How To Curate A Collection Without Spending A Fortune

Last week it was half term in North Yorkshire and it took less than three hours on the Monday for my kids to a) ask me for money, b) empty the cupboard of food leaving it completely barren, c) complain they were bored and d) moan about the unfairness of living in the countryside which meant they couldn't go and hang out at the local pit of iniquity and centre for vaping and cider drinking, AKA the local park.  In order to combat the whinging, I'd made an appointment via my friend Sharon (who knows everything) to go and look at some kittens in Leeds. 

Since my children were small, we have always had cats.  When Max was a baby, we had a pair who were half Burmese and half feral and who used to bring in headless squirrels and leave them under the cot as presents.  It was a regular nightly occurrence to come downstairs in my pyjamas to make baby bottles and feel the squelch of bird innards between my toes which had been strewn across the carpet.  When we moved, they refused to come with us as their territory was the park behind our house so the neighbours very kindly took them on.  Next up were Marv and Lola who were lovely cats with no hint of feral, until one day, a gutless car driver knocked Marv over and killed him outside our house before driving off.  We buried him in the garden with Ella presiding over the ceremony reciting a poem written especially by her for the occasion -  'Marv, Marv, you were the best.  You should have worn a yellow vest'.   Succinct yet a perfect sum up.

Gratuitous cute kitten shot. 

Gratuitous cute kitten shot. 

We weren't allowed to bring Lola to our rented house in York so she was rehomed with a friend, but when we moved into our own home, we started looking for kittens to terrorise poor Buddy.  So when Sharon suggested her friend in Leeds, we immediately booked in to see them.  This worked very well on two levels.  Firstly, I ticked the 'fun mum' box taking them on an exciting half term outing (an occurrence so irregular, there's more chance of hell freezing over).  And secondly, the kittens lived a mere five minutes from IKEA so it was a perfect multi tasking location.  

I love IKEA.  It wasn't that busy and even the kids were vaguely interested in the room sets.  Despite the fact that I can already barely close my drinks glass cupboard in the kitchen, I came out with another six, plus four mugs, a huge jute rug, eight picture frames, candles, a large indoor plant and a XXL pack of Dime Bars.   I actually needed none of it aside from the frames but literally couldn't stop myself from purchasing.  Whoever in the IKEA marketing department is responsible for those little arrows that take you merrily round the store making you buy things is on to a winner.

How could I resist these IKEA pink mugs?  The Dime Bars had gone by 7.30 pm.

How could I resist these IKEA pink mugs?  The Dime Bars had gone by 7.30 pm.

Unfortunately, this type of purchase situation has been the story of my life.  I'm not saying that I am a candidate for Storage Hoarders, but it's borderline.  If they were really desperate, I would definitely be able to come on board with the goods.  My weekly trawls around the charity shops with my friend Karen has created a house full of vintage treasures, although Joe would disagree.  He is the man who calls Christmas decorations seasonal shite and refuses to be drawn on any home accessory made before 1995.   So when I decided to make the subject of this blog How To Curate A Collection,  I figured I was more than qualified to comment.

So What Is A Collection?

Although my husband would say a pile of tat, the actual definition of a collection is 'a group of accumulated items of a particular kind'.  The aesthetic of putting similarly shaped, coloured or types of objects together looks fabulous and you can literally curate a collection of anything.    When you've got lots of stuff plonked around the room with no cohesive element, it can look random and unstructured.   Stick with items of a similar tone or theme and group them in one place and they look like they were made to be together.   

Dee Campling's hallway, the textures bond this collection and make it work.

Dee Campling's hallway, the textures bond this collection and make it work.

What's In It For Me?

Collecting stuff is fun.  Period.  It's the thrill of the chase, the finding of something that you can add.  Because a collection is held together only by one factor, you can add anything as long as it fits that brief.  My first collection was a mantlepiece selection of white china.  From modern tea light holders to Royal Doulton figures to a white china horse I bought in a charity shop, put together in a group they looked brilliant and so effective, people always remarked on them.  Even better, they often bought me things to add to it.  Bonus.  It doesn't have to be expensive, it's something you can do on a budget.  You'll probably find you've got things to start your collection already in your home.

My charity shop partner in crime, Karen, has a fab collection of glug vases, all picked up for pounds.  

My charity shop partner in crime, Karen, has a fab collection of glug vases, all picked up for pounds.  

But What Should I Collect?

