1 of 10
Her Collection: Brass objects, including trays, vases, lamps, and sconces from around the world.
Discover Story: ''I started collecting brass -- I call it poor man's gold -- when I bought Skylands, my house in Maine, 14 years ago. There were some brass pieces in the house when I bought it, and they looked great in the light. So I continued the tradition of using brass there.''
How She Lives with It: ''I don't keep any of the brass pieces in storage. I use everything. The large trays are tables, and the smaller pieces are used as decoration or as flower containers.''
Letting Them Shine: ''Some of these pieces are almost black when you find them. But when you have them buffed, they shine like gold.''
Favorite Finds: ''It's exciting to find the large trays. Some of them, such as the Indian and Middle Eastern ones, even came with their own stands. I always keep an eye out for them when I'm traveling.''
Value Beyond Price: ''When I buy brass, I don't care where it came from or how valuable it is. If it's appealing to me in shape or size or pattern, then I buy it.''
Her Collecting History: ''As a child, I was more interested in reading than collecting. When I finally got a house, I started to look at objects as things to gather. I'm still not a serious collector; I am more of an accumulator of things. And some of those things, such as brass, turn into collections. Who knew I would have enough someday to take a picture with?''
Where to Find: 1stdibs.com has a wide selection of brass pieces from around the world.
2 of 10
Mark Leininger, Architect, New York City
His Collection: Air-travel mementos
Discover Story: "When I was young, I used to make model airports," he says. His stockpile, which began as a tin of luggage tags and a box of flight timetables, has grown into an assembly of more than a thousand books, airplane models, flatware, blankets, posters, silver services, and even motion-sickness bags.
How He Lives with It: Although his paraphernalia is everywhere in his small New York City apartment, each piece is thoughtfully placed. "I'd like to think that my assortment says that I have an eye for cool things of a certain place and time," he says. "But to my family, it just says, 'Geek and proud.' "
Prime Find: "An "Arrivals and Departures" sign from Alitalia, which I rescued from a demolition site."
Where to Find: "Flea markets, used-book stores, and airline-collectible shows. I love the hunt!"
My collection will be complete when...: "Never. There is always something out there."
3 of 10
Jim O’Mahoney, Owner, Santa Barbara Surfing Museum, Santa Barbara, California
His Collection: Surf gear like surfboards, posters, records, ukuleles
Discover Story: "I've surfed my whole life and saved things my whole life," O'Mahoney says. "Every surf poster, every surf record, it's just something that, as surfers say, gets me stoked."
Famous Connections: O'Mahoney has hundreds of ukuleles, including one that Marilyn Monroe strummed.
Prime Find: A balsa gun surfboard (made for big waves) that's encrusted with abalone shells. "It's designed by Reynolds Yater, who is like the pope of surfboards and has been making them in Santa Barbara since the late '50s," he says. Surfboards by both Yater and Velzy-Jacobs -- where Yater worked before opening his own shop -- are highly collectible (they can fetch upward of $10,000 on eBay).
Where to Find: Santa Barbara Surfing Museum, 16 1/2 Helena Avenue, Santa Barbara, California
4 of 10
Leigh Magar, Owner, Magar Hatworks, Charleston, SC
Her Collection: Antique wooden hat forms
Discover Story: After finishing her millinery course at the Fashion Institute of Technology, in New York City, she returned to her home state of South Carolina and opened a millinery shop, Magar Hatworks. A few years later, she received a gift of antique wooden hat forms from a passionate collector, and her own collection began.
How She Lives with It: Magar displays her nearly 400 wooden forms on shelves in her showroom and in her studio, both of which are located in an 1825 house in a residential neighborhood of Charleston.
Prime Find: Her favorite pieces include a rare matador's mold, shapes to make berets, and those for chic women’s cocktail hats. "I just found a classic 1920s top-hat form," she says. "I am looking forward to trying it out for the fall collection for women -- think Marlene Dietrich."
Where to Find: Magar Hatworks
5 of 10
Lisa Congdon artist, illustrator, and author of "Collection a Day," San Francisco
Her Collection: Midcentury kitchenware, mainly Scandinavian enamelware.
Discover Story: ''About 12 years ago, I found an orange plate. That was the gateway drug both to enamelware and plate collecting for me.''
How She Lives with It: ''The pieces are displayed on shelves in my kitchen. The room was orange, but the colors on the enamelware weren't popping, so I painted it white. I kind of ended up decorating my kitchen around my collection.''
The Thrill of the Hunt: ''When you're a collector, you're always scanning the environment for the things you collect. It's not even something you're conscious of.''
Her Collections, Made Famous: ''For my Collection a Day blog, I photographed my collections -- vintage ephemera, school supplies, thread -- every day for a year. There's nostalgia for people in seeing all these old things in new ways.''
Where to Find: Look for enamelware at thrift shops or on eBay.
6 of 10
Keni Valenti, Vintage Clothing Dealer, Miami and New York City
His Collection: Vintage men's Lilly Pulitzer clothing.
