Stylish Ways to Display Collections
Show Off Small Objects, Like Dice, Matchboxes, or Dollhouse Miniatures, in a Divided Case
Colorful, varied collections look pulled-together but still playful in a weathered grid. Let randomness and imperfection be your guides: Split up pairs, mix sizes, place pieces at different angles, and leave some spots blank. Mount the box on the wall at eye level—before you load it up, of course—or set it on a mantel for maximum delight. (The dice here are in an old wooden type tray.) To keep a display like this clean, spray it with a can of compressed air, standing about a foot away so nothing shifts. A glass jar (far right) can hold extras. Printer’s tray, check out etsy.com for options. Large apothecary jar (similar to shown), $34, westelm.com. Dice collection in type tray courtesy of Polly Dufresne. Dice collection in jar courtesy of Elena Holowaty.
Use a Sunny Window to Make Glass Bottles or Crystal Animals Sparkle
Set on a deep sill and backlit, translucent collectibles take on an ethereal glow. To up the ante, try modern glass cases—they add levels and have a way of making old-fashioned objects look cool. Scattered groupings of two or three items outside the cases keep the composition from being precious. Don’t feel obligated to use every piece you have. Keep spares safe in a quilted box made for china teacups. For cleaning, use a microfiber cloth made for glass, plus a stiff, angled artist’s paintbrush to get into nooks. Display cabinets by Roost, $70 to $145 each, velocityartanddesign.com. Antique perfume bottles, tudorroseantiques.com for info.
Play Up Natural Finds, Like Stones and Seashells, in a Kooky Fishbowl
Hunting down a gorgeous antique aquarium could take some time (try eBay, flea markets, and vintage shops), but any glass vessel with a flat side brings crisp clarity to gnarly organic items. Fill the vessel less than halfway (much of the beauty is in the negative space), and arrange the biggest pieces on top. Blow away dust occasionally with a hair dryer set on cool. If you have a constant influx of rocks or shells, stash piles in old peanut-butter jars and tuck them away on a closet shelf. Shell collection and vintage aquarium courtesy of Linda Rodin.
Make Cheeky Art From Sock Monkeys or Other Soft Toys
Paint a bulletin board, including the frame (the bluish tone here is Wedgwood Gray by Benjamin Moore), then use T-pins to suspend the creatures (it won’t hurt a bit), bringing some smiles to an otherwise serious space. A hand vac at close range will keep dust under control. Additional members of the pack can live in a trunk or a suitcase. Throw in some cedar blocks to help protect wool from moths. Oak-framed bulletin board (similar to shown), $112, csnstores.com. Sock-monkey collection courtesy of Janet West.
Elevate Salt and Pepper Shakers or Figurines With a Museum-Style Case
This treatment brings a bit of gravitas to a cute or kitschy array. Create a diorama with the hierarchy of your choice (the order here: dogs and cats on top, farm and wild animals in the middle, mollusks and tall, quirky characters below). If you own more tchotchkes than the case can contain, rotate stock when the mood hits, keeping the overflow in divided ornament boxes. Clean the case with a microfiber glass cloth; the contents will be well protected from dust. Antique display cabinet, Paula Rubenstein Ltd., 212-966-8954. For a similar option: Square curio cabinet, $240, organize.com. For a broad range of choices: allcuriocabinets.com. Shakers, from $35 a pair, moodindigonewyork.com for info.
Overtake a Piece of Furniture With Ceramic Vases or Teapots
Dominating the runner on a rarely used dining-room table or decorating an unexpected cabinet, large ceramics can work like sculpture. Whether your collection is a mixed palette or a single color, think about creating an intriguing “horizon line” by juxtaposing tall and short, angular and shapely, smooth and rough. (Imagine the irregular high-lows of a cityscape.) To clean inside tall ceramics, dampen a long, thin bottle brush (Casabella Soft Tip brushes, $9 for three, amazon.com); outside, a soft cloth will do. Townsend sideboard, fitzhughkarol.com for info. Vases (smooth and ribbed), sentimentoantiques.com for info. Hand-built pots and pitchers (rough-hewn) by Devin Dougherty, peninehart.com for info.
Cluster Bulky Playthings, Like Globes or Vintage Toys, on a Low, Wide Platform
When you have objects that are fun to interact with, you want to keep them within easy reach. To create a sense of happy abundance, pack in as many as you can. Think of each item as a piece in a puzzle, and find the right fit in relation to others in the display. The bottom shelves can store small extras. For dusting globes, use a dry microfiber cloth (cleaning products could damage coatings). Three-tier steel-and-brass étagère, $2,800, lizobrien.com for info. For a similar option: Global Views Timeless table, $2,795, abchome.com. Simplicity globe (on mantel), $185, conranusa.com. All other globes courtesy of Prop Company Kaplan & Associates, 212-691-7767.