Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How To Display a Collection

dressingroom_luggagecloseup

Last weekend, I headed over to my friend Paul's place for an afternoon of popcorn and prosecco (it's a thing; trust) to celebrate my (8th) 29th birthday. Fun was had, laughs were shared, stories were swapped and ogling was done.

diningroom_vases

No, not *that* kind of ogling (Geez people, get your minds out of the gutter). Nope, it was ogling of the "cool stuff" persuasion. You see, Paul has one of the most  beautifully-curated collections that I've ever had the pleasure of hanging with. Walking through his condo is like walking through a museum. Except cozier, with music, wine and snacks.

dressingroom_bins

Since I get a lot of questions from clients and friends about what kinds of things they should collect, how they should showcase their collections and how they should maintain them so that they don't take over, I figured I'd snap some shots of Paul's space while I was there guzzling, share them on the blog as a kind of visual "How To" and provide a few rules of thumb that help Paul keep his collections in check and his home so lovely.

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1.) ANYTHING CAN BECOME A COLLECTION
Paul was raised surrounded by lovely things; his parents were well-known collectors and dealers of American Primitives and Folk Art and it's clear that their love of beautifully-rendered pieces with clean lines was passed down to their son. But his home isn’t just filled with fine antiques (although it certainly holds some stunners); it also includes several unique groupings of items that have been gathered during his travels like sand from beaches he's visited...

diningroom_sandcollection

…pebbles and beach stones from places with personal meaning…

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…a collection of notes and documents from throughout his career as an architect…

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...even L.L. Bean tote bags that he uses to house his clothes.

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What Paul does so masterfully is to house all these collections simply, uniformly and by color: the sand specimens are all stored in glass bottles he bought inexpensively online and organized by tone on his shelves, the stones are sorted by color and housed uniformly in large glass canisters, his documents are housed by size, shape and color and the LL Bean totes are all identical. By grouping them by their similarities, he gives these smaller items a collective sense of presence.


2.) THERE IS STRENGTH IN SIMPLICITY
Paul's master bedroom has a very simple palette of white and soft turquoise – explicitly chosen to pick up on the antique tile fireplace surround.

bedroom_overview

But instead of just picking up the color in the bedding like most people would opt to do, he's actually built collections around the color. My favorite? His relatively new collection of vintage paperback Penguin Classics...

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Do you know how many of these I had in college? And just threw out? Ugh.


3.) GIVE YOUR STUFF ROOM TO BREATHE
I think that this is what Paul does really successfully (and what many people forget); collections need to be presented in such a way that you can really study them.

bathroom_shells

Essentially, there needs to be space all around a grouping so that the eye can be drawn to it. If there’s no break in the visual smorgasbord, the viewer is overwhelmed. Leaving a little breathing room allows the eye to rest and the mind to process what it’s just seen.

guestroom_oars

Think about it this way: do you like it when someone invades your personal space? No? Well, neither does your stuff.


4.) DON'T TAKE YOUR COLLECTIONS TOO SERIOUSLY
Yes, you spend time – and money – building a collection. But doing it should be FUN and that joy needs to be visually apparent.

diningroom_ammunitionbasket

If it's not fun to look at, your treasures are going to end up being as annoying as those obnoxious people who go on and on about obscure wines and how difficult it was for them to get their hands on a bottle … instead of just uncorking the suckers and letting everyone enjoy the taste.

dressingroom_oceancitysign

ENJOY the collection. Otherwise? It’s just stuff.



5.) SOMETIMES JUST ONE OF SOMETHING IS ENOUGH
Paul has plenty of collections interspersed throughout his space … but there are several wonderful spots in his home that highlight the singularity of one of his finds.

dressingroom_strawhat

While there is undoubtedly strength in numbers, it’s important to remember that sometimes it IS good to be an island.

This tiny sculpture in Paul’s guest room is one such example…

guestroom_wirehangersculpture

It was made in a matter of minutes by an acquaintance of his out of a wire coat hanger (a coat hanger!) and it is the fact that it stands alone that makes it so striking. Placed between two larger items (a mid-century style lamp and an over-sized framed photograph of Frank Lloyd Wright), its diminutive size catches the eye and the space around it helps capture the imagination.

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So there you have it; the Five Commandments of Collecting (according to me). What do you think; did I miss something? Do you disagree? Would love to know your thoughts and insights.


PS - A million thanks to Paul for letting me poke around his place …  and for the birthday prosecco (we’ve got do that again sometime soon when I’m not toting around a giant camera and trying not to spill); xxx.



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