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Show collectibles in best setting

(ran HH HP editions)

It isn't hard to spot a committed collector. In an antique shop or at a flea market or auction, they're the ones with the wild gleam in their eyes.

Hard-core collectors are also unlike the rest of us who generally consider an object's functional facets, no matter how interesting, pretty or unusual it may be.

The collector, on the other hand, doesn't even think about the potential uses of a piece that is to be added to others just like it.

Very often, collecting seems to be its own reward. It doesn't much matter whether the collection is stashed away like a secret treasure or proudly displayed as though it were a trophy.

Having had many clients who collect _ and having dabbled in this hobby myself _ I know that storage or display can present some real problems, especially as a collection grows over the years.

The first factor to consider, of course, is how best to prevent damage to the objects.

Fibers and lacquered pieces are especially vulnerable to the effects of poor climate control, but just about any item can suffer if it's exposed to too much heat or cold. Excessive sunlight and even the wrong kind of artificial lighting can also cause damage.

Not many homes offer museum-like conditions, so it makes sense to learn how to minimize the dangers for particular types of objects. Keeping the pieces clean and rotating them from time to time are always recommended.

As a designer, I regard aesthetics, or the beauty of the objects, as the primary motivation for collecting. That doesn't mean, however, that only precious and expensive items are worth collecting.

Everyday objects can have their own beauty, which it's possible to enhance by means of an artful display.

The photo shows how a collection of straw hats and baskets was arranged in order to accentuate their colors, shapes and sizes.

The various items are closely grouped, allowing them to play off one another, while also clearly signaling that this is, in fact, a collection rather than a scattering of unrelated decorative accessories. The idea is to include everything within a frame _ either actual or implied _ as a means of establishing visual order.

In this way, the collection as a whole is given precedence over its individual components.

Here, the straw pieces are tightly gathered in both vertical and horizontal formations. The up-and-down and back-and-forth placements add to the collection's interest.

A display of this sort is especially effective for smaller objects such as boxes, picture frames or sea shells, which can be laid out on a table top as well as on the shelves of a cabinet.

Contemporary wallpaper

Question: I'm looking for some contemporary wallpaper to go with the overall design of my apartment. The point of using wallpaper is to hide all the lumps and bumps on my dull white walls.

Most of the styles I've seen, however, are too conventional for my tastes. I also think I would find those mini-patterns distracting on an everyday basis. Any ideas?

Answer: How about a textured and matte-finished wall covering the fact that that will act as a good background for artwork?

The non-shiny surface of a natural woven grasscloth, or a linen-like fabric, will certainly conceal whatever is underneath.

These materials are often available paper-backed for easy installation, but, if you do select a wall covering that requires paste and rollers, I strongly suggest you hire a professional paper-hanger to avoid frayed and mismatched weaves.

Besides having unique camouflage capabilities, many of these textured wallpapers have been given a washable vinyl finish that is extremely durable. That's something to consider if you're not planning to move out of your apartment within the next couple of years.

Even if this particular kind of contemporary wallpaper is to your liking, I wouldn't advise that it be the sole treatment for your walls. You really ought to accompany it, I think, with a few paintings or some wall-hung decorative objects.

Keep in mind that such artworks can readily be moved into another room or be taken down entirely should you grow weary of their appearance.

Want to see some possibilities? Take a look at the photo of a Palm Beach, Fla., apartment, which combines sophisticated styling with easy maintenance. Designer Bebe Winkler began with a striking color scheme of basic black and cream touched with accents of amethyst and seafoam. These serene hues were chosen because they're especially appropriate for the apartment's geographic location and also because they establish a mood that Winkler wanted to extend throughout the room.

The main seating group, for example, continues the black-and-cream motif, and complementary colors were used in the large abstract paintings, which were commissioned from a Floridian artist.

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