How to Display Collections and Personalize Your Home

Collections of sentimental trinkets, valuable antiques, and family heirlooms are not merely items to fill an empty shelf. Collections are small connections to our personal histories, representations of our hobbies, and sometimes small personal fortunes (at least in emotional wealth). Through properly curated design, collections can turn into conversation pieces and provide a way to connect with our guests, family, and friends. Our San Antonio based interior designers and architects are discussing not only the personal connections to collecting and the benefits of home personalization but also how to display collections in creative ways without looking cluttered.

Why Do We Collect? – A Brief History and the Importance of Collections and Heirlooms 

Collecting beautifully curated items and displaying them with pride ties deeply into human psychology and a desire to feel connected, accomplished, and educated. Collecting was not possible until humans transitioned from a nomadic lifestyle and settled down into homes and communities. In the 19th century Victorian era, collecting hit its peak, and unique collections were seen as a symbol of status and wealth, with entire rooms dedicated to the pastime. Studies show that once someone owns two of the same item, it is likely that a collection will grow. There are three main reasons why humans are drawn to collecting. 

1. Profit and Prestige 

Preserving family heirlooms passes down memories as well as savings, adding additional incentive to serving holiday dinners on grandma’s china set rather than purchasing a new one from the department store. Some rare collectibles also bring in big profits and prestige, with stamps and coins grossing thousands of dollars at auction. Many collectors will trade and sell, while others prefer to cash in on social capital at dinner parties. 

2. Nostalgia and Sentimentality 

Collecting also allows us to hold on to memories from our lives or even nostalgia from decades we’ve never experienced. For example, a collector of 1950s automobiles may never have driven one in their youth, but now can experience the feeling of an era through trade shows with fellow enthusiasts. Sentimental items may have no value outside of a household but deliver warm feelings when proudly displayed.  

3. Personalization and Uniqueness 

In recent design trends, we see a move away from sterile minimalism and carbon copy design that can be purchased by anyone on the showroom floor and an embrace of unique personalization. Preserving and displaying antique family heirlooms is one way to ensure your home isn’t like the neighbors. 

How to Personalize Your Home with Collections 

Home personalization can come in the form of a major renovation or reveal itself in the small details. Decorative details, like accessories and collections, can accent unique architectural features your home already has while showcasing your unique personality. For example, if you love unicorns, why not create a gallery wall of the art and figurines you’ve collected through the years. This design choice can draw attention to the architectural lines of your living room, create visual interest with the addition of shelving, and provide a meaningful way to connect with your beautiful collection. When personalizing your home, make sure it is designed for you, rather than your neighbors. (Though, the neighbors will probably love the unicorn display too.)   

5 Creative Ways to Display Your Collections 

When it comes to creative ways on how to display your collections, there are endless possibilities. Here are 5 of our favorite ways to display collections that can easily be applied to any space. 

1. Showcase Items on Custom Shelving  

For extensive collections of figurines, sculptures, or toys, custom shelving may be the most practical option for displaying your cherished items. For smaller spaces, shelving running along the top of the wall allows for a prominent display space without taking up too much room. Oversized built-ins are perfect for living room displays where there is room to group and curate items. To achieve a truly custom look, design shelving with perfectly sized dividers to showcase each item. 

2. Create a Gallery Wall  

If you collect flat items, like art, stamps, or plates, creating a gallery wall will allow you to decorate your walls and display your collection with pride. When designing your gallery wall, it is crucial to create a layout and grouping plan. Try playing with size, color, and pattern. 

3. Decorate the Fireplace Mantel 

For smaller collections, the fireplace mantel is the perfect place to display items with pride. To create a cohesive look, group items by height with taller items on the ends. Guests are naturally inclined to gather around a fireplace focal point, so this is the perfect place to strike up a conversation about your unique collection.  

4. Design a Designated Library or Curio Room 

Occasionally, homeowners find that while they love their collection, it doesn’t fit the rest of their overall decor style. For example, maybe they love film memorabilia, but the items feel out of place throughout their coastal-inspired beach house. Creating a library or curio room for your collection is the perfect opportunity to go wild with the theme and put your items on full display without inhibition. Remember to create a seating space in the room to sit back and enjoy your collectibles. 

5. Embrace Maximalism 

If you’ve collected for decades, it’s time to take your cherished items out of storage and fully embrace the maximalist aesthetic. This style option focuses on applying bold patterns, plush furniture, and a mix of styles. Plus, it banishes the idea of minimalism and embraces life’s extra comforts. 

5 Ways to Display Your Collections without Looking Cluttered 

When displaying collections, many homeowners get concerned that their homes will look cluttered. Here are five easy ways to display your collections without your home feeling busy. 

1. Cluster Items in Groups 

Grouping items makes the placement feel intentional rather than haphazard and cluttered. Groups of odd numbers are particularly pleasing, as are groupings of varying heights. 

2. Create Focal Points 

Rather than sprinkling your collection throughout your home, create one large focal point to display your items on, like a custom shelving unit, a hutch, or a gallery wall. 

3. Sort Items by Color 

Sorting your items by color will create a beautiful visual effect and establish a sense of organization. This method is particularly useful for books on a bookshelf. 

4. Treat All Collections as Art

When displaying your collection, don’t think of your cherished items as clutter. Treat the entirety of your collection as pieces of art, whether you collect paintings or action figures. 

5. Rotate Items Seasonally 

For some, the size of the collection may significantly exceed the size of the home. If this is the case, try rotating items seasonally. This way, you will get to see all of your items throughout the year. 

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