People collect all kinds of things: pottery and silverware, sure, but also souvenir Statues of Liberty, vintage quilts, geodes, wind-up toy snails, manual typewriters, seascapes, wax fruit, and tiny succulent houseplants. Regardless of the value (or even the quality) of a collection, how it is displayed makes the difference between its being clutter and art. In a curated display, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Separate objects become a unit that tells a story. This is true whether the collected objects are hung on a wall, placed on a narrow shelf, arranged in a cabinet—or occupy their own gallery wing.
Because of its translucence, glass is best displayed so that light moves through it. Consider glass front cabinets with subtle integrated lighting. A mirrored back, or a mirror placed behind glass on a shelf, shows off both sides of the objects and also bounces light through them. A very effective and inexpensive display is on glass shelves set into a window well, backlit by daylight or a light source. Colored glass in a window will throw colored light into the room, changing with the angle of the sun. Glass objects can simply sit on a windowsill for a similar result. A very different effect is produced depending on whether all of the glass is in one color, or if colors are mixed.
• For displays more than one object deep, glass is effective placed in front of white porcelain or stoneware.
The number-one rule in display: Pull objects together. Don’t scatter them around so they lose impact and (gasp) become clutter. “If you put a number of similar objects together, something magical can happen. One is nice, two is better, and three is a collection,” writes John Phifer Marrs, a well-known interior designer and antiquarian who is based in Dallas, in his new book Interiors for Collectors.
A “collection” comprises various objects that have something in common, whether that be material or type (clay vases), color (jadeite green), age or style (Aesthetic Movement smalls), motif (dragonflies), or shape (cubic). Pulling together objects for a display is step one. Step two is arrangement.
For more than a handful of objects, create a dynamic arrangement employing vertical and horizontal, foreground and background, and varying heights. Colors may be grouped together or mixed with an eye to overall balance.
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