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Collections {we love ‘em}

I’m excited to talk about collections today for a simple reason – they’re everywhere! Most of my friends and the design shops that I visited over the weekend down in Boston are moving far away from the “less is more” decor and embracing the pack rat within, but in a more organized fashion – through gorgeous groupings – and I love seeing it.

Decorating that bends the rules and reaches deep into the soul, pulling out your story, dreams, and emotions, and placing objects that reflect these things in your space is empowering. I love being around things that make me feel positive and motivated, and sometimes certain objects do this for me. Combining like items, or objects that relate to one another somehow, create order. This is something we all strive to attain – a sense of order and balance while showcasing parts of our unique personality. Most neat freaks and minimalists disregard scattered objects as useless clutter or little piles of chaos, opting for a more streamlined design. They claim there’s no time to clean around tons of tiny things piled all over. And I see the point. But life in a perfect model home isn’t for me either, so I’d rather hire someone to clean my collections for me or do what I currently do – block out time on a Saturday afternoon to clean my home. But I agree that rooms can appear chaotic and be a nightmare to clean when objects are bursting from every surface.

That’s why I’m a big fan of collections – placing things together instead of scattered randomly all over. Collections work best for a variety of personality types and design styles – from those who favor streamlined interiors to others who embrace a cozy lived-in decor. Why? Because all can achieve harmony and order by placing a careful collection, or two, or ten, in various places in the home depending on how much you’d like to show.

This is a collection of embroidered works that Esther from Mokka bags pulled together to form a gorgeous rug. Do you see something interesting here? A collection doesn’t need to be something sitting idle on a shelf – it can be a grouping of things you love put to good use!

This is an usual way to display a collection – on the floor! I loved it the second I read about this rug on the Style Files today.

For some, if you like very little on display, a collection to you may mean three 3 items on a single floating shelf over a sofa. And that’s it. For others, a collection gives them them the chance to fill every shelf with something exciting to gaze upon. I’ll leave how far you go with the amount of collections up to you — ultimately it’s your home and my preferences here aren’t important. But I can point you to some good tips that I’ve used to make those collections do what you’ve intended for them – to showcase objects in a creative way that is visually interesting.

Collections add dimension to a room in ways both seen and unseen. Pattern, color, or texture are introduced to let you know about the person living there. These curiosities add warmth, make guests feel at home, and give the space character – yours! On an otherwise boring white bookcase flanking a fireplace, group a special collection to add pattern there, for instance, instead of filling it with books that you never read simply because you reason that bookcases need to be filled with books, right? Ha! No way!

Lorena Siminovich, a talented artist from San Francisco, shows us the importance of a balanced collection using her bookcases. She knows when “enough is enough” and she’s got a great handle on symmetry – because her bookcases flank her fireplace, Lorena needed to balance each one so they relate to one another, have the right amount of “stuff” on each or else one side would look heavier than the other, and all this while still being creative and showcasing the things she loves without things appearing textbook perfect.

Lorena’s results are beautiful while still maintaining her authentic style.

How do I get started on a collection, you ask? Easy. Look for themes already in your home in the many objects you already have. You may see milk glass in random spots, maybe in your bathroom, a few items in your kitchen, and a beautiful piece displayed on your credenza. Would you like to create a collection displaying all of these arranged together? No? Okay, let’s leave the milk glass alone and look at other repeat objects in your home. Are those prints from Etsy I see stacked in a small pile on your dresser? Hmm… Perhaps you can start there.

Here’s a practical solution to showing off your growing collection of art. Purchase a few picture ledges, mount two (one directly over the other) to a free wall, and buy a series of white frames or frames that are all very similar in size and color. Take all of your prints, frame them, and arrange them on the ledge in various order to see what suits you. Step back. Admire. If you get tired of their order, move them around. If you tire of a specific print, purchase another or make something yourself using photos or a scrap of your favorite wallpaper, scrapbook paper, or fabric, and swap it out. Maybe you could include that cute drawing your baby cousin sent to you? That’s personal and gives your collection a great conversation piece.

Mixed media collage artist Michelle Caplan has a rotating gallery in her home. Using a simple bench, she displays her favorites pieces of the moment.

