How to display collections in your home

Show off your collection – from china to curiosities, vintage buys and holiday finds – in style with these ideas for display

danish apartment vintage gallery wall
(Image credit: Period Living)

We all have our vices. For some, it's collecting vintage teacups; for others, it's amassing antique miniatures. But how to display collections to both show them off to best advantage and to preserve them safely? The secret is in the styling of the arrangement – but that's not always something that's easy to get across in words. So, we've come up with a gallery of beautiful ideas to help you display your collectibles stylishly, no matter what you love. 

Many of the ideas featured are in the homes of Period Living magazine readers – and you can click through to see the rest of their beautiful homes. Then why not browse all our design features for more style inspiration?

1. Display ceramics in a vintage dresser

Ornate crockery, ceramics, porcelain and chinaware can be displayed in a number of interesting ways. If you have room, a dresser is definitely the way to best exhibit plates and bowls. Use plate stands to showcase your favourite pieces and create greater depth by interspersing with bowls and mugs.  

Vintage floral plates displayed in a welsh dresser

(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

A wide variety of colours and patterns can make collections look overwhelming, so opt for light or natural coloured cabinetry to ensure your ceramics are the centre of attention. 

Below, a dresser-style cupboard houses a collection of antique English and oriental ceramics includes a series of limited-edition annual Liberty cups dating back to 1975.

Explore more of this Georgian townhouse maisonette

Display a mix of crockery in an open welsh dresser


(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

Below, a traditional kitchen dresser is filled with pretty floral china and old jam jars collected from various flea markets and antiques shops. Love this look? Find more inspiration with our country cottage home ideas to conjure up a similar feel in all your rooms.

Vintage welsh dresser used to display a mix of vintage crockery

 

2. Or hang plates on the wall for an alternative display

Hanging plates on a wall is a wonderful way to show them off as if they were artwork. Picking plates with similar colours but contrasting designs and spacing them evenly is the best way to create an eye-catching display, whether contemporary in style or more traditional.

Plates displayed on the wall


(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

You needn't limit a display of plates to plates alone; combining them with pottery or ceramics – and even tiles – from the same manufacturer or in a similar style will allow you to create a stand-out display.

The owner of the home below inherited his father’s passion for collecting, which has resulted in an impressive display of Delft blue tiles from the Netherlands.

Plates and tiles used to create a gallery wall above a cooker


You needn't stick to ceramics, either. Basketwork plates will add warmth and texture to an otherwise neutral scheme.

Love these ideas? Be inspired by our gallery wall ideas to create an eclectic display.

Textured woven wall hangings displayed above a gold side cabinet

Fringed basket wall art from Anthropologie

(Image credit: Anthropologie)

3. Showcase smaller ceramics on an ornate fireplace

For smaller collections such as ceramic figures or chinaware, a mantelpiece is the perfect spot to showcase your favourite characters or designs. 

Below, the owner of this Victorian villa has utilised the space to showcase her collection of vintage chests. On the mantelpiece she has paired vintage plaster figures with candles to create a characterful display. 

The original Victorian fireplace in Rouge Royal marble has always been a striking focal point in the formal sitting room. Above it a £1 painting of an Irish lake scene now hangs, chosen by the owner for its Instagram-like saturated colours and similarity to the pictures she had seen in abandoned Ukrainian homes on research visits to Chernobyl. The ex-military wooden chest came from a local auction. The Infant of Prague plaster figure on the mantelpiece came from Northallerton Auctions and the Sainte Thérèse of Lisieux statue was from Newark antiques fair

Display collections of china, ceramics or figurines on a mantlepiece


(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Ceramic figures support a small collections of vintage books on this original wooden fireplace.

Display collections of china, ceramics or figurines on a mantlepiece


(Image credit: Joyce Vloet/Coco Features)

Want to recreate a similar feel for your home? For more traditional fireplace design ideas, check out our gallery.

4. Display your favourite finds in groups

Whether your style is wild taxidermy, vintage vignettes or rustic salvage, make a statement when displaying your collections. Opt for more understated cabinets or shelving to allow your collections to shine. 

Below, the owner’s silver collection is beautifully displayed in the hallway – it started with a vesta case belonging to his grandfather. See more of the thatched cottage with its intriguing past.

Silverware displayed in an open cabinet

 

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

More bulky collectables such as sewing machines or vintage cameras, make great bookends and also adds a burst of additional character to shelves. 

Hats displayed in a hallway

If you have smaller, more miscellaneous collections, such as hats (above) or sewing accessories (below), try creating a display on shelves or a low table. Use old, vintage books to create height, and use similar coloured items to create a strong trend. 

Vintage threads and sewing accessories displayed on bookshelf

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

A bathroom may seem like a strange place to display your favourite collectibles but it is not to be overlooked. This vintage sporting equipment (below) adds a characterful vintage flair to the bathroom and turns it into one of the most intriguing rooms of this post-war semi-detached house.

