Design Hints

It's a Small World

Collect ideas for displaying pint-size treasures in any room of the home.

As a single mom raising two young daughters on a teacher's salary, Susan Collins didn't have extra cash to spend on decorating her Ashby, Massachusetts, bungalow (featured in the article "School of Thought" in our November 2012 issue). So, she found creative ways to make the most of the small items that she could afford. It's been a little here and there at yard sales, flea markets, places like that," she says. "It's the way I display things that makes it look nice." Here are a few of her favorite tips for displaying even the tiniest of treasures:

Give a boost: Whether she's showcasing Santas for Christmas or chicken-themed accents for an everyday country look, Susan doesn't hesitate to add some height to a vignette. Santas aren't confined to sleighs -- you'll find them astride horses, sleds and even geese to give arrangements a more complete look. On the kitchen counter, a trio of hen containers roost atop a bright-red vintage lunchbox, which brings a festive punch to the scene. 

Hang it up: Smalls can look lost hanging on a bare wall, so group a few of them in a frame, as Susan did with children's mittens and socks above the master bedroom bed. Or, hang pieces together on an old shutter; wood mitten stretchers pop against a green shutter in the kitchen's seating area.

Play peek-a-boo: Arrange petite pieces so that they peek out of unexpected spots, adding a touch of whimsy to any space. For example, Susan left one of the drawers of an old apothecary on her kitchen counter ajar and tucked in a tiny Santa, who seems to pop out for a quick "Ho, ho, ho!" Small crocks and firkins offer still more prime "peek-a-boo" opportunities.

Shelve the matter: A large shelf can overwhelm displays of pint-size items, so get creative about finding scaled-down counterparts. Susan has used a tobacco leaf shelf, diminutive homemade shelves, a utensil drawer divider hung sideways and even an antique nesting box. "We found the nesting box in a shop, and Fred asked, "What are we going to do with that?'" she recalls. "I said, 'We're flipping it on its side, and I'm putting stuff in it!'"

Written by Nancy Anderson Hedberg
Photographed and styled by Franklin & Esther Schmidt