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  • Writer's pictureJames Treble

Display Your Collection

What is it that you love collecting? We all have one or a few objects that inspire us, maybe rare and expensive or maybe commonly found and not expensive at all; and we simply want them. The strangest things can be the object of somebody's collection, and because we truly love them, we want them out on display. This allows us to enjoy them, but also to show them off, because we are certain that everybody else must surely appreciate them too... We think!

People collect the strangest things. I sometimes find it surprising what people buy at auctions, or second hand shops... but keeping my mind open, I try to convince myself that anybody's collection is worthwhile, if it gives them pleasure. Surely someone has an opinion about me collecting keys... I LOVE KEYS, I always have, especially old ones, and I'm not really sure why! Perhaps it's the forgotten stories these may have witness while opening doors in the past.

The last time I bought some keys was in Arezzo, a beautiful hill top town in Italy. The seller was an old man full of character whom I found seated on an old chair at the door of his antiquities shop. He wasn't really fussed when we walk in, two foreign tourists, and he appeared not really bothered with selling anything as he read his paper, which made me like the place even more. As I found out, famously featured in the Italian movie "Life Is Beautiful", a big iron door key was on his desk. "That's not for sale!" he said, and finally got up to tell us about the movie which was filmed in that magnificent Tuscan town, years ago. We spent time roaming the shop, as it was stacked with so many interesting things, not staged but real and honest, and I began asking about the story of this or that object in my bad Italian, and luckily his good english, and he finally warmed to us. While agreeing on a fair price for a bunch of different keys from 1700's farmhouses, I had the strong feeling he didn't really want to let them go. "I'll buy them back when you don't want them anymore.." he said convincingly before we left his shop.

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I keep those keys on my studio desk, and I love looking at them and reminiscing the stories these come with. But I never felt like having my entire collection out on display in one place, instead they sit here and there, and after a while I'm happy to put them away and choose something else to bring out and remind me of my travels. If you too are a collector, but wish to display your precious possessions in larger numbers without looking like a second-hand shop store, then I have a few styling tips for you.

Image by James Treble

Grouping items by colour or style - find one visual element that unifies the objects you want on display and group them together. Aiming to achieve an interesting composition, choose items that are different in size or shape but clearly display that obvious and common element; their material, for example.

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Grouping by contrast - if the objects of your collection are quite different from each other, you can still show them together by adding one element that unifies the look, like the same style of framing for prints or paintings, OR placing a range of different sizes, shapes and finishes all together, but unifying them in one large and simple shape, like this rectangle formed by a range of different artworks.

Image from Google/Pinterest

Limit the quantity on show - Depending on how big your collection is, displaying it all at once may result in an overwhelming display where none of your beloved items will stand out and look precious. Overcrowded surfaces also suggest the feeling of clutter and bring forward feelings of mess and dust. Just like writing a good story, "editing" allows to pair back the amount of items on show, until you get the right balance of shapes, colours textures and forms.

Image from Google/Pinterest

If you prefer the stylish look of an art gallery to that of an op-shop then I suggest "Less Is More" for a few but very important reasons:

  • empty surfaces are necessary to direct the due attention to your precious objects; look for inspiration in galleries and showrooms,

  • a densely displayed array of objects can appear overwhelming and confusing, while fewer objects on surfaces support the impression of a tidy and dust free space,

  • by rotating the objects you have on display, your collection will always seem fresh and the pleasure you get from it will be renewed every time you re-arrange it.

Finally, for your objects to get the right appreciation they deserves, make sure the theme of your collection fits or properly contrasts, with the surrounds and styling of your home.

Happy collecting.

James Treble is an ambassador for Planet Ark and firmly believes in sensible purchasing, recycling and creative re-purposing. James has three decades of accumulated experience in the Building Industry, Real Estate and Interior Design and regularly shares his knowledge and experience in adding value to properties through effective design & styling. Watch his free videos on YouTube, and follow him on Facebook and Instagram for more free information.


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