Most of us have plenty of knick-knacks but may need help to artfully arrange them. Every flat surface in your home — coffee and end tables, vanity and countertops, bedside tables, dressers and bookshelf ledges — is a possible stage for your treasures. Consider the following guidelines when placing your accessories:
1) Keep function first. A creative display of your possessions can become a disagreeable pile of junk if it keeps you from using the surface. Leave enough space to set down your coffee cup, put up your feet or rest your glasses and a book. Don't block conversation: There's nothing more irritating than chatting through the fronds of a huge floral display or trying to catch a glimpse of your host around a sculpture piece.
2) Less is more. It's best to show off a few choice pieces rather than clutter up the space with too many tsotchkes. Limit your accessories and exhibit the ones you are proud of. You'll spend less time dusting and feel more relaxed in a room with fewer visual distractions.
3) Display objects that reflect the room's feel, style and color scheme. Every room gives off a "message" or feeling, and the space will feel more peaceful if the accessories "say" what the rest of the room does. A modern chrome bowl enhances a room with Bauhaus-like decor but would not be in harmony in a romantic, country setting; a red vase filled with yellow flowers would jar one's senses in an all-pink room. Interpret what each object conveys to the space and weed out accessories that don't communicate the same message.
4) Surround yourself with beauty and meaning. Pick accessories that make you feel good to look at or hold, rather than things that just match. If what you see is what you love, your home will be a constant delight.
5) Keep your collections together. If you have three or more of something, it's a collection! Group your thimbles or teacups rather than scattering them throughout your house. Create a mini-museum by displaying an extensive collection in a dedicated piece of furniture, such as an étagère, wall shelf or dresser-top. Or devote the corner of the room or an entire room to your relics. My guest-room wall houses a collection of 22 antique beaded purses and my living room wall has 15 rusted-iron stars dotting the wall.
6) Group like objects. Things that have something in common will have more impact when shown as a related group. Look for commonalties and blend objects. For example, cluster natural materials such as wicker, bamboo or wood, or gather all your fishing memorabilia together. Display your small brass or silver pieces on a tray, or devote a bookshelf to your travel and map souvenirs.
7) Creatively cluster objects. Accessories grouped in odd numbers tend to look more dynamic than even-numbered groupings. Layer your treasures: Place the tallest item in the background and cascade the rest toward the foreground. Avoid lining up your knick-knacks in a stiff row, unless all of the pieces are exactly the same size and shape. Play with your treasures until you get an arrangement that feels right.
8) If it looks wrong to you, it probably is. If you get a funny feeling when you look at the bowling trophy next to your porcelain poodle, respect your gut feeling. Change or remove displays that look weird, out of balance or jarring.
9) Change your accessories often. Any object will become invisible if left in the same location for years. Strip every room and replace your accessories at least four times a year and your possessions will look brand new to you. Remember that you don't display everything you own all at once. Make a box labeled "treasures" and fill it with leftover pieces. Examine it on your regular accessorizing dates and rotate your pieces.
10) If you love it, leave it. Disregard all previous guidelines and surround yourself with whatever tickles your fancy. It's your home and you should have it your way.