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Style Magazine

On Display

Jun 24, 2010 04:44AM ● By Style

My aunt is the queen collector.

Really, anything I ever learned about purchasing, placing or purging collectables I learned from her. My current space, though a bit sparse as I go through a minimalist phase, still takes cues from her special skill at arranging multiple items without looking like a candidate for “Hoarders.” Displaying collections truly is an art. I can think of at least 12 individual collections my aunt holds dear, from Lladro and Herend figurines, to Lennox china settings and framed lithographs, and they all have their place in the home and never, ever, look cluttered. She has a gift, and I’m so glad I learned from the best. So if like her, you have a penchant for collections, large or small, here are a few wise tips on how to keep them beautiful and presentable all year long.


Collections, by their very nature, can get large...quite large. A big collection need not be an overwhelming one if displayed properly. A traditional curio cabinet is one option, providing a central showcase for a variety of items. A great way to highlight certain pieces in a collection is to “free them from the cage” and display a select few, either on a mantle or side table, creating a center of focus that’s small and not overwhelming. Feel free to mix and match here when appropriate. The holidays especially are wonderful occasions to bring seasonal items front and center, such as a dining room centerpiece or a festive mantle. Bring out the “stars” of your collection and frame them with some holiday cheer.


Speaking of framing, there’s no arguing that framed prints and artwork can be a challenge to display, especially in numbers. If you can successfully collage a body of work on one wall, go for it. A nice composition of related works can look fantastic and really highlight the importance of the collection. If the quantity is more than one or two walls can handle, consider displaying only a handful of pieces at a time. You can always spread the collection throughout the house, but that might only reduce the impact of the collection as a whole. Shadowboxes and other framed displays are the perfect solution to small collections, like pins, medals and other valuable trinkets.


Even someone like my aunt, with her multiple collections, knows it’s not possible to display all pieces at once. Well, possible, but not always the first choice of a tidy homeowner. Avoid clutter with the simple rule of rotation. Think of your space as a museum and give each collection a window of exhibition. While some take the spotlight, carefully pack others away in a safe place until their moment arrives. Even collections that stay out year-round should be moved to different locations to keep things interesting. A new venue can instantly turn a tired collection into a fresh display.

And, should you find a collection no longer interests you, or another obsession comes along to take its place, there’s always that place called eBay where countless enthusiasts wait to sweep up your treasures at a cost. The best collections give you joy from first find to final purchase. Give them a place to shine and enjoy the thrill over and over again.