Of course, bathrooms will be prone to moisture so ensure any collectibles you showcase in here are able to withstand the humidity and are not expensive or of particular sentimental value. These leather goods and glass bottles are perfect.

bathroom with a display of vintage accessories and sports equipment

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Posters and paintings are common wall decorations and rightly so. Mix textures, colours and patterns to create an inspirational statement wall, but ensure that the pictures are of a particular period and intimately spaced to create a strong feeling of unity in the display. The vintage prints on the wall below are in a living room by instagrammer Lisa Piddington.

Find out how to hang the perfect gallery wall in our advice feature. 

Gallery wall with vintage style


(Image credit: Lisa Piddington)

Perhaps you have family photos dating back generations that you would love to display? One way to do so is by getting them framed and grouping them on a wall. Frames needn't match – especially in period-style homes – but limiting them to two or three materials, colours or finishes will keep the collection cohesive.

Find out more about how to display pictures and prints in our design guide.

gallery wall displaying photos and pictures in mismatched frames

(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

Another key to success when displaying pictures and prints in a group? Ensuring they blend beautifully, both in terms of colours and period, with the items grouped around them. Here, vintage prints are complemented by glassware and furniture from the same era.

Dining area with statement seating in a kitchen extension


(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

In this gallery wall there is a total mix of prints and pictures from all periods but it is the clear neutral colour scheme that ties the display together.

Gallery wall made up of a display of pictures and photos in cream and wooden frames

(Image credit: Iben and Niels Ahlberg/inagency.dk)

Explore more of this Copenhagen apartment filled with French vintage finds 

6. Make a feature of kitchenalia

There are plenty of other collectibles that look fabulous displayed on the wall. Kitchenalia adds character and looks excellent in a vintage kitchen and displays of mirrors, picture frames and even rugs are all beautiful options that add decorative interest to any room.

dutch farmhouse kitchen with plates and copper pots displayed above the range cooker

(Image credit: Denise Keus )

Open shelves are an easy option for displaying pretty glassware and china in a kitchen – and if they're every day items that you use, this is a practical storage solution, too.

Open kitchen shelving used to display glassware and colourful jugs

(Image credit: National Trust)

Even bread boards can look beautiful if displayed well...

Gallery wall made up of wooden bread boards

(Image credit: Penny Wincer)

7. Style your own vintage library 

Antique books offer a range of colours, textures and sizes and make for gorgeous displays. Create your own little library with simple wall-mounted or freestanding bookcase. Add ceramic characters, vintage trinkets or flowers to the bookshelf to create additional points of interest.

A corner of the sitting room (below) is home to some of Dan Cruikshank’s diverse collections. Explore more of this gorgeous renovation.

Vintage books displayed in a home office

 

(Image credit: Mark Scott)

If you want your display of books to look more formal than accidental, colour co-ordination is important, as is spacing. In other words, breaking up the rows of books with more transparent or curvaceous accessories will give the whole display room to breathe.

Love the idea of creating a home library? Find more gorgeous reading spots to inspire your scheme.

Books displayed in a formal arrangement

(Image credit: Love Interiors. Photographer Rachel Smith)

8. Disguise and organise with vintage canisters and tins

Not only is there something irresistible about the pastel shades and floral patterns on vintage tins and canisters, but they're also a useful (and beautiful) storage solutions. 

Vintage tins used to create a display

(Image credit: Joyce Vloet/Coco Features)

Organised on a vintage side-table or distressed wooden shelving make them a practical part of the decor. 

Display vintage tins on open shelving

(Image credit: Joyce Vloet/Coco Features)

9. Make a statement display with vintage mirrors

Vintage or antique mirrors, displayed in groups, can make a characterful display and have the added bonus of making a small or dark room feel lighter and brighter. Choose unframed mirrors for a small room; larger spaces can cope with ornately framed pieces.

Danish dining room with mirror gallery wall


(Image credit: Iben and Niels Ahlberg/inagency.dk)

Want to recreate this look at home? You can successfully display a collection of mirrors in just about every room. Find inspiration in our mirror display idea design gallery.

Natural flooring in a hallway of a period property

(Image credit: Alternative Flooring)

10. Show off house and garden plants

Collections needn't be solely antique collectibles – a beautiful selection of house plants can be grouped on shelves or on a low coffee table alongside some of your other favourite finds, such as books or ceramics, to create a truly stunning display.

Inspired? Find more house plant display ideas in our design gallery.

living room with overwhelming collection of houseplants

Spider plants, with their trailing tendencies, are a great alternative to consider if you're trying to recreate this look

(Image credit: Sofa.com)

And, of course, antique or period-style garden containers can look beautiful grouped around a front or back door or as the focal feature of a pretty patio, especially if you pot up sculptural plants in them.

Find out more about container gardening in our feature and check out these lovely DIY alternative planters. 

Succulents planted in vintage tins

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

More VINTAGE-inspired design ideas and tips: