Updated: Feb 23
Growing up in the 1970s and 80s, my mum worked as a window dresser and so every shelf, mantel and cabinet in our home was displayed to perfection. Books that matched the colour of the room; bits and bobs picked up from travels; and objects from shopping trips to Habitat.
Decades later and I notice my own displays are a reflection of my mum’s talent and, just as they were for her, they are the perfect way to show off my vintage frippery. I often get asked on Instagram for advice on how to style collectables, so here are my tips on bringing your look together.
1: Start with a focal piece: What you hang above your mantel is just as important as what you display on it – think of it as the anchor that brings it all together. This can be an ornate mirror or a vintage portrait, but whatever you choose make sure the shape is right – if you have low ceilings, for example, go for a piece that hangs horizontally, while oval or round mirrors add interest.
2: Show off your collections: I’m one of life’s collectors … vintage china, old tins and vases, antique pictures and plants. You name it and I probably collect it, which means I always have more than enough objects at hand to make a display. One of my favourite things to collect are Japanese kokeshi dolls and because they come in different shapes and sizes, they are perfect to group together. Having said that, a few carefully selected items, spaced apart, can have just as much impact.
3: Group items in odd numbers: By grouping items in threes or fives it gives your display a more balanced look. Personally, I opt for a more asymmetrical look – a taller item at one end and smaller ones at the other. Alternatively you can go for something more symmetrical, placing the largest piece in the centre or two matching ones either end to create a mirror image.
4: Layering adds interest: Create depth by layering pieces in front of each other, with the smaller ones at the front so as not to obscure the larger ones at the back. Pull them all together by choosing things that connect to each other rather than just an assortment of random objects. You can do this with a theme, a similar style or a co-ordinating colour.
5: Move your items around: My mantel displays change quite a lot – I might put an item on display, move it somewhere else or group it with something different to see if that works better. Take a photo of your display to see how it looks, and if it doesn’t then mix it up.
6: Use nature to add colour and texture: I’m a bit obsessed with pampas grass, seed heads and eucalyptus leaves, so I love a vase filled with all manner of dried grasses to act as the perfect focal point and add height. Plants of all shapes and sizes – from cactus to the Insta-favourite string of hearts – add colour.