Displaying Your Fabulous Collections


I once had a wonderful client who collected pigs. The last time I visited her home, she had more than 350 different porcine replicas of all shapes and sizes. When I met her, the bulk of them were jam packed into an entryway curio cabinet, while the rest were scattered about her home or stored in boxes.

While the curio cabinet was fascinating to study, it really wasn’t the best way to display her prized pigs because:

  1. It was overcrowded.
  2. They were mostly the same, small-ish figurine size.
  3. None of the pigs, some of which were old, beautiful and/or valuable ever got to live in the limelight.

She has since passed on, but the lessons I learned while creating different ways to display her abundant collection have served my client roster for many years now.

10 Ways to Let Your Collection Shine

If you aren’t careful, the word Collection can become synonymous with Clutter. Here are 10 ways to make sure that doesn’t become the case with your prized collectibles!

  1. Whittle It Down. There is a danger in letting anyone know you “collect” something; friends and family inundate you with apropos collectibles every holiday, birthday or as souvenirs from their recent travels. This makes for many (maybe even dozens) of items you never would have chosen on your own. Don’t keep a single thing you don’t really like. Go through your current collections and eliminate the ones you think are tacky or just don’t really jive with your preferences. This will keep your collections more stylish.
  2. Use a divided case. Using a divided case is a good way to highlight individual pieces or a few pieces that share a theme. The segregated sections create a literal “frame” around the pieces, making it easier for the eye to take them in one at a time.
  3. Go bonkers. The antidote to eliminating clutter is to display your clutter with style. Build shelves or cubbies to show off every single piece of your collection from floor to ceiling and wall to wall. Have a hat collection? Make a hat wall. All those baskets? Hang them all over the room. This is a particularly successful method in an office, a long foyer or entryway or down a long hallway.
  4. Use cabinets with multiple shelves. If you choose to use curio cabinets, select versions that have different shelf heights or depths so the pieces don’t run into one another – creating a featureless sea.
  5. Install upper-wall shelves. If your collectibles are on the bigger side – think lunch boxes, globes, antique hat boxes – create tasteful displays favorite pieces in one or more living spaces. Then, have upper-shelves installed just below the ceiling to display the rest. They end up creating visual interest in an area of wall space that is normally devoid of décor, while elevating the items up and out of the way so they don’t create clutter or take up valuable square footage.
  6. Find a vintage display case. Display them in a case meant for displaying. Scour antique stores and flea marts and keep your eye out for a vintage or quirky display case, like the ones used in old general stores.
  7. Rotate them. One of the ways we improved my aforementioned pig-collecting client’s collection was by rotating them. We cleared out about 75% of her entryway curio cabinet. She culled some of the lesser-loved and just-plain-faded or falling apart members, and then she kept the rest in a closet. Every few months, she rotated the figurines, which kept the collection fresh.
  8. Donate your collection to each room. Rather than having a single space or two that’s devoted to your collection, create small displays in each room of your house, using whatever display method makes the most sense for each room. Perhaps those high-wall shelves make sense for the family room and kitchen, while a sideboard cluster makes sense in the dining room and the kitchen can enjoy an antique spice cabinet used as a display.
  9. Don’t forget the bookshelves. Rows and rows of vertically aligned books are boring. Instead, break up your book collections by stacking some of the books horizontally. Then leave a nice sizable gap to display collectibles before resuming another run of books.
  10. Use corner collections. Keep an eye out for tasteful corner shelves that suit your décor and fill them with your collection. Corners are notorious for being interior design “dead zones,” so move that houseplant elsewhere and create more room for your collection instead.

Do you feel like your collection has grown beyond your ability to display it attractively? Never fear. I firmly believe that “where there’s a will, there’s a way!” Contact me at Kristina Wolf Design and I’ll help you to enjoy your collection without sacrificing your style.

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Kristina Wolf Design creates memorable interiors in harmony with your personal vision, with minimal stress. Whether it’s a new home interior or the perfect color palette for a paint project, we'll deepen the connection between you and your home while honoring your objectives, schedule and budget.

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260 Alvarado Rd
Berkeley,CA 94705
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Kristina Wolf Design, Inc., Interior Decorators & Designers, Berkeley, CA