Design Tricks to display collectibles

Curating a juicy room of chic or a whole house takes stamina and courage. There is much to do and so many decisions to make. Sometimes it is easier to let it all go, while carrying on.

You know there is something wrong but you can’t quite put your finger on what it is about those unfinished spaces and cluttered shelves that keep you feeling uncomfortable. Being Chic inside and out means diluting the clutter, and dialing up the vibration. Your rooms are on hold for that final edit, to morph into the sanctuary you crave.

Shelf of Collectibles

On a recent consult at a client’s home, I was reminded how challenging it can be to mesh your self expression with that finished look.  Her living room is a prime example of how over decorating can make or break a space. Lots of lovely collectables gathered from around the world on every surface.  The room felt busy and overwhelming, not a space to relax in.   Whether this is your personal sanctuary or a shared space, the more items that are competing for attention, the harder it is to get comfortable.

Luckily my zone of genius is exhilarated with the challenge of a little arranging.  When I left, the room was singing a different tune and my client was way more relaxed.  I figured I would share a couple of tips to get you to shelve it.

 Displaying all you have, together creates disharmony. Are you filling up every inch so as not to ‘waste” space? Creating what is known in the trade as ‘white space’ is a good thing. ‘Wasting’ space helps you enjoy a room more.   So free up more space and be deliberate and discriminating. If you want peace then you have to deal with all your pieces.

Tying in glasses and decanter with jewels for a client

 Close the Gap. When displaying art or collections bring the pieces together, as if you are making a single piece of art. Yes, there needs to be space in between but not as much as you think.  Just like furniture and life all the pieces should relate to each other. Shape an appealing visual picture that meshes height, weight and volume.

At a loss to get started? Start small. Look around your room at your walls and shelves. Is there a spot where it feels too busy or crowded?   Start by removing everything from the shelves and putting it all on the table so you can see what you have to work with. Might be a good opportunity to clean those shelves while they are empty.

Displays can be split up like this clients teapot collection

 Go big first – The most visible or eye level shelf is a good place to start as it will attract the most attention. Start with the largest item on the shelf you are working on, and look for a couple items that compliment the first, keeping in mind that you are creating motion in the stillness.  Create a story in pieces.

Engage in shelf tricks- If you have two shelves side by side try to mimic a similar look on both sides. Repetition is a time tested trick. Test out a couple of groupings with varying heights, widths and volume like a tall statue, a medium height rounded vase item and smaller light-filled crystal the middle. If you place a vignette in the middle of the shelf, flip flop or shift grouping to the other side on the shelf below. Experiment with placing two separate groupings on one shelf, one bigger and the second smaller, without losing balance.

Mixing it up for a client

Make Conversation – Get your pieces talking to one another. The key to giving good shelf is to relate the pieces and let the art flow. Each shelf should be weighted visually and linked to the pieces in the group, and every shelf must be designed so the whole shelving display works as a unit. Play around with layout, design groupings with odd numbers and remember the cardinal rule that less is more. Instead of adding one more piece take one away.

Create unity and balance – Whether on a wall or on a shelf, the space in between and how the pieces work together matter. Differences and repetition add interest. Mix up materials and dont be shy about using the same color over and over, vary heights and then repeat again in another spot to add that visual variety.  A designer trick that makes a powerful statement is using one color while mixing form and texture. Easy on the pocket too if you buy thrift store bargains and spray or paint. Check your work constantly. As you design the shelves, step back to see how the forms look from a distance and if they relate as a whole. Working close up is tricky, stepping back helps to edit and refine.

Creating connections

The rules on a shelf are the same as in life. Have fun with the mix and get your collections to be both good stand alone pieces and to socialize with each other and the room.   Pull elements from the room onto the shelf and vice versa.  Invest in white (empty)  space to give the eye a chance to rest.  Too much stuff left over?  Store it to rotate, or give it away. Simple on the shelf means juicy and chic in life.

What do your shelves look like? Does reading this post inspire you to shift some stuff around to soothe your soul?  I would love to read your thoughts in a comment below.  If you need help curating your shelves or in creating  a room that makes you feel confident, contact me jen@jendchene;com

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