Though I'm one to let my collections ramble, rather than opting for strict, measured arrangements, I find that there are a few things that help me bring some order to the chaos.
I have an aversion to things being displayed flat on walls or shelves. Domes are a great solution – they come in lots of sizes, make it easy to change the content and are a sculptural form in themselves. Create small realities or dioramas with your finds that are 3D and best viewed from all angles. I like that there’s a direct reference to the history of collecting in these , in that I’m using them in a very similar way to how they would have been used hundreds of years ago. Shop domes here.
I bought my first set at auction when I was in my late teens. I have always enjoyed organising my collections in my own way, giving them all a place to live, in some state of organised chaos, and accessible when required. I keep an eye out for old shop, museum & library furniture, including glass-fronted milliners’ drawers, wooden filing cabinets, plan drawers and pigeonholes. Many are made from oak & kauri pine, with lovely simple hardware (note: you can always change the hardware if it’s not to your liking).
Hangers & hooks
Not just for coats & clothes. I use coat hangers to show off everything, including amulets, beautiful scarves, textiles and posters, which I hang from a picture rail or hook or bookshelf. I pick up old wooden & wire ones in markets and vintage clothing stalls. You can never have too many hooks. Although I do not have hooks on the back of all my doors, I use them much more liberally , to hang sponges and hammam towels in the bathroom, for mirrors on the stairway. Make a feature of them. I buy them on boards or as single sin salvage places. Shop hangers here.
A tool I’ve used throughout my styling career and which sits as easily at home in the third drawer. However, I have way too many varieties for one small drawer! I lean towards paper & fabric tapes in all thicknesses & colours. I’m always happy to see them sticking & securing various bits & pieces on my walls; some are even artworks on their own or a great accessory to an existing one. Shop tape here.
Hand-tooled, whittled & carved, each wooden peg has its own character and function. My mother once gave me a gypsy peg: split wood with a band of thin brass at the top and tiny nails to keep the pieces together. A peg is a utilitarian object that reminds me of a time when crafts were an everyday part of life. I imagine them travelling in an old chipped enamel bowl in a colourfully painted caravan, and used to peg up many layered skirts on a line strung between the trees by a river.
Many of the museums I frequent have the best old labelling and, although it is merely a form of categorising, identifying & organising, I see so much beauty in a label tied to a bird skin, a simple rectangular typed & dated label on top of a corked test tube or stoppered apothecary jar. Buy old and new labels, and add to your old containers.
Old cardboard boxes hold the romance of days gone by. Not only because of the shop’s stamp & labelling that might be on them but also for the box’s specific shape & size, the quality & texture of the cardboard structure, the attention to the edge details and even the hardware that holds the corner. I upcycle old boxes when they come my way to house my own collections of ribbons, bulldog clips etc. Not only are boxes practical, but they look beautiful, too. Find your own versions of these elements – or borrow them from me – that will help you strike a balance between chaos & considered. It always pays to have a few tricks up your sleeve.