6 Stylish Ways to Display Collections

  • 01 of 06

    Turn Wasted Space into Display Space

    The wasted space above kitchen cabinets becomes display space for a collection of vintage globes.
    Sarah M. Golonka/Photodisc / Getty Images

    That wasted space above the upper kitchen cabinets is the bane of many a decorator, DIY and pro. It looks odd empty but it usually looks awkward filled.

    Displaying this collection of vintage globes is a smart use of the space. The globes are too bulky to display en masse at eye level without eating up all of your surface space. Displaying them above the cabinets keeps them in sight, but out of the way.

    This solution works visually because the globes – which are decorated all the way around – look good when viewed from below. Keep that in mind when choosing a collection to display.

  • 02 of 06

    Contain It

    Display of shells and pottery fragments in a shallow, handcrafted bowl.
    CC BY 2.0, "Conchiglie" by orsorama

    Some small-scale, relatively sturdy collectibles look better jumbled in a container than displayed flat. Matchbooks, vintage marbles, antique buttons, and this mixed collection of seashells and pottery fragments are all good examples. 

    Choose a container that complements the materials, colors, and overall feel of your collection. You don't have to use a bowl, though that's frequently a striking choice. Other options include compotes, apothecary jars, brandy snifters, and small baskets. Even retro ashtrays and old canning jars look stylish in the right settings.

  • 03 of 06

    Float It as a Focal Point

    Displayed on clear acrylic and glass, these Mayan artifacts seem to float.
    CC BY 2.0, "Museum Exhibitions: Mayan Pottery Display by Phil Manker" by Phil Manker

    This collection of Mayan pottery at Hartford, Connecticut's Wadsworth Atheneum would stun in nearly any setting. But, mounted on clear acrylic stands and displayed on glass shelves, the pieces appear to float. That's going to draw the eye regardless of the rest of the room, which makes the display a natural focal point.

    You don't need a collection of this caliber to use a similar display. In fact, the display method makes a modest collection look more important. But, be aware that the lack of background "noise" puts all the attention on the objects. Choose pieces that can stand up to the scrutiny.

    This display features custom shelving fitted into a recess in the wall, but you can get a similar look by installing glass shelves on slender wall-mounted brackets. Opt for matte, silver-toned brackets or wooden versions you can paint to match the wall. They won't be completely invisible, but they'll be subtle enough not to detract from the floating effect.

  • 04 of 06

    Make a Mini Gallery

    Stairway landing decorated with handmade textiles and wire hands.
    CC BY 2.0, "a little hallway of handmade textiles..." by denise carbonell

    Hallways and staircase landings tend to be last on decorating to-do lists. Instead of thinking of yours as something you have to get to eventually, consider it gallery space for collections you can hang.

    This designer turned the landing into a place to showcase handmade textiles and wire hands. A slender table and colorful lamp complete this captivating space.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Box It Up

    Corral a collection of sea urchin shells in a decorative, shallow box.
    CC BY 2.0, "then i set them aside & see what they..." by denise carbonell

    Even when they're lovely and part of a larger collection, small-sized objects can look like clutter, especially if you've set a bunch of them around. Corralling them in a larger container, such as a tray or this shallow-sided box, forces the eye to see them as a cohesive group.

  • 06 of 06

    Arrange It by Color

    Danish Modern glassware collection arranged by color.
    CC BY 2.0, "Vintage glassware collection" by Dee Speed

    The owner of this Danish Modern glassware understands that en masse looks even more impressive when you actually have a mass. A collection like this draws gasps no matter what, but grouping the pieces by color makes it a showstopper.