A Baker's Dozen Collector's Tips

Whether you call it arranging, accessorizing or merchandising, the act of putting together objects in a pleasing display fills many with fear. We all want our homes to be a positive expression of our personality and style, but we worry over getting it just right.

There are no hard and fast decorating rules. Each home should be a reflection of its inhabitants; therefore, rules can only stifle creativity. By following a few easy tips and suggestions, adapting along the way to fit individual needs, anyone can create arrangements to make their homes uniquely their own.

  1. Choose a theme and stick to it within each vignette. This may change from vignette to vignette, but don't group items that have no discernable relationship with one another together, as this will appear jarring, whether or not you can determine why it just doesn't feel right.
  2. Use accessories that follow the theme. For example, if you are displaying vintage or Victorian items, you may want to use lace or doilies on the shelves to add a textural layer while keeping with the theme. In the case of a cowboy or southwest theme, use folded bandanas as shelf drapery.
  3. Layer your objects back to front with the larger items placed in the back. This will give dimension and depth to the vignette and create a path for your eyes to travel to take in each section of the vignette, one section at a time.
  4. Incorporate your books within your collections. Books can also be used to provide lifts and levels for displays. Books convey a sense of knowledge and an expansion of wisdom, and they tie in well with many different types of vignettes.
  5. If a collection is an heirloom or other family treasure, add framed photos of the previous owners within the collection. This can also generate stimulating conversations when guests ask about your collections.
  6. Note your discoveries. For special items or items found on trips or thrift-store junkets, consider adding notes inside your collectibles telling where and when you found them, as well as what you know about the history of the item.
  7. Consider seldom-used kitchen items as lifts and levels. Add fabric to drape these items and place pieces of your collection on top. The rise and fall of the total view of a vignette is more pleasing to the eye than items lined up like toy soldiers in a row.
  8. Use accent colors that will make the colors in your collections visually pop. As an example, a blue-and-white china collection would stand out against a background of yellow or brick red. These colors will highlight the blue and white much better than a neutral or wood background.
  9. Mix wicker with books and collectibles to achieve a textural effect. Use wicker baskets to corral magazines and other soft-cover books for storage on a bookshelf. Use wicker baskets filled with plants (real or silk) to add softness to the hard lines of rows of books. Or turn smaller baskets upside down and use for additional lifts and levels.
  10. Use small, framed prints and oils on easels or just casually leaned against a row of books within a vignette. If the subject matter of the painting somehow ties in with the subject matter of the books, even better. If your collection includes a certain theme, such as flowers, and you find small, framed prints or old botanical prints from books you can frame, incorporate them into your vignette to add interest and further perpetuate the theme.
  11. Consider bundling your collections. Use clear containers to display items that would be lost if simply placed on a shelf. Apothecary jars or glass fishbowls can hold sand mixed with shells, a collection of matchbooks, a collection of wine corks or a collection of marbles. Use silk ribbon to tie together stacks of old love letters or stacks of vintage linens. By confining the collection into a relatively small space, it gives more impact to the pieces.
  12. Use your collections to tell a story. If you have postcards, travel brochures, ticket stubs, trinkets and other souvenirs from a trip, create a vignette that tells the story of your trip. Add travel books that highlight your destinations. If you have photographs, letters, lockets, pocket watches, snippets of lace and other items from your grandparents' wedding, create a vignette to honor their love and devotion.
  13. Above all else, don't tuck away those items that you love. Bring your collections out to be viewed, used and cherished. What’s the point of collecting if you hide away your collections in drawers, closets and boxes for someday?

The act of collecting touches the very heart and soul of the collector, and it reflects not only a collector’s personality and style, but may convey their history and heritage as well. When the collector’s hand deliberately touches a cherished object and places it just so, a collection takes shape as design.

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