Quite frankly, you can collect anything.  I have a collection of art deco and vintage mirrors that I've picked up over the last ten years.  I've never paid more than a tenner for any of them, in fact most of them were under a fiver.  Every time we move house they come with us and Joe's worst job ever is putting them up because they weigh a bloody tonne. Joe doesn't like to get out his drill unless absolutely necessary (insert wide eyed emoji).  They're always a talking point and very handy when you're slightly trollied at the dinner table and want to check that your eyes haven't gone wobbly.

Vintage glassware can be picked up for literally pounds and pence in charity shops.  How much more fun is it to have a dinner table laid with a mix of gorgeous vintage crystal than all matchy matchy?  And who says you have to use wine glasses?  Vintage tumblers look super cool for both wine and water.  Everyone always loves it when I get out my collection of miniature liquor glasses for after dinner drinks even though they have to be filled up every 30 seconds.  And when you're not using it, it looks fabulous stored all together in a glass cabinet.  Be warned, its totes addictive.  I can't pass a Sue Ryder Shop without rushing in for a sherry glass.

Glass collection goals at the Parker Palm Springs.  Photograph courtesy of Lou Mora.

Glass collection goals at the Parker Palm Springs.  Photograph courtesy of Lou Mora.

Coloured glass is a perfect demonstration of how simple interior styling can be and shows that a basic combining of colours can be unbelievably effective and incredibly beautiful. These photographs show coloured glassware shelves.  Seriously gorge.  You don't have to mix the colours - just one colour would have a similar impact.  This type of glassware can be picked up really cheaply at charity shops and car boot sales.

The home of Elsie Larson, author of A Beautiful Mess blog.

The home of Elsie Larson, author of A Beautiful Mess blog.

Stuart Eminson's fabulously retro home demonstrates his individuality with a collection of 60's glassware.

Stuart Eminson's fabulously retro home demonstrates his individuality with a collection of 60's glassware.

Ever since I saw book colour coding in Livingetc about ten years ago, I've been a massive fan.  Regardless of whether it's 'on trend' or not, I love it.  It's got to a point now where I cannot compile books on a shelf without it.  It makes what is uncoordinated, coordinated.  Kate Learmonth (Cowboy Kate) has taken it to the other extreme and swapped the spines around which gives a similarly striking effect.  Keeping it tonal and regimented makes it work.

Photograph courtesy of Heather Zerah.  Blog post title photograph courtesy of Jan Hendrik.

Photograph courtesy of Heather Zerah.  Blog post title photograph courtesy of Jan Hendrik.

Cowboy Kate's bookshelf with opposite spines.  Super effective.

Cowboy Kate's bookshelf with opposite spines.  Super effective.

Plates are another current obsession.  If you've seen my revamped living room (on my blog next week) then you'll know that I've been collecting plates in order to create a focal point above the fireplace.  Inspired by the home of Jamie Theakston, I first saw his kitchen plate display years ago and have been hoarding plates ever since.  They're all different shapes, ages and sizes but their randomness is cohesive by the fact they are all the same type of object.

Jamie Theakston's kitchen.  Photograph courtesy of Paul Massey.

Jamie Theakston's kitchen.  Photograph courtesy of Paul Massey.

As seen on the hashtag myhomevibe this week, gallery walls are your chance to really go for it.  But it's possible to keep it consistent by theming your wall too.  Once again, Jamie Theakston has nailed it with his midcentury wall.  The salmon pink wall of the second pic shows how grouping in a collection can bring completely different accessories together and make them gel.  The Chinese lanterns look amazing against the wall of women and the tribal heads are a cool juxtaposition.  God, I love that word.     

Jamie Theakston's mid century sitting room.  Photograph courtesy of Paul Massey.

Jamie Theakston's mid century sitting room.  Photograph courtesy of Paul Massey.

Photography for Anthology Magazine by Henny Van Belkom.
Matthew Shaw's gorgeous dining corner is edge to edge with collected family photographs in consistent colour frames.

Matthew Shaw's gorgeous dining corner is edge to edge with collected family photographs in consistent colour frames.

The home of design duo Quirk & Rescue and their fabulous vintage tray collection.

The home of design duo Quirk & Rescue and their fabulous vintage tray collection.

Whether it's milk glass or retro vinyl, vintage watches or movie posters, anything goes when it comes to collections.   And the great thing about curating a collection is that it's endless - you only need stop when you feel like it.  If you love it, display it!  It's your home.

And in case you were wondering, we did pick a kitten (possibly even two) and they will be ready in May.   Poor Buddy won't know what's hit him.