Three Rules for Collecting

I’ve always been a natural collector. If I find something I like, a part of my brain immediately lights up and says “maybe you should get another one!”. It’s just natural for me to be curious about objects and enjoy having them around me. To temper my instincts, I have made a concerted effort not to let my collections get too big, or too expensive. I frequently move things to better display everything, and try to know when it is time to say goodbye. If you are a collector, I offer three simple rules I’ve followed in my decades of collecting. With these rules I’ve been able to enjoy my collections and achieve balance in my space.

A small collection of vintage items, grouped by colour.

#1 – Set a Size Limit, then Follow the “One In, One Out” Rule: When you first get excited about something it can be easy to keep acquiring, especially if that item hits your sweet spot in terms of availability and price. For me recently, that item has been vintage McCoy planters. These beauties are found all over North America, but they’re still rare enough that they’re fun to spot. The small ones sell for around $20. They are lovely to me, and I use some of them to actually grow plants, so I can convince myself they’re even useful. With so many reasons to love them, what’s the harm in buying just one more?

The harm, simply, is that eventually I have too many. Hitting a wall with collection size is expected. Collections tend to fill the available space, but there are warning signs when it’s time to stop – You won’t appreciate the ones you have as you try to find a place for another new addition. You will stop being able to display them. You will hate having to dust them. You may look at them and worry about what else you could have done with the money. At this point, you can either sell the whole collection (dramatic but effective!) or you can decide how many is enough, and keep your collection at that number.

Once you’re at your limit, I’m a fan of the “one in, one out” rule because instead of a dead end to your collecting, you will now enter a period of refinement. For instance, now instead of buying three $20 McCoy planters, I will wait to buy a much nicer one for $60. Then I get rid of one of my lesser pieces by selling it so the collection takes up the same amount of space. I’m learning as I go, and investing in pieces that are special. This evolution is how great collections are made.

Most of my McCoy planters are displayed on this antique moveable staircase. The staircase is from a nunnery in Quebec.

#2 – Display Your Collections: Want a really simple way to tell if you enjoy a collection? Look around and see if the collection is on display or shoved away in a box somewhere. There are exceptions (temporary storage issues etc), but in general, if you should have a collection you will have it displayed. You will make space. It will make you happy to see it, because it will reflect an interest or affection you currently hold.

I love to display my collections, no matter how small. I have about a dozen Tiki mugs. One day, the dream is to have a full tiki bar, but for now it’s just a little collection I keep on the book shelf that makes me smile. Learning how to attractively display your collections will make your home more interesting and personal. The golden rule of display is “like with like”. Even three similar items look better displayed together. Aim for a triangle shape in your display (larger items in the back, smaller in front). Group your little collections and put them out where you can see them. Give them some love. Don’t be embarrassed or think that something has to be expensive or “impressive” to be out. Your home is your sanctuary, and if something makes you happy put it where you can see it.

My little selection of new and vintage Tiki mugs (hello Darth Vader!)

#3 – Beware of Nostalgia and Learn When to Let Go: You’re a growing person, so don’t expect all your collections to last. Beware of nostalgia that might make you hold onto an item you no longer actually enjoy. Ask yourself if you’re just keeping something because you’ve always kept it. Or if you have good memories of collecting something (I bought this with dear old dad!) and so parting with the item feels cruel. If this is the case my advice is to shrink the collection to your absolute favourite or most meaningful pieces. I recently had to do this with china inherited from my grandmothers. I didn’t want to keep full sets of dishes, but I did carefully go through the sets to keep a small sample. Then I mounted an assortment of plates on my kitchen wall. I see these plates every day and they mean something to me. This small display is a much better use of these items than having boxes of dishes forgotten in the basement.

Once a collection is no longer making you happy, it’s okay to get rid of it. Honest. You don’t have to feel like you wasted money or time or space. It served its purpose. My mother spent years collecting a full 100 antique biscuit barrels (yes, she kept count). She loved them, but then one day she decided enough was enough. She sold all but a few of her best ones. She moved on to collecting birds for her kitchen. Learn to embrace change and say goodbye to your items when it’s time to let them go.

Sometimes collections are small and silly, like this group of china dog figurines. I displayed them with a photo of Kurt Vonnegut because he liked dogs.

It takes effort to enforce these rules, but collecting is still a great source of joy for me. It’s just how I’m wired. There is a specific excitement in a new find, and the pride of displaying that makes my space comforting to me. By thinking critically, and only keeping what I want to display, I have things I love and room to breathe. Life keeps going, change is inevitable, and the good collector knows how to go with the flow. Happy collecting!

Save

Save

Antique Signs for The Kitchen

antiquesigncollageKitchens are funny rooms. They’re designed for utility, but they’re also given a special place as the “heart” of the home. They’re hospitable spaces, so it makes sense that even modern kitchens benefit from a lived-in element. Decorators have been injecting rustic details like corbels and chalk boards into kitchen design for a while, but I think one of the most interesting objects you can add to your kitchen is an antique or vintage sign.

The best old signs to use in the kitchen relate directly to food. It’s a little on the nose but it works! Consider a painted wood sign. Collectivator seller Colin Paul Antiques has hand painted signs from a farmer’s fruit stand. One that sold quickly simply said “Delicious” – referring to the type of apple – but what a perfectly suited word for the kitchen!

delicioussign

Signs saying “Carrots” and “Sauerkraut” are still available.

Also for sale are a series of handmade cursive script signs from a 1960s era grocery store. The font is mid century vintage, and with an assortment of words you can find something that really suits your taste (see what I did there?). Depending on your style you can find wood signs that work in vintage, country, or rustic “shabby chic” styled kitchens.