Discover Story: "The first Lilly that I found was in a thrift shop in the '70s. But I mixed it with glam-rock clothes. I think it was a shirt with monkeys on it, and I wore it with red patent-leather pants.''
The Label's Colorful Past: "Lilly was a socialite in Palm Beach who started making shift dresses in the late '50s to wear in the juice stand she started. Her color palette probably came from all the oranges and limes she was squeezing. The menswear came later. It was big on the golf scene.''
Rarest Gems: "Bathrobes are really hard to find, and they're so wild. Can you imagine the man who wore one? I'm sure he didn't buy it. I'm sure his wife gave it to him.''
How He Lives with It: ''I think when you collect something, you should use it, so I wear it all. It's so mood lifting to see in my closet. These clothes make me laugh. They make me happy.''
Where to Find: Vintage Lily Pulitzer is hard to come by; eBay is generally your best bet.
7 of 10
John Derian, Owner and Designer, John Derian Company, New York City
His Collection: Paintings with a strong horizon line.
Discover Story: ''I got my first painting about 25 years ago. I am very connected with nature, and it struck a chord.''
How He Lives with It: ''They are hung all over my apartment in New York and my house in Cape Cod.''
A Born Collector: ''I started collecting gemstones, shells, and coins when I was 11. In my 20s, I was obsessed with buttons.''
Best Get: ''One Belgian painting was a gift from a friend who owed me money. I made out in every way: I love the painting. But if ever I stop, I can get my money back.''
Where to Find: For a wide variety of 19th-century paintings, go to aaawt.com and onegoodeyeantiques.com.
8 of 10
Shauna Alterio and Stephen Loidolt, Artists and Product Designers, Something's Hiding Here, Philadelphia
Their Collection: Tin dollhouses from the 1940s to the '60s
Discover Story: ''We started collecting them three years ago. I found one at a flea market and brought it home. A few weeks later, we saw another and grabbed it,'' Alterio says. ''If I see two things that are alike, I want to bring them together.''
How They Live with It: ''We keep the houses lined up in a row on top of giant bookshelves and keep lights inside them so that at night it looks like a neighborhood,'' Alterio says.
Feels Like Home: ''We both grew up in suburban neighborhoods, so there is something familiar about these houses, even though they were out of production by the time we were born,'' Loidolt says.
The Lived-In Look: ''We love a little wear and tear. Houses that feel too perfect don't have the same charm,'' Alterio says.
New Models: ''We're working on a limited-edition collection of wooden flat-packed houses made in the same shapes but with very different patterns,'' Alterio says.
Where to Find: Garage sales and thrift shops are usually the best places to score dollhouses at a decent price.
9 of 10
Joan Pope, Product Consultant, Fixed Point, New York City
Her Collection: Travel books, many dating to the 19th century
Discover Story: "In the 1980s, I purchased a London A to Z, with all those detailed maps indexing each tiny street. I was hooked and started buying older books -- some from 100 years before my feet took to the streets!''
How She Lives with It: "I'll scan images from them to refer to in my work -- I have several binders full. At my desk, I'll rotate the books so what I see is always changing.''
The Armchair Traveler: ''The books reflect a wonderment about the world. But with their script, their colors, and their weathered look, I love them as much as objects as for reading.''
Object Lessons: ''I like to think about the first owner of a book and what enjoyment he or she got from it. I think that's the thing about collectors: We can see the history of joy in an old object.''
Where to Find: Look for vintage travel books on abebooks.com or strandbooks.com.
10 of 10
Katie Hatch, Design Director, Accessories, Kate Spade, and Fashion Designer, Harvey Faircloth, New York City
Her Collection: Vintage Clothing Patterns
Discover Story: "I started thinking of myself as a collector of patterns in college, but I really had been collecting them since I started sewing clothes, around eighth grade.''
How She Lives with It: "They get stored under my bed in wooden boxes. I need to develop a better system. I use a lot of the patterns as jumping-off points for my designs.''
Other Collections: ''Penny jewelry, watches with colorful faces, and patent-leather shoes in rainbow colors.''
Prime Find: ''I like designer patterns from the 1950s and '60s -- Balmain, Dior, Nina Ricci, Yves Saint Laurent -- but I'm often just as happy to find a '70s Halloween costume pattern if it has an interesting cut.''
Where to Find: Etsy.com, sovintagepatterns.com, and oldpatterns.com all have good selections.
You Just Viewed
- What's for Dinner? 10 Budget Meals
- Bedroom Organizers
- Vegetarian Recipes for Entertaining
- 10 Ways to Get Creative with Candles
- Embroidery Projects
- Fun Birthday Cake Designs: The Icing on a Perfect Party
- Our Favorite Bathrooms
- 12 Homekeeping Multitaskers
- Tips and Tricks for Hosting a Cocktail Party
- How to Make Crepe-Paper Flowers
- Editors' Picks: The Best of Decoupage
- Double-Duty Dinners
- Healthy (but Fun!) Lunches for Kids
- Pet-Inspired Projects
- Roast Chicken 101