When I think of collections done right, Lisa Congdon comes to mind. Whenever I peek in on her, I notice she enjoys artful arrangements around her San Francisco home. She seems to always have something new and she does a beautiful job pulling in all the objects that relate to a particular theme that she’s working on. Here’s her recent plate collection, and another of vintage photos on her wall. See what I mean?

For a real treat, visit Lisa’s pool of creative collections. You’ll look at everything in your home differently after checking out her photos.

For a successful collection, there needs to be a theme behind it. I don’t necessarily mean that it has to be object-related – only owls or only white pottery, although these are both common and pretty ones, just as deer, mercury glass, feathers, plates, silhouettes, vintage cameras, globes, clocks, are other popular collections. But a collection can be based around an emotion using a variety of objects to show the emotion.

You can also have collections centered around a theme, such as a season, color, or designer. Some love to collect white pottery only from the pot-king himself, Jonathan Adler. Others collect objects from outside and group them together to show more of a seasonal display of objects (acorns, leafs, seed pods, etc.). Still others are looking to group items together that radiate a certain feeling – this display created by Creature Comforts, who is a highly creative blogger and shop owner by the way, shows us an example of this.

Creature Comforts’ displays many different objects that relate somehow, through various tones of white, along with clear glass, mercury glass, and milk glass, to show us what Winter means through her eyes. A refreshing mix, isn’t it? The reflective surface of the mercury glass adds a festive spark.

Then you have Brooklyn designer Lena Corwin, a lady that many of us are keenly interested in because she has such a great eye for color and pattern, and she shows this through even the most “mundane” objects, things that no longer seem so everyday when she comes in contact with them.

Lena’s way of displaying objects is very appealing. Take her vintage collection of mugs on a simple shelf.

Of course, not all objects on display are ones you can pick up and examine, as we saw early with that beautiful embroidered rug. Some are meant to be enjoyed from a few steps back, like art. In blogger Victoria’s home, you see an example of an inexpensive art collection grouped over a simple white sofa accented by pillows that pick up the pattern and colors in the art.

This is a great example of a collection done right – art displayed in a casual way, although Victoria confesses to spending time on this arrangement to get things right. But the end result is laid back bohemian, a style of living that this California lady embraces.

You can also build collections based on a season or holiday, as we’ve mentioned already, but here’s an example to ground the fact that seasonal decor doesn’t have to be tacky or purchased in one single trip to some big box store. The very word collection means “something that is collected; a group of objects or an amount of material accumulated in one location, esp. for some purpose or as a result of some process”. Notice it doesn’t say “collected from one location” rather “accumulated in one location”. Big difference. Collecting is all about taking time to build something and enjoying the process so that the gathering of things in one location, be that a credenza, cabinet, or wall, means something very personal to you.

This is a good example of a collected group of seasonal delights that evolved over time. These dazzling vintage tree toppers owned by Mindy from Retro Clean. Mindy tells us, “These vintage tree toppers are my Christmas decorating obsession. I have 39 of them on display and a few more that I didn’t put out. I can’t pass one up when I see them at a sale. Most have been obtained at yard sales or estate sales.”

Here is a collection of little trees from Stephanie Barnes, also known as one half of the 3191 blogging duo, mixed in with some other objects. When I look at Stephanie’s collections, I imagine that she is trying to tell a story or convey a feeling through her displays. You almost have to peer closely and use your imagination to figure out her displays, and that is really fun I think.

This is a collection of goodies from Nina van de Goor, who has the most gorgeous photos of things she is inspired by right here. This grouping seems to be pretty random, but shows that a collection doesn’t need to be planned out or guided by one specific item. You may find random items at flea markets or gifts from your friends that just seem to work together and after some arrangement, it just works. Perhaps it has to do with the balance she’s created in the harmony of blue and red?

I’d really like to see what you’re collecting lately, and hope that you’ll jump in and share either through a comment or via photos (email me!). I’ve created a flickr group called Creative Collections if you’d like to add your photos there. I hope you’ll join! I’ll be using some of them here on decor8 throughout the week to talk more on the topic.

(images linked above to their photo bugs)

Posted in inspiration, trends on December 10, 2007
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Cozy Candle Jars {DIY}

Here’s a little something to keep your candles cozy this weekend, to bring a bit of inexpensive warmth and glow to your home that looks slightly more original than the standard candle holders found in most stores.


