You've tramped the dusty aisles of August's antiques fairs; you've sipped hot tea in tag-sale lines at sunrise; you've emptied your wallet in the foggy downs of country flea markets. And now you own (most of) the eggcups, birdcages, red aluminum tumblers, glass fishbowls, napkin rings, Bakelite bracelets, and mercury glass you've always coveted.
You wish, though, that they had a better showcase than your bedroom windowsill, or that crowded corner of the bookshelf between the old dictionary and the baby album, or that display space of last resort -- the top of your kitchen cabinets. Each piece, after all, is a true, collectible gem and would look so much more splendid en masse.
Here are some ways to show off your cherished finds.
Enjoy all your favorites at a glance by creating a neat museum on a wall. Above a desk, a carefully curated arrangement that proffers beauty and distraction while you're paying your bills or listening to voice mails can bring pure, serendipitous pleasure.
The collection was composed not according to the usual criteria of uniformity or quantity, but as a medley of honey-hued still lifes. Each 18-inch box in this grid comprises a vignette of buttery yellows, golds, and coppers.
One delight in assembling your big picture is making individual shapes and colors relate, felicitously, to the whole.
These metal, French-ivory, wood, rubber, and faux-tortoiseshell hand mirrors were once orphans from now-scattered families of dresser sets, but here they're clustered companionably as a bouquet of glittery, shiny-faced flowers. (Umbrellas or knitting needles would make apt arrangements, too.) Both the gilt-brass vase in which they are displayed and the silvery blooms themselves gleam atop the tabletop, while the mirrors with loop handles are useful and ornamental when dangling on ribbons from picture pins on a wall. Should you require it, they'll also reflect candlelight.
On the Wall
When a picture molding isn't enough, line your walls with inexpensive stock moldings turned into shelves, and make a major statement. Here, in a vintage bath, dazzlers such as mirrored plateaus -- which once protected dining tables and dresser tops -- and a few actual wall mirrors serve a dual purpose: They not only bounce every glint of light back and forth to enlarge your room but also encourage neatly combed hair.
You don't need whole rooms, or even walls, to exhibit your collection.You can arrange all sorts of precious pieces in small but formal spaces like a Chinese doll case, which measures approximately nine by six by four inches.
Collectors of paper look for ways to show their goods without damaging them -- for sunlight, tape, and glue are the enemies of ephemera. On a scarlet-painted screen, clear photo corners hold playing cards of value, while black frames display early postage stamps. But the new versions of each are simply glued in place. Carefully collected books with gilt-tooled bindings add richer shades of red.
At Your Service
A clutch of unwieldy platters is not only stored, but also wittily showcased in a dining-room dado-cum-storage unit. The uppermost edge of this custom-built piece (the chair rail) is hinged so its ironstone contents can be put in and taken out easily. On the wall, small oval ironstone trays, square honey dishes, and butter pats are hung on plate hangers to make orderly patterns.
A display of aquariums, each topped with custom-cut Lucite to make them stackable, sports glass bubble fishing floats and assortments of marine castles made of German bisque, Japanese ceramic, and stoneware. Only the goldfish are missing.