25 March 2009

Collecting Lust... In Honor of Elton John's Birthday Today!

I've been a huge fan of Elton John's music since I was nine years old. He's been a fan of fun, funky eyeglasses for almost that long. As a collector, Elton needs a place to keep all of those spectacles. So, in honor of his birthday today, March 25, I've decided to create a blog post on storing and displaying your collectibles.

Greatest Hits from my Fave Hit Maker!

The first consideration, as in Elton's eyeglass example, is whether the collection is in use, for display only or a combination of both. That will determine its location and storage method.

The second consideration is the collection's value. Does it need to be locked and alarmed because of its high cost, or irreplacability?

A third, related, consideration is maintenance of its condition. Some collections, like books, wine, quilts and art, need to be protected from direct sunlight. Others may be subject to breakage in an earthquake-prone environment, or one with active children or pets.

Last, but not least, are collections that are intended to be eye candy for a room. What is the best way to arrange and light such a display?

Let's look at each scenario.


A collection that's in active use is one that needs to be strategically located in easy reach of its owner, where he or she is most likely to need it. This could be eyeglasses, watches, purses or shoes. Any one of them could be stored with the collector's other personal effects, or in a convenient spot close to where they will be used most regularly.

For example, if the homeowner collects designer sunglasses, an alternative spot to his or her dressing room is at the garage entrance in a suburban home, or at the most-frequently used entry door. In most cases, sunglasses would only be used outside, so being able to access them on the way out would be ideal. Another point-of-use collection would be wine. In many cases, it will be enjoyed in the public areas of one's home, with friends, neighbors and relatives. Therefore, wine storage is often located near the dining and living areas. An especially valuable collection will be climate-controlled, and may be secured in a locked room.

Custom Residential Wine Cellar by Wine Cellar Innovations

Shoes and purses that are regularly worn would work best in a dressing area. Fabric models need to be stored away from direct sunlight, which can fade them over time. If you saw the Sex and the City film last year, you saw the ultimate dressing room for protagonist and shoe goddess Carrie Bradshaw.

Carrie Bradshaw's To-Die-For Closet in Sex and the City Movie

Watches, like fine wine, may require more security. Many also require winding. A secure room off a dressing area just for your watch collection may be called for, especially if most of the collection is regularly worn.


Some watch collectors - especially those preferring antiques - will display, rather than wear, most of their collection. In this scenario, the watches won't be stored in a dressing room, but in the area of the home where the collector will enjoy it most. This might be a den, library, billiards room or home office. It will likely house other collectibles, as well, that are meaningful to that homeowner. The watches, however, might require greater security. Locked, shatter-proof glass-front built-ins could be the approach for this collector.

Custom Collection by ORBITA Watchwinders

Rare books are another example of a collection to be publicly viewed. However, sunlight, dust and finger oils could prove damaging to such a collection, so their display must be carefully planned. I'd suggest displaying them behind UV-filtered glass to protect them from the sun's harmful rays and dust. Those that are especially rare and precious can be locked up, as well.

Other types of collections are enhanced by light. These include pottery and crystal. If your collection is mainly intended for display, rather than food or flower use, you can display it in LED-illuminated glass-front cabinets for maximum effect. Often, this is achieved by planning built-ins in your kitchen, dining room or living areas. (If they're intended for your kitchen, be sure to locate them outside of your key work areas, where storage should be dedicated to workware.) Sculpture and large-scale pottery show beautifully on illuminated pedestals or in well-lit niches.

Pottery Collection Illuminated in Remodeled JG Client Kitchen

If you live in an earthquake-prone area, consult with your local museum's conservators about how they secure their artwork for available local resources.


I'm a collector myself. My vintage postcards fill an album in our living room. My nature photographs adorn the stairway wall. My architecture and history books line shelves in our loft, dwarfed by my husband's humongous library! My white pottery collection lives on a plant shelf in my office. The green pottery and crystal occupy space in our dining room hutch. I'm not an expert in this area. I just like collecting stuff, especially when vacationing!

