Some guidelines on displaying antiques

Antique green vases with carnations

Sometimes a family member passes down something amazing…but you have no idea how to display it. Or you might collect antique items, but feel that they might clash with your current décor. Maybe you just have a great collection of Harry Potter collectibles, but how do you show off your geek passions without it looking like you have toys everywhere? There are many ways to display those trinkets and objects you love, from shadow boxes to side tables. So, before you decide to hide away your collection of antique bubblegum ads, try a few different ways to display them.

Group Things Together in Multitudes—But Not Randomly

While it might feel that having a lot of little objects on a table would just feel like noise, it really doesn’t have to be. When things are laid out randomly, it certainly does look like chaos, but all we need is a little organization. Arrange things by shades or colors. Or, if that isn’t an option, create patterns so that the eye can follow the flow of items. Not only will this look better, but it encourages guests to look at each item, and depending on where it’s displayed, become a conversation starter.

Wall with collage of framed memorabilia

Create a Montage Wall for (mostly) Flat Items

Instead of filing away those old photos, advertisements, or Victorian handkerchiefs from Paris, display them with pride. Find a good empty wall and form a grid to place each item, framed or not. Use the grouping rules here too—start with similar colors or shades and create patterns. Don’t worry about how much of the wall you fill. More isn’t bad in this case. Just make sure that it is safe from kids and pets. The last thing you want is your child ripping apart that 100-year-old picture of your great aunt twice removed.

Shelf with antique kitchen supplies

Shadowboxes and Other Displays

If your items are small yet a little too big to hang, a shadowbox or wall shelf is a great display feature, also grabbing guests’ attention as they walk by. But maybe that’s not enough. If you have a lot of items, think bigger—use a bookshelf for those lovely trinkets. You can stagger antique books with antique items for a really sophisticated display. As well, there’s nothing wrong with a display case or even something bigger like a breakfront or a curio cabinet. Breakfronts are great for displaying a lot of items in a safe way, but with the drawers, you also get the added bonus of storage…maybe for all those old family board games.

More suggestions from Better Homes & Garden!

grand piano and antique chair

Corners and Unused Spaces

Throughout your travels, you happened upon a beautiful antique rocking chair, but now you have no idea where to put it. Look at the corners of your rooms and see if they are a bit lonely. That’s a great place for a larger item. You can also use tables and chairs that you don’t want people to use to display more. For instance, and at the bemoaning of your teenagers, use that rocking chair to display those stuffed animals they carried around with them everywhere you went.

Coffee table with antique books

The Coffee Table Conversation Starter

Coffee tables are the center of a living room, but we rarely use it for coffee. That’s why we have coffee table books, or where we put a neatly tossed pile of magazines, to make it look like we have interests (has anyone ever actually read a coffee table book?). But instead of those odd and pricey books, display some of your heirlooms or collectibles in the center. If those are books, create a centerpiece with them instead of just having them scattered on the table. At the top of the stack of books, place a small but sturdy item—like a tree topper for literature.

Modern furnishings and older furnishing in brick loft

Mix and Match Décor for a Unique Aesthetic

It might not seem like that antique bronze desk lamp would go with your modern chrome and glass desk, but the contrast can be a very interesting look for your home office. Obsessing over time periods only works for museum curators. If items look good together, go for it. This can also prevent the “Ikea-syndrome” look. When things match too much, the feeling is unnatural and your house will look like a sterilized Ikea showroom. If something looks out-of-place for Ikea, it will probably just add a little character to your home.

Contact an interior designer!

Childs art

Stop Putting Your Kids’ Art on the Refrigerator

Save the fridge for magnets and to-do lists. Instead of the go-to “stick it on the fridge,” treat your children’s art projects like real art and create a wall display with nice but inexpensive frames. Not only can you display more pieces, but you can also create a rotating montage. Let your kids pick which pieces they want to put up or take down. And it isn’t limited to art. Frame that A+ spelling quiz. As they get older, incorporate their changing hobbies. Use the wall for pictures of their sporting events, or frame their writing—just keep the wall about them. Doing this will make your children feel a bit more special, but your friends with children on their own will want to steal this idea too.

Interior designer showing client swatches

Hire an Interior Designer

If you aren’t quite sure on how to display your treasured collectibles, have an interior designer come in to help come up with new ideas. We’re not overhauling your house—just deciding on better ways to set up your space to maximize display. They might just suggest reutilizing a table or moving furniture around a little to bring in a cabinet. Don’t be afraid of asking a service provider how to best display your collection of vintage superhero action figures—they’ll love any design challenge!

Above all—show your heirlooms, antiques, and collectibles the same love you have for them. If these things make you happy, bring them to life with a nice display. And every time you walk by them, you’ll love your home that much more.

Talk to an interior designer!