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FURNISHINGS : Acquiring Minds Want Tasteful Displays : There are limits to successfully integrating interior design and collectibles. Should they be grouped or separated?


Do your collectibles look as if they belong in someone else's house?

Precious acquisitions shouldn't class with the interior design of a home, but while there's usually a way to integrate the two successfully, there are limits. The marlin you caught off Cabo will be as tough to subdue in a living room as it was in the water.

Part of the thrill of collecting lies in uncovering the perfect way to display your treasures.

"The collector finds something inadvertently and then spends hours, weeks, months walking around it and trying to find a place for it," says San Juan Capistrano antique dealer Gep Durenberger. "(The piece) doesn't pose problems, it poses opportunities."

The opportunities are easier to uncover if your preferences run to fine porcelain or glassware that complement the home; tougher if you're proud of your wall-mounted moose head or the slew of photographs featuring you shaking hands with Wayne Newton and Reggie Jackson.

While some collections for taste's sake are better kept behind closed doors, mild collection clash may be preferable to "decorator houses where there's no sense of life," says Durenberger.

Collections hint of passions that may not otherwise be apparent in your home. They impart a sense of fullness that others can appreciate, even though the collection may not be to everyone's taste, says John Garcia, an interior designer in Corona del Mar.

Placement of the items in the collection can make the difference between an awkward display and a graceful one; do you group them, line them up, or separate them?

Lee West, owner of Newport Imports, an auto dealership in Newport Beach, worked with designer Patricia Mickey to use his collection of Lladro porcelain as both focal points and accent pieces in his Newport Beach condominium.

More than 100 pieces of the contemporary Spanish porcelain, many of them whimsical or comic, are incorporated in groupings that tell stories. Appropriately, West has most of the Lladro automobile pieces, large stylized pieces resembling such classics as Bugattis and MGTD's.

"Often people put (such pieces) in a showcase and it looks like a jewelry store," Mickey says. "(Homeowners should) avoid the feeling that things have been lined up."

While large collections may have to be displayed throughout several rooms to avoid turning your home into a museum, small collections may rely on grouping for dramatic impact.

A client of designer Hilary Imes of Newport Beach displays a collection of miniature antique oil lamps no more than five inches high on a bookshelf. "Scattered, they're not important. Together, they're very important," Imes says.

Imes has a client with a collection of ethnic American Indian and African necklaces and bracelets. She created a display wall with the jewelry to serve as a decorative focal point in a dressing area off the master bedroom. The items are fastened with architectural pushpins so that they can easily be taken down and worn.

"What is extremely difficult is to put together pieces from diverse backgrounds," says Imes. "While in this day and age of eclecticism, one can put almost anything with anything else, the rustic and the sophisticated are not happy together."

Color can be used to pull the collection and design together.

The collection can be a starting point for a room's color scheme, Mickey says. If that won't work, you can minimize the discordance by using a neutral background.

A collection doesn't have to be in a main room. A wine collection displayed in a wine cellar offers both a dramatic setting and a controlled environment. Guns can be incorporated into locking display cases that also control the humidity and temperature inside the cases. In displaying them, you're also storing them.

One of the challenges of interior design can be integrating a favorite collection with the physical structure of the home. "In a perfect world you would be able to design the interior around the collections," Mickey says.

Building or rebuilding parts of the house is a not-so-uncommon way of adapting the house to the collection.

One of Garcia's clients is planning her new South County home with her carousel horses in mind. The focal point of the collection and the house will be a commissioned carousel horse on the second floor landing of a large foyer with a 28-foot ceiling and 14-foot skylight. The horse will be backed by a trompe l'oeil scene that will make the piece seem to be the closest horse on the carousel.

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