How to display antique collections

Make the most of your antiques' good looks with these striking display ideas

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1

Make a bold statement

A wall painted in bright blue paint with a matching shelf. In the shelf is an array of contemporary blue, white and yellow ceramics
Why not use a collection to create a focal point that is full of drama and impact? Employ bold, saturated colours and oversized patterns to draw the eye. As a rule, a few large objects work better than a number of smaller ones, and consider simple outlines – strong verticals and horizontals work well.
2

Get the lighting right

Picture light in gold powder-coated finish above a pencil sketch

With inadequate illumination no display, no matter how well it has been thought out, will ever be truly effective. First, consider the location of the artwork, and try to avoid placing pieces with glass or mirror opposite a window, and then consider the scale of the pieces in comparison to the room.

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Focus on the walls

A wide hallway with an oriental-style sideboard flanked by ceramic table lamps and a set of four antique shutters
Carpets, tapestries, stone reliefs, fossils, masks, tiles, swords, plates – you name it, you can hang it. The main consideration is the weight of the piece, and also the strength of the wall on which you are planning to put it. A stone or brick wall is better than plasterboard for safe hanging of anything heavy. To avoid making holes in valuable items, we suggest using right-angled pieces of steel screwed to the wall made with a small lip at the front, so that the piece sits securely within it, as they are positioned on a tiny shelf.
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Colour coordinate

A colourful hand-embroidered artwork above a vintage storage unit with a green anglepoise lamp

Colour choice is always highly personal. Whatever area of the colour spectrum you are naturally drawn to, tonal pairings will always create a harmonious display. Layers of colour from the same area of the colour wheel are calming and easy to live with. Always start your scheme with an item that you love and select a colour from it.

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Opt for natural simplicity

Rustic wood shelves adorned with pale-coloured plates, dishes and mugs on an exposed brick wall painted white
Some of the most effective displays are those which are the most casual, perhaps making the most of a small bunch of flowers, some pine cones or a few shells. If you have open shelving in your kitchen, think about how you arrange your crockery – it is possible to have a selection on show that is both usefully accessible and arranged attractively.
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Group your pictures

A gallery wall of prints and photographs hanging above a double bed with a rustic wooden headboard

When you have a number of photographs, mirrors or paintings on display, start by laying your group on the floor and assessing how the elements work together. If necessary, remove some, make substitutions or consider re-framing.

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Create a cabinet of wonders

A white medical-style glass cabinet filled with antique and vintage curios
Free-standing cases, cabinets, stands and units are probably the most traditional means of displaying any item, from the valuable to the everyday. They act like a frame around the picture, drawing the eye and focusing on the objects displayed.
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Make a tablescape

A bold geometric sideboard flanked with blue velvet dining chairs and gold table lamps. A sketch if a flamingo is in the centre.
It was the renowned interior designer David Hicks who invented the term ‘tablescape’, or the art of arranging interesting pieces on a flat surface. He believed that, ‘What is important is not how valuable or inexpensive your objects are, but the care and feeling with which you arrange them.’

Did you know that with just a lighting tweak and some colour cooordination, you could give your antiques a whole new lease of life?

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Whether you are curating a collection of antiques, a few choice artworks, or a selection of natural beachcombed finds, our essential guide to the art of display will help you make the most of their good looks.