While wood signs have always been popular, they were not very durable for outdoor use. By the end of the 19th century, signs started being mass produced in full colour porcelain and tin. Porcelain and tin signs are associated with national brands but they were also produced for smaller, local companies. Bisback Antiques, for instance, is offering a great 1950s ROE Feeds tin sign. Tin signs often have vibrant graphics that really stand out on a wall, not to mention their nostalgic appeal.dscn1058

 

One thing to note with wood and tin signs is the proliferation of reproductions. Homey “family” messages on faux aged wood and reprinted tin signs are in decor shops everywhere. In general, these signs are sold as new and I don’t really have a problem with them, but they usually strike me as a poor imitation. I still think it’s worth the effort and money to buy the real thing. Old signs have a story. They are cultural and commercial artifacts. I also find the chips in the paint, the dents in the tin, and even the marks from where the sign was mounted add to the visual appeal.

Now say you want to have an authentic sign, but you want to start at a lower price point. In this case, a great thing to look for is antique and vintage shipping crate labels. Sometimes they will be framed, but often they will not. Unlike the unique painted wood signs, shipping labels were mass printed. The extras you find still have vibrant images of landscapes and appetizing produce that work beautifully in a kitchen. They are a fairly common item and usually cost only between $10 – $100.daisymills

p1380995_edited-1

Daisy Mills” and “Surety Apples” labels for sale.

I bought a “Zenith” shipping label at the Pickering Markets for $20. I love the apple and how it represents a Canadian company. My friend found framed shipping labels at a local group shop for similar prices. There are so many labels out there that can really add interest to your kitchen without breaking the bank. zenithapples

pumpkinsign

Whether the sign is on wood, tin or paper, as with any collectible there is room to grow in rarity and price. Signs can truly be works of art. They can be one of a kind. In the upper end, antique signs can easily cost thousands of dollars. Take a look at this gorgeous 1920s general store sign from J.C. Miller Antiques . It ticks all the boxes – colour, content, and beautifully weathered age. gstoreantiquesignVintage and antique signs are sought after by decorators looking for that one amazing piece, or collectors who have a space on the wall (and isn’t there always room for just one more?). With a little effort, you can find an a sign that speaks to you. Whatever your style or budget, old signs and kitchens are a match made in heaven.

Repurposed Antique Trim Coat Hooks

This winter has been a long one in my neck of the woods. In an effort to use my free time for things other than watching TV in sweatpants, I’ve completed some good indoor home improvement projects. First, my amazing dad helped me paint the living room and hallway. We went with a lovely greyish green by Benjamin Moore – HC116 Guilford Green.  Then, in an effort to decorate the newly painted walls and add usefulness to the space, we built some nice coat hooks. Coat hooks you say? Yes, coat hooks!

Feel the excitement! On this, the first day of Spring, I thought I’d look back at a nifty little project the whole family helped complete. My mom and I started the design, my husband and dad did the heavy construction. Take a look at the result:

Coat Hooks

Now a closer look:

coathooks2

And then, just to be crazy, an even closer look:

coathooks3

I spent some time googling coat hooks in the days before we painted (truly, this is why the internet was invented). I wanted something vintage or antique – something unique. Antique coat racks were often too large or expensive. The solution? Make our own with salvaged wood! The piece of wood we used is roughly 100-year-old moulding – the type of trim that might have originally been found around a door frame. My dad sometimes comes across architectural details that he keeps to be repurposed when the need arises (for instance as garden decoration). Dad came to our house with a few choices, and we went with this one because of its greyish patina and graceful lines. Old wood can be found anywhere from sources on the internet (try googling “reclaimed wood”), to curb side garbage, thrift stores, lumber yards, and even Habitat for Humanity’s Restores. We cut the wood to size, then waxed it with regular Minwax paste finishing wax.

Once we had our piece of wood we had to find the perfect hooks. We needed strong, double hooks capable of holding up parkas. We found them at Anthropologie. Anthropologie is like Zooey Deschanel’s version of Restoration Hardware, if that makes any sense. It’s pricey, but you can find lovely unusual and vintage styled items. They have a great selection of knobs, hooks and door knockers. These hooks cost $12 each and I really liked their porcelain tops and slightly distressed metal.

Once the wood and hooks were found, it was a simple matter of putting it all together. We measured the hook placement, screwed the hooks into the wood (we used drywall screws because they were the only black screws we could find), and then screwed the wood into studs in our wall. Ta da! A super simple project with beautiful results.

We also put my grandmother’s vintage mirror up in our hallway, so now you can put your coat on and see what you look like before you leave the door:

coathooks5

If you are looking to add style to your coat hooks, I highly recommend repurposing some antique wood. If you’re going for a rustic look this could include trim, barn boards, even drift wood. Reclaimed doors or window frames can be really nice too. Be creative – your hooks can match or be completely different for an eclectic style. The two most important considerations will be strength of the wood and strength of the hooks. Really old wood might be too brittle to secure your screws, and really thin wood will not support much weight. Take a careful look at the piece of wood and figure out what shape of hooks you will need and where you can place them. Our hooks, for instance, had to be horizontally secured to the wood and needed enough space to clear the shape of the ledge on top.

coathooks4

In the end, it’s not rocket science but it can be very rewarding to give the humble coat hook an upgrade with reclaimed lumber. You will be recycling a piece of wood (and maybe hooks), giving your home character, and making something unique. All that and it keeps your coats off the floor?! Winner all around.

Looking for more coat hooks? These creative people have some wonderful DIY ideas:
Grandma’s Headboard Shelf
Chalkboard Half Door with Hooks
Scrap Wood Wall Hooks