Monday, August 6, 2012

Junk Love Monday: Make Your Collection Work For You

Last week, we established the fact that the Blackbird girls are junk addicts. We buy, and then we buy, and then we buy some more. You would think that we would be absolutely out of room by now, right? It is no secret within our circle that our living space is packed with junk. Most first-time guests expect to see a monstrous pile of antiques and tchotchkes, from floor to ceiling, with a pulse that vibrates beneath their feet. What they find instead is a very extensive, but carefully curated, smorgasbord of things. We decorate with our junk. It is everywhere (and I do mean everywhere--every nook and cranny in this house is considered to be real estate for the current or future display of something). Yes, we share a house that could only be classified as tiny, a 1947 cottage that seems to be shrinking by the day. But, we are experts at maximizing the potential of a space, no matter how small. We do have rules to follow. (Last week, we introduced you to the rule known as #3, or the Rule of Three, about the minimum requirements to make something an official collection.) This week, we give you two more rules.

Rule #10: Use your home as a gallery for the things you love to look at. Our strategy for artwork (or anything we can hang on a nail, really): if it's a vertical flat surface, it's available. It doesn't matter if it's three inches from the ceiling, or hanging all the way to the floor, or on the back (and front!) of a door. We hang things across the tops of doorways, on the wall beside the refrigerator, in the laundry nook, above and below light switches, and someday soon, we will probably be hammering tiny nails in a row down the exposed side of our built-in bookcase. We literally have a section of wall that is covered with artwork from the ceiling down to the baseboard with vintage artwork.

how to display wall art

Rule #10, part B: use your displays to mask the defects in the "gallery." Some people use accessories to enhance the architecture of their home, which is absolutely fabulous if you have noteworthy architecture. Those of us living in homes with...flaws...can use our accessories to cover up the blemishes. If you are in physical pain at the thought of a room with more artwork than drywall, imagine how it would feel knowing that the drywall is cracked and uneven, and the painters were possibly sleepwalking when they applied your favorite, but now-discontinued, color (the one that ALL of your furniture matches, so if you repainted the walls, you'd have to reupholster everything). It is far more satisfying to cover that up (and much cheaper than having someone come in and re-drywall and paint every room in your house, which would really mean having to move to a hotel while this is done, because you have to sleep somewhere). Do you have a pesky support column somewhere, which can't be removed because it's holding up your house? Cover that thing up. Artwork, masks, a collection of tools--it doesn't matter what you hang on it. Just make it look like it was put there specifically to display something you love, and nobody will ever leave your house thinking about that ugly column again.

But what if it can't hang? This brings me to Rule #9 in our personal guidebook to happiness: Make your collection work for you. It is a beautiful concept, really. First, you get dual usage out of some of your things. Second, when you are thinking about purchasing something, the moment when you realize that you can use it to display, store, or enhance something else in your collection will bring you that most precious realization: I HAVE TO BUY THIS! You have no choice now, which eases the pain of opening your wallet and handing over the money. You have to do it, because it was meant to be! It is guilt-free efficiency. Example: She buys a box of vintage billiard balls. What do we do with spherical things, which, because our house is also not level, tend to roll all over the place? Why, I simply MUST buy that red bowl to hold them! And now that I have that red bowl? I can buy that similar aqua bowl to hold my bocce balls. It doesn't get better than bowls of balls, people! When she buys an antique optic glass punchbowl, what do we do? Fill it with her vintage typewriter tins. When I buy vintage chess pieces? Then she simply MUST buy that vase to hold them. Then, we can use that vase of chess pieces as a bookend. A teak salad bowl will hold candy at Halloween, or turned upside down, can act as a riser for a piece of pottery. A midcentury creamer becomes a pencil cup.

However, sometimes we have to find a place to store things that aren't a part of our display. Whether it is something as mundane as scotch tape, or a collectible that is being rotated out for a while, it has to go somewhere, and that is the moment you will discover that the drawer in the kitchen is already full. This is when you can really make your collection work for you--as storage units. While we may wiggle things into overstuffed closets and under furniture, nothing serves us better in the way of storage than two of our collections: suitcases and ice buckets.

Stacks don't have to match!

The suitcase craze comes and goes among vintage-lovers, but our relationship with our luggage is solid. Every suitcase, trunk, and vanity case that we own is performing double duty as a storage site for something. I have a round blue suitcase that holds sweaters in the off season. We have a plaid suitcase that stores back issues of magazines. Vintage tweed suitcases filled with unsightly and rarely-used, but highly sentimental, VHS tapes are stacked on a piece of furniture to serve as risers for one of our displays. Depending on the time of year, other suitcases throughout the house may hold extra blankets, board games, Christmas decorations, our heaviest winter coats, and an impossible-to-display collection of vintage cheese boards that will have their grand debut at a cheese party someday. To keep everything straight? Just tie paper luggage tags to the handles of the suitcases, with the contents written on the tag. Unless you have incredibly nosy guests, people will just think they are name tags. You can buy them, or make your own, or use the tags that came with the suitcase when you bought it. We get great storage, and the suitcases look great with our decor.

The ice bucket collection has become a resting place for smaller items: spare batteries, tape, business cards, and the super important Pizza Delivery Fund. Have you ever put something in a "safe place," and then spent six months looking for it? If you designate the ice bucket collection as a series of safe places, it cuts the search time considerably (and you don't end up emptying, and then re-filling, every drawer and cabinet in your house). Yes, I might forget which ice bucket holds the AA batteries, but trust me, it only takes two seconds to lift the lid, gaze inside, and move on. No digging required. Plus,  ice buckets are cool.

Peter Max Ice Bucket-- circa 1960 with rose-colored sunglasses handle

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