as a photo block and green cast glass tiki from The Poi Room. “Each piece tells a story and reminds me of my travels,” says Sally. “The broken green cup from a street market in Paris, the matching SylvaC leaf vases found in a hospice shop in Guernsey and the painting, which was a gift from local artist Katherine Powell.”
20 Know the difference between collectables and clutter.
Every home collects clutter and this daily detritus will quickly swamp your more attractive possessions. Likewise, if you indulge in unfettered collecting, the influx of stuff will soon take over any spare space. Remember that less is often more.
21 Relax and play a little.
Hang a crazy picture on a wall or prop up art or larger objects on the floor. Move things around after dusting objects and wiping surfaces. Avoid uptight, overly arranged displays. True style involves the confidence to be at ease and the most attractive homes reveal the personalities of those who live there – they’re full of spirit and joy.