A lot of love and time goes into a vintage collection. Countless hours spent at flea markets, antique stores, estate sales, and resale shops can result in sought-after treasures like ornaments, wall art, jewelry, and postcards. But for many of these items, they have an unfortunate destiny—a box that collects dust—mainly because the owner can’t think of a way to properly display them. After all, a person only has so much shelf space.
If you’re proud of your collection and don’t want your finds to face a similar fate, there are plenty of creative tricks to weave them into your home decor. A china cabinet is a perfectly acceptable place to present collectibles, but displaying them in an unexpected way can give a fresh, new look to your surroundings.
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Group small items together like vases—milk glass and depression glass look especially elegant—and place them in the center of your dining room table. A cluster of vases also allows for an opportunity to showcase greens and blooming bouquets.
Other vintage items that could serve as a finishing touch for your table? Lanterns, tins, small birdcages, brass containers, and candlesticks, for example.Continue to 2 of 10 below.
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Let diminutive collectibles take center stage in a picture frame hung on the wall. Simply glue and layer small, flat items onto a burlap, fabric or velvet backdrop. Buttons are ideal for this, along with sparkling vintage brooches, medals, and sequins.Continue to 3 of 10 below.
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Glass domes, otherwise known as cloches or bell jars, are having a moment. They have a long history, first serving a practical purpose during Colonial times, protecting plants in gardens from the elements. You also may picture them in a museum, housing insect and flower specimens. Nowadays, glass domes are frequently used in decor to spotlight a vignette or other small items. Show off a collection of bygone photos, rolls of twine or ceramic figurines.Continue to 4 of 10 below.
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Clipboards are stepping out of the office and onto walls as industrial-style holders for vintage paper items. Worn, rusted clipboards can be discovered at resale shops and garage sales, and can be easily hung using a piece of twine.
Clip up pages from a well-loved vintage tome or textbook, flashcards, love letters, postcards or magazine advertisements. If you’d like to reveal pieces of paper in all their imperfect glory— tatters, tears, and wear—a clipboard is a great way to do that.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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A bundle of vintage books or a color-coordinated row on a shelf always looks chic. But it doesn’t allow guests a view of the words lying hidden inside. Another way to display books is to simply open them up and hang them on the wall, curving and turning them to create a flowing pattern. A framed quote and antique chairs also set the scene for a nook made for reading.Continue to 6 of 10 below.
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Suitcases can be bulky objects to feature in a home. Bring a sense of cohesion to a vintage suitcase collection by stacking luggage in varying sizes on top of one another. A stack of suitcases looks best when they come from the same color or material family, like the leather luggage shown here. It’ll look like a scene straight out of an old-fashioned train station.Continue to 7 of 10 below.
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Printer trays and drawers, while once used in letterpress printing, now serve as sophisticated spots to give pint-sized objects a home. Here, designer and artist Chris Kuzmanovich honored the original intention of the trays by displaying letters and numbers in alternating sizes in vintage trays hung on the wall. Variations in colors infuse the display with visual appeal.
To build a collection for a printer’s tray, search for extra-tiny items on Etsy and in boxes and bins at flea markets. Great miniature vintage objects include bottles for watch parts, fèves (dime-sized French figurines baked into cakes during Epiphany) and Cracker Jack toys.Continue to 8 of 10 below.
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If you enjoy collecting wall art—silhouettes, paint-by-numbers, portraits—one innovative way to display them is to group similar-looking finds together and layer them. Various sizes and colors add interest. A tight, cohesive grouping of pictures lends itself to enhancing small spaces, like an accent wall or an entryway.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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A Winning Collection
Trophies and sterling silver cups have become favorites among flea market enthusiasts. Huddled together on a shelf or table, they carry a quirky, nostalgic vibe. Although they can stand alone as a collection, trophies are also an opportunity to bring the spotlight to other collections as well. Here, dried greens and found feathers are beautifully displayed. Other collections, like swizzle sticks, small arrows, hat pins, and driftwood, can be shown off as well.Continue to 10 of 10 below.
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A windowsill is a lovely, sun-filled setting to line up vintage bottles, but there’s another way to let the light shine through—on a chandelier. Pendant light kits are readily available at hardware stores as well as online, add a little elbow grease and you'll have your own one-of-a-kind light fixture in a few short hours.