Bob Timberlake's Shell Collector's Cocktail Table -
Great for Displaying Trip Souvenirs

To gain some expertise, I consulted three different experts on incorporating collections into your surroundings. Here is their input:

An Architect's Perspective

Dean Larkin, AIA - Dean Larkin Design, West Hollywood, CA
  • For exceptionally valuable collections, I recommend a secure room built exclusively for their display.
  • If you're building a new home, climate, lighting and security features can be incorporated into the walls or cabinetry where the collection will be displayed.
  • Clients who are avid collectors are getting home plans where square footage is being dedicated to their passion. When you have so much money invested, it's smart to dedicate an area to them. That way, they can be cared for and enjoyed in the proper environment.
  • To choose among public spaces to display a collection, I'm going to find out where the client spends the most time with guests and that's where we're going to find a spot for it.
  • Here are some additional display ideas for a collector with multiple passions. For the dive watch and scuba enthusiast, for example: Wouldn't it be great to have a saltwater aquarium built into the walls with adjacent niches for your dive watches? These niches would be lit in blue or green tones to give them an underwater look that coordinates with the neighboring aquarium. With LED lights you can replicate almost any color. They're pretty amazing technology.

An Organizer's Perspective

Susan Layden - Susan's Organizing Solutions - Tampa, FL
  • When displaying collectibles, such as pottery, paperweights or blown glass - think in groups of odd numbers (three, five, seven). Put out your best or your favorite pieces to keep it really special or unique. Vary the heights of items, if possible, by putting them on clear risers for added interest. Greenery, fabric or some other textural element may add interest or dimension depending on the items being displayed.
  • Think about the scale of the table, shelf or wall you are going to display on versus the number and size of the pieces or picture art you are putting out. Is it well-balanced? Is it crowded or does it look lost in a sea of too much space?
  • A piece of furniture may serve a dual purpose, such as a bookcase, which may serve to help divide a room, while at the same time holding collectibles and books. One well-displayed piece will call more attention to itself than many things, which will just get lost amongst each other.
  • Lighting (uplighting and downlighting) can also create visual interest and drama for your collectibles. Simple cup hooks and fishing line can be used creatively in many display cases to great benefit with certain pieces of art.
  • To prevent your collections from overtaking your home, try to keep focused on only one or two things. If you collect every blown glass vase or figurine that you see, your home will look like a flea market. Keep your focus narrow in scope through color, style, artist, etc. Group the items on a mantel, shelf or tabletops while smaller items can be displayed in a shadow box, display case or sometimes on a window sill. If you have a large collection, consider storing some of the pieces and occasionally changing the pieces out so they can truly be appreciated.

A Decorator's Perspective

Charla Lagasse - Drab to Fab Interiors - Brandon, FL

  • I always like to spread pieces around, so that they aren't all in one spot.....this tells a nicer story for each piece displayed
  • Place your more valuable pieces in a curio/display cabinet for safety. This will protect them against wagging tails and running children.
  • Try to use a down or up light when displaying large pieces for a very dramatic look. Go ahead and show off your treasures
  • You may have many pieces of one collection, but that doesn't mean you need to display them all at one time. Choose five to seven of your favorites to display at one time. Put the rest in safe keeping. Then, periodically or seasonally, rotate them in and out of display.

Charla's kitchen buffet, designed by JG and decorated by Charla,
illuminates her glassware collection

Thanks, guys... Now I've got to go move some stuff around the house! See you here again soon.

Coming Soon on Gold Notes:

Next Week: I love garden stools!
Following Week: Passover-inspired Kosher Kitchen posting


  1. I love colecting pottery JT Pottery has a great line of pottery they even have a web page about throwing the pottery. I buy most of my dinnerware from them.


  2. The title came from a comment by Bernie Taupin's wife about an Elton John rant. The guitar introduction is classic and the energetic vocal is backed

  3. Vary the heights of items, if possible, by putting them on clear risers for added interest. Greenery, fabric or some other textural element may add interest or dimension depending on the items being displayed.

  4. Thanks for the comments! I appreciate your stopping by, and hope you'll visit and share more ideas.


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