What’s the secret to arranging a collection that’s cohesive, not chaotic? Designers reveal their strategies for instilling harmony and order.
“Simple white wood frames brought uniformity to my client’s suffragette postcards,” says designer Ramsay Gourd. Treated like art and hung by the hundreds on one wall of a Vermont country home’s bunkhouse, the early-1900s give-us-the-vote illustrations “counterbalance the full wall of bookshelves that are directly opposite.”
Judy Bentley united artwork and antique creamware in the Atlanta home of her onetime boss, designer Dan Carithers, by restricting the palette and relying on symmetry. “It’s a very elegant grouping because the colors are subtle and similar,” she says. Since a table full of pottery could resemble a tag sale, Bentley made sure that “the pieces on the right echo those on the left. The plates on the wall act as connectors, linking the collections.”
Have a spare bare wall? Turn it into a gallery, says designer Darryl Carter. When a renovation exposed a wall beyond a staircase, Carter installed shallow shelves. Now they serve as floor-to-ceiling perches for 19th-century flow-blue plates and platters — all in similar sizes and hues — and are the centerpiece of this Washington, D.C., kitchen.
Fitted with shelves, a window in Katie Ridder’s Millbrook, New York, home became a showcase for colorful glass bottles and a tiny Swedish oil lamp. “The charm is that it’s loose and unstructured,” she says. “I randomly rearrange it twice a year when I dust.”
In his New York City loft, Thomas Jayne created a cabinet of curiosities-inspired vignette of sea rocks and shells. A mirror doubles the effect and a brass stand injects height: “An all-horizontal display can feel one-note. Varied elevations are more surprising.
If Mackay Boynton had placed just two or three of his millefiori and Murano-glass paperweights on the table near the entry of his Dallas home — rather than all 45 of them — “it wouldn’t have the same impact,” he says. “Here you’re walloped — boom! — by a huge gathering of prettiness.” Unfazed by placement or provenance, Boynton mingles junk-store finds with Baccarat antiques and doesn’t sweat what goes where: “There are no strict rules. It’s a mysterious alchemy!”
This story was originally published in the February 2018 issue of CQ.