OK, who’s a collector? Raise your hand! See, look around you. There are lots of us living amongst you minimalists and you “can’t stand the clutter!” freaks. Some of you collectors may be married to one who simply doesn’t understand that if one frog is cute, an army of frogs is absolutely adorable!
Collectors know that the need to collect is really not just about the acquisition—it’s about the journey, the mental registration that alerts us to the possibility that a “Reed and Barton” jelly spoon in the grape pattern may be in that shop you just drove by. The alert that pulls us over to park at a yard sale or scroll on eBay ’til midnight… looking, seeking, searching, hunting for yet another one-of-the-same for your collection.
I personally am from a long line of “Hunters.” As I grew up, hunting for items in a like category was normal behavior. Today, several collections later, I am currently surrounded by my collections of mid-century pottery, glass paper weights, vintage broaches, mid-century cocktail shakers, toothbrushes, vintage salt dishes, world globes, china creamers… somebody STOP ME! Yet, I still get a rush when I stop at a shop or win a bid or cruise a yard sale and discover a “find” at a great price. It makes my day!
That said, the only reason collections work in my life is because of the way they are displayed. When integrated properly, collections can be a charming personal statement, a showcase of one of your interests, the results of your diligent hunt and an opportunity to live with what you love. You may have a client who is a collector. You would love to box up and hide her ‘kine of cows’ collection, but it is her home and her hobby, so consider the following display ideas before having that nasty cow conversation with her.
A good collection rule is: always display like items together.
Multiples set up a rhythm that controls the chaos and can be juxtaposed with the eclectic quality of a room. When you display objects in multiples, the aesthetic impact is more than the sum of its decorative parts. Physiologically, the eye is drawn to repetition; it registers this kind of regularity as it scans the room. The same applies to clusters and groups, as they anchor the visual flow from element to element. The display of a collectable should be in consideration of scale, style and mood of collection.
Once you have gathered the collection together, decide on the best application for the collectable. For example, ceramics are great in clusters on a bookshelf or as a table decoration. If the ceramic collection is a specific category, like pitchers or tea pots, line them up single file on a long shelf. For platters use shallow shelves or display them on plate hangers as art. For salt and pepper shakers use old “knick-knack” shelves with little cubbies for each pair of shakers. For my creamer collection I had little shelf units built to fit them, then hung the shelves in a patchwork on the wall (see creamer shelf, right).
Anything you can frame is good! A collection of “smalls,” like vintage keys, old jewelry, luggage tags, hat pins, buttons and beads, vintage lighters or compacts…etc., can become charming artwork when displayed in a shadowbox frame.
For glassware, like snow globes, crystal elements, decorated eggs, perfume bottles—anything with a precious quality—use a wall-mount display shelf unit, an étagère or a china cabinet with interior lights. These units were made for display. Glassware will sparkle and encourage nose-to-glass viewing by visitors. Also, consider using the cabinet units for little figurine items like unicorns or Hummel characters. Bottom line, if your client collects elephants and the herd is scattered around the house, round em’ up and display the entire collection on a shelf in the china cabinet. It will look interesting and lush verses lonely and corny.
Let’s face it ladies. Finding unique artwork or one-of-a-kind accessories (you’ll never find them at HomeGoods) is tough. Nothing is new and predictability in a design concept is the kiss of death. However, if your client just happens to collect antique evening bags or vintage maps, reconsider them framed and hung in your design. It’s customized for your client and becomes an accent NOBODY else has.
For collectors of like-subject artwork, again hang together in a group if possible, like this “dog paintings” collection seen here.
As promised, here are my tips on hanging a large group of various sized pictures on one big wall—good for “Family Galleries” and art collections!
1) AFTER, you have addressed all the framing and created a coordinated group of pictures, lay them out and divide into like-sized piles: 3×5, 4×6, 5×7, 6×8, 8×10, etc. Then pull all the oversized pictures—anything over 16×20—or pull the 3-4 largest pictures. These are your “anchor” pictures.
2) Hang the largest “anchor picture” in the center of the wall. Then lay the remaining two to three pictures on the floor, down to the right and left, to be hung later.
3) From your piles, create groups of two or three pictures that work together; i.e., three 4 x 6 pictures of your client’s three kids, or two 8 x 10 pictures of their grandparents. These will fill long or wide spaces. IF the frames are not the same that’s okay, but the size should be.
4) The shape rule for the overall picture group is the same as in designing a room—the eye should easily flow from picture to picture. So, always hang in a pyramid or sideways diamond (marquis cut). When the wall is particularly long make more “peaks and valleys” like a mountain range.
5) From your pile, remove good “topper pictures” to be at the top of your pyramid. Pick interesting frames, ornate styles or unusual shapes. These are a focal point.
6) If the images need a certain cohesion or timeline, like the husband’s family hung together, divide your pictures into the required order and lay along the wall, as the story goes.
7) Remember to mix it up and use all available sizes consistently. Don’t be stuck with a pile of little frames and three feet of wall left. Work right-left, right-left, so you don’t get lopsided. Lastly, make an invisible border line at the top and the bottom so you have horizontal balance, too.
GOOD LUCK DESIGNERS!