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Cover a Space
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.
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Create a Color Block
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.
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Hightlight Small Wonders
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.
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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.
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Reimagine Their Uses
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.
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Beginning in the 1930s, maps were screen-printed onto various types of textiles and sold in souvenir shops across the nation. Today, these tablecloths, hankies, and scarves make charming decorative elements. Framed dish towels have the graphic impact of posters or prints.
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A group of dishes, compotes, pitchers, or any other small treasures you've acquired over the years needn't be set behind glass panels or hidden behind sideboard and hutch doors. Given an open platform -- such as a bookshelf -- these pretty wares can serve as a decorative focal point in a room. Here, Martha's collection of Paris porcelain is simultaneously shown off and protected by velvet-covered shelves, whose deep color sets off the silhouettes of the pieces.
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A classic handkerchief is an All-American iconic textile. All the more reason to display its unique pattern in a new, surprising way. Taken out of context -- that is, snipped from its cloth -- the borders of a bandanna often resemble Turkish pottery, as is the case with this mirror frame.
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Vintage flower frogs will leap at the opportunity to perform new tasks. Here, a mismatched duo does a fine job of organizing a desktop. The stem holes in the ceramic frog enable it to hold pens and pencils. The steel version of a needle mountain is equally helpful in straightening business cards, notes, and photos.
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A damaged but beautiful Bentwood chair can find new life in your home. The interior rails of three beleaguered bistro chairs form the legs of this petite side table, which has been painted a mellow shade of yellow. The tabletop is cut from a sheet of fiberboard, but you could also reuse the seat from a chair, provided it's made of solid wood and not caned.