Decorating with Collections

Decorating with collections - Ultimate Academy Decorating and ReDesign Blog

Whether or not we label our bowl of sand dollars a collection, it is in fact just that: a collection. Most of us have them; we may have collected things intentionally or by happenstance as gifts. For some, the collecting itself is the hobby. We have all seen these collectors at garage sales; they stride through the throngs in their single-minded search for that elusive item that will be the perfect addition to their ever-increasing hoard. There are as many reasons for a collection as there are people doing the collecting. Some collect as an investment, for pure enjoyment, to expand their social life (join groups of like-minded people), to preserve the past, or as a quest. Sometimes, a collection can represent some kind psychological security or it will even lend a person a unique identity. 

For others though, the collecting is just part of the process. It’s the emotional connection and the feelings attached to the collection, that serve its purpose. For instance, if your sand dollar collection has been amassed during each one of your winter retreats with your family, seeing the contents of the bowl will make you feel happy and bring back warm memories of your vacations. For these reasons, we want to display these collections and not hide them in a closet. But this can prove to be quite difficult. The trick is to present a collection in such a way that it will add to your home’s décor. Afterall, we should view these additions as “jewelry for a room”. A collection with such an emotional connection will add character, warmth, meaning and dimension to an otherwise bland décor. But what are the best ways to display a collection?

People put thought into what they collect. It makes sense then to put thought into how to display it. But how can you create a display that will do your collection justice? For this type of mindful exhibit, it might help to think like museum curators. How do they manage to show a collection in a purposeful, meaningful way?

Decorating with collections - Decorating and ReDesign Blog

Create a visual experience: The creation of a visual experience can be achieved in your own home in a variety of ways.

• One such example is to display items according to a theme. Imagine you are the collector of all things horse-related. You grew up on a horse farm and surrounding yourself with these items gives you a sense of comfort. By displaying them all together in one grouping the eye is drawn immediately to the collection. Furthermore, by grouping them together it creates its own impact. The very fact that these items are grouped in a singular, substantive display lends them a sense of importance. It also underlines the fact that this collection tells a story about the owner. Afterall, our homes are truly a reflection of our personalities and as such, anything displayed there within should be an expression of us as individuals.

• A visual experience can be achieved by grouping a collection together by colour, size, shape or scale as well. Again, imagine you have amassed a collection of glass bowls and vases. You have bought each and every one on trips with your husband, beginning with your honeymoon. You have chosen a sofa table to display them on. But how can you exhibit them in such a way as to portray how beautiful and meaningful they are to you? Placing these items either by colour, size, shape or scale on this table will create a striking display. Furthermore, the very act of consideration of placement lends a sense once again, of importance and meaningfulness. 


• Creating a gallery wall on a staircase or along a hallway is another way to achieve the creation of a visual experience. As the eye travels up and along a story is pieced together and the viewer leaves feeling closer to the collector; the collection has created its own experience. It doesn’t matter if the display is made up of museum-quality artwork, or multiple generations of family photos. What matters is the purposeful grouping. 


• Using a focal wall for a display will create a striking visual experience as well. By using a different colour as a backdrop, a collection is demanding attention. It is telling the visitor that it needs to be viewed and experienced. Credibility can be further enhanced by displaying a collection in a room with a similar theme. For example, displaying antique tea towels on a kitchen or dining room wall will create a much more meaningful exhibit than would the same display in a games-room.

Decorating with collections #2 - Decorating and ReDesign Blog

Create inspiration:

• Sometimes people collect items relating to a hobby or vocation. Perhaps you learned the art of quilting from your grandmother. To this day you love to create quilts for friends and family during your free time. Your antique sewing machine collection began with your grandmother’s treasured hand-me-down and as inspiration, you love to display these machines in your sewing room. 

• Often, athletes receive trophies and awards during the many years of competition. A collection such as this can be displayed together in a child’s bedroom or family room, and as such can be used as inspiration.

Create a specific atmosphere:

• Some collections when grouped together have the ability to create a specific atmosphere. Book lovers tend to amass vast quantities of novels, which when displayed as a collection can create an atmosphere of warmth, coziness, and perhaps even, intellectuality. Texture too can be added to help create this atmosphere of “hominess” by not only placing books on shelving and bookcases, but by stacking them on tables as well. Like the collections described above, displaying books in a home is another form of creative expression; “a home without books is like a home without art”.

Decorating our homes is more than just placing furniture and painting walls. It is also a way to showcase our collections in order to tell the story of who we are as individuals. “A collector’s journey starts with the first item”, and ends with a purposeful exhibit.

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