I came up with this idea while looking at gift wrap in Target the other day. In the section where they have all of their new wrapping papers and bags, I found these knit wine holders for under $3 and had to have them. But not for giving away or even using for the intended purpose. The second I saw them I wanted to chop them in two and use them on my old jars – the ones I find at flea markets for $1 that no one wants. Then at Crate and Barrel, I came across this delicate silver leaf, I think it was $7. You can also use something to accent your jar from the outdoors, like acorns, or a tiny handmade doll or felt animal. I thought that together, these little items would make an elegant and simple display near the window overlooking the red barn that sits next door.

Materials used: knit wine bag and a silver leaf to embellish a simple vintage jar.

The fun part about this little project is that it’s extremely easy and can be accomplished in less than 5 minutes once you have your little items laid out. You can use candle sticks or tea lights in your jar, it’s up to you. I was inspired by my trip to Stockholm in October and I wanted to recreate a little bit of that warmth and hygge feeling here in New Hampshire today, so this is what I came up with. (Thank you Emma for featuring one of these photos as your Flickr Friday collection today.)


Have a wonderful weekend, I’m wrapping up now as I have a Boston Globe party to attend tonight (celebrating the launch of Lola magazine) along with date night with my husband – dinner somewhere in the South End. See you Monday!

P.S. Popular LA-based artist Michelle Caplan is giving decor8 readers a 10% discount on commission pieces, the deadline for ordering these special one-of-a-kind works of art is December 11th, so place your order ASAP if you’re interested.

(images from holly becker for decor8)

Posted in diy on December 07, 2007

Apartment Therapy Chicago {Meet Meg + John}

Do you sometimes look with lust at beautiful homes and feel like a total loser because you don’t live like they do? Well hold my hand, take a deep breathe, and prepare yourself because we’re going in… Into a home that just may take you from confident decorator to depressed soul in 20 seconds flat. But strangely enough, in a good way.

The rocking horse really warms up this room and the
light fixture softens the modern lines in this area to relax things a bit.

I found this massive 2800 sq/ft city townhouse on Apartment Therapy Chicago (their new website is killer). It belongs to a couple of creative professionals, Meg and John, who live and work in Chicago and their home slideshow is incredible. I mean really Meg and John, how do you do it? In terms of size, this urban abode would be the equivalent of about 6 Boston proper 1-bedrooms.


It’s inspiring, I guess, I mean I can’t walk away from this feeling like Oh! Yeah! Great! because outside of beautiful decorating, it’s really the bones of this place and all that natural lighting and space and money to afford those things that creates the beauty you see and drool for. But looking at it is fun anyway, it’s a bit like Chubby Hubby ice cream, you eat the whole pint and yeah it was real good going down until your spoon hits the bottom and feelings of regret step in. You look in the mirror and see loser across your forehead. Sometimes that’s what looking at beautiful homes that I’ll never live in does for me. So here’s a spoon – dig in. But don’t say I didn’t warn you…


This (above) is the only room that felt more within reach, their elegant yet simple guest bedroom. This look is attainable. The average homeowner could do this with a few Dwell chinoiserie pillowcases and some natural tone bedding.

What an exquisite abode!

(images from apartment therapy chicago)

Posted in Home Tours, inspiration on December 07, 2007

decor8 Discount: Lounge Luxe

Each year, usually around this time, I give my sponsors the opportunity to offer reader discounts so although this blog isn’t about jewelry and handbags, I don’t mind posting about these things once a year when sponsors are offering discounts. I don’t earn commission or anything, it’s just something I like to run for readers because I know you like to shop and that discounts are always fun! Lounge Luxe is a sponsor and although they do not specialize in home decor, they’re more on the girly beauty product and fashion accessories side, I had to include them in the decor8 discounts this year. Your home can’t be the only thing that looks good, right?


They have a few small companies that wanted to extend decor8 readers a discount, so please click on this page to see what they are and for further details. I’m a big fan of Yen Jewerly, so I was happy to see them included. Enjoy and thank you Meredith!

(images via lounge luxe)

Posted in discounts, fashion + accessories on December 07, 2007

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