Strange Spectacles: How to Make Your Odd Collections Look Amazing in Your Home

Whether you collect fine art, first-edition books, random knickknacks, or something far stranger (hotel soaps or antique handcuffs, anyone?). Your collectibles display could likely stand for improvement – that is, if you’ve bothered to put any thought into showing off your precious pile of stuff at all. Because let’s face it, if you’re going to obsess over these objects, you may as well embrace it and let that nerd flag fly, baby!

To help you organize that jumble into something you’e proud of, here are some collection display ideas that will look amazing in your home – on shelves, hung on walls, tucked in shadow boxes, or beyond.

What constitutes a collection vs heap o’junk?

First thing first: Is the collection you own worth showing – or is that ephemera really just a pile of unrelated trinkets?

“A collection is a group of similar objects that mean something to you,” explains Julie Muniz, a curator and art consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area. But you still need to sift through your items.

“If everything has value, then nothing does,” points out Julie Coraccio, an organizing expert at Reawaken Your Brilliance. Edit what you have and then keep only memorable things that bring your happiness, she adds. “If your ‘collection’ is sitting in the garage, then it’s most likely junk to you,” she says.

Consider the location

If space and storage are an issue, Liz Toombs, an interior decorator with PDR Interiors, suggests putting them in a place that wont hog value real estate – like a wall.

“I helped a client hang a collection of platters from Italy on a wall between her kitchen and dining room, she notes. In addition, a floating shelf was installed to hold bourbon bottles, which kept them off the credenza or other surfaces “and didn’t clutter valuable space,” Toombs says.

Also see if your collection is usable in some manner; if so, try to put it to work. For instance, Toombs’ display of a collection of plates “worked as both artwork and for serving guests,” she says.

Count the group

Display the collection with purpose, says Muntz. “Don’t sprinkle single pieces around – group them for greater impact,” she says. Depending on your space, you can put small groupings throughout the house or show off the collection as a whole.

As for numbers, odds beat evens. “Even numbers of objects look too symmetrical, whereas groups of three and five create a conversation,” she says.

If, however, you own just a special pair, consider asymmetry. “Put one object on a small stand and the other on a shelf next to it so that your attention is drown to each thing while keeping them as a pair,” explains Charles Snider, a gem and fossil appraiser at American Geode.

Go for glass

Floating glass shelves are ideal for highlighting every facet of your collection. Or you might hit up a flea market or tag sale for an old cabinet with clear shelves and a mirrored backing.

“Curio cabinets with glass shelves are smart because they allow you to look at the bottom side at whatever precious item you’re showing,” Snider says.

Hang with care

Measure carefully if you’re hanging an art collection, says Muniz. “I always hang my collections at 60 inches on center, which means the center of the artwork or frame is 60 inches from the floor so it rests at eye level,” she explains.

How you hang your art also depends on ceiling height and how tall your family is. “If your family is on the shorter side, it’s fine to hang artwork lower,” she adds.

Fill a bookcase

If you have built-in bookcases, the job of arranging a collection is made easier, says Carole Marcotte, a designer with Form & Function in Raleigh, NC. “A set of bookcases with cubbies can hold pottery, glassware, or other collectibles,” she adds. Breakable collections are particularly well-suited to bookcases since you can store the more fragile pieces in the upper sections; lean framed artwork or something less precious in the lower bays.

Light it right

Watch out for lighting around artwork on walls. “Lamps can fall on pictures and special lamp lights above pieces can swing into them,” warns Snider.

And when it comes to fabrics, don’t hang them near direct sunlight. “Textiles can’t be bathed in light or they’ll bleach,” notes Jacquie Denny, co-founder of Everything but the House, an online estate sale marketplace.

Think outside the (shadow) box

Does your collection comprise many shapes and sizes? A shadow box or one with little cubbies is a good pick in this case, says Coraccio.

Another wise way to upcycle? Turn these odds and ends into a whole new thing. For instance, “I’m also a fan of making a T-shirt quilt out of all those old tops that have been saved from junior high, high school, and college,” she adds.


[ improvement:Jennifer Geddes]