Expert Tips for Giving Your Collectibles a Worthy Display

By James

There’s nothing like a big score — you see “the one,” place a bid and wait. After refreshing and refreshing (and refreshing some more), the auction ends and the treasure is yours.

Whether you shop eBay to build your library of 1950s comic books or you’re on the hunt for more Depression-era milk glass, investing time and money in a collection of objects you love can be a hobby that sparks both joy and decorating inspiration. Your treasures should have pride of place in your home, but incorporating dozens of antique teapots seamlessly into your decor can pose a challenge.

To help you parlay your collectibles into a stylish display — and give guests the pleasure of marveling at your online shopping prowess and your excellent taste in vintage movie posters — we turned to Washington-based interior designer Jessica Nelson. Here are her expert tips on how to best show off a beloved collection.

Play favorites

Nelson recommends starting with what you love the most. For her, that would be a collection of vintage mirrors in her hallway that she regularly updates. “It’s so fun to keep adding to this and building it out with new finds,” she says.

Stratton Home Decor Metal Eye Wall Mirror

HomeSquare Stratton Home Decor Metal Eye Wall Mirror

Remi Mirror

Moe’s Home Collection Remi Mirror

McKay Contemporary Bell Shaped Wall Mirror

GDFStudio McKay Contemporary Bell Shaped Wall Mirror

If your weakness is European posters for American movies, choose the most special few pieces and hang them — nicely framed, of course — in the living room. When the mood strikes, swap out the posters so the display is always fresh. That way, you’ll get to have some of your prized possessions on display without turning your space into a poster museum.

Put like items with like

One souvenir plate from Portugal is, well, one souvenir plate from Portugal. But 10 souvenir plates from countries all over the world? That’s a collection.

“Try to find something in common with the pieces — like color or texture — and display them in an interesting way,” says Nelson. “Hanging things in a group can make something feel cool and fresh.”

Another method is to dedicate an entire shelf or bookcase to your treasures. For a modern look, eschew the dated glass-door cabinet and opt for open shelving. Keep the display from looking cluttered by placing items in a single row per shelf, evenly spaced. Boom! You just turned your pepper mills into artful sculptures.

Fully Assembled Home Office Bookcase

Bridgevine Home Fully Assembled Home Office Bookcase

Vancouver Bookshelf

Moe’s Home Collection Vancouver Bookshelf

Jahzir Scandinavian Design Etagere

GDFStudio Jahzir Scandinavian Design Etagere

Color coordinate

An easy, impactful way to make a small collection feel cohesive and a large one feel organized is to keep things grouped by color, says Nelson. That doesn’t mean you have to set an eBay alert exclusively for books with blue spines, of course, but arranging your vintage cookbook collection by color can be a great way to focus the eye — and help you keep track of which books you already have before you click “Buy It Now.”

Take your time

Collections aren’t built all at once, even when the item you seek is in steady supply.

Take jadeite, for example. It’s a highly collectible material, often seen in kitchen wares — think salt and pepper shakers, butter dishes, and cake plates in that signature shade of pale green. It’s wildly popular, and also easily accessible (there are usually more than 100,000 listings for jadeite items on eBay at any given time). But you don’t want any piece of jadeite you can find — picking the ones that are most beautiful to you, or that fit in with your current favorites, is what makes collecting fun.

If your collection is getting started, says Nelson, don’t rush to fill it up. “It’s okay to build your home as you go,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be perfect or totally finished, in my opinion. Part of the beauty of the home is layering and creating spaces over time. If you think your collection isn’t ready yet, don’t let that stop you from displaying it.”


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