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Addison West Design Blog

Three Ways Collections Can Personalize a Space

Three Ways Collections Can Personalize a Space

Rocks. Sticks. Seashells. Pinecones and chestnuts. I remember our young sons’ passions for these beautiful collected objects from nature. Many of them made their way into our home over the years. In fact, a giant jar of seaglass still sits in the bedroom of our now sixteen year-old son. 

As I looked around our house lately, I notice collections in just about every room. Some are those remnants of childhood carried on over the years. Others are newer collections, made into decor. What is it about the collected that charms us so much? 

Collections connect us to our childhood spirit. 

Like a child on the seashore, the process of collecting is one part diligence and focus and another part magic. Walking up and down a beach, carefully inspecting every step, every inch, it takes time and focus. Collected treasures also take patience and sustained focus to find that JUST right thing to fit into the mix. 

But oh boy! That moment when you find the perfect seashell. Or that perfect... Something. It’s exhilarating, like serendipity. And it can even bring us back to those moment of magical childhood discovery.

White wall with blue and white vintage plates.             

It took us five years of collecting before we found enough antique plates for our feature wall. The last one, a commemorative Spode plate, was a lucky find on Ebay. To say it made my day is a complete understatement. I was giddy. 

Collections help us remember. 

Our boys were both born while we lived in Ireland, just south of Dublin. Like many young parents, we were often looking for outings - reasons to get out of the house. Places to explore and visit, sometimes just to tire out a fussy baby. One of our favorites destinations was Killiney Beach, a long, stony beach with vast views, a short walk from our house. 

One day, while walking, we came across the most unusual stone. I picked it up. Turned it over in my hand. And then realized, as I was showing my husband, that it wasn’t some mythic stone but rather a very old, pitted, grayed spigot handle. Our new ‘stone’ became the first of many collected to mark trips to a beach.  

Today, we have a bowl full of   stones that sits on the dining   room table between meals. Different shapes. Sizes. Textures. Each chosen by a friend or family. Some are labeled and dated. Each stone marks a day. A trip to the beach. A moment to be rekindled.  

Simon Pearce Celadon square bowl filled with stones 

Collections can be useful. 

Who doesn’t have a cabinet full of mugs? Handmade mugs. Mugs with sayings, places, jokes. Mugs often gifted and received. In the end, most of us end up with an eclectic collection. Perhaps it’s not the most purposeful collection but it is kept and USED nonetheless. 

On the weekends ONLY, my husband lovingly pulls down his hand painted ‘Dad’ mug from 10+ years ago. It has chips and the paint is fading. But it has UTILITY. And as part of our collection it also brings back those young boys that painted mugs many years ago.  

Black cabinet with collection of brass and pewter candlesticks

Cabinets house collections as art. The candlesticks are used at every meal when we eat in our dining room.

Collections tell stories. They have heart. They are deeply personal expressions of a life lived, of friends and family and of shared experiences. And collections can be handed down through generations. They are paths to connect to our past. To honor traditions. 

Collections cannot be right and they cannot be wrong. They are inherently creative and grounding. So we say: Embrace the collected. Showcase them and share them. Make your space come alive with the moments and the memories of the found, the discovered, the created.

We’d love to know what YOU'VE collected. 




Feb 19, 2024

Wonderful post! I’ve collected Quimper pottery for years—sourced from shops in Paris and Stonington, CT and more recently, from online auctions. I also collect vintage samplers and game boards—both make great wall displays.

Sharon Johnson

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