The Decorating Trick Bloggers and Decorators Use ALL the Time.

One browse through an Architectural Digest or designer Instagram page and you’ll see it.  The easiest trick in the book for making any room look great.

Actually, now that I think about it the REAL trick that bloggers and decorators use to make a room look great are animals.  Doesn’t really matter what kind. Cat, dog, goat, hedgehog, manatee, I mean whatever you have on  hand really.   Throw one of those on the bed, snap a picture and you’re decorator of the year. Done.

However, the trick I am referring to is …

The Collection.

If you have more than 2 of something – you have a collection.  That’s right. Right now you are sitting on your very own collection of toes.  Hopefully.  Let us all hold hands in a circle, praying that you don’t have a collection of noses.

As you can see, I have a collection of similarly shaped vessels.  I didn’t even know I had this collection until I started scouring the house looking for them.  They were scattered around, some in bookcases, some on tables and some relegated to the basement. They all looked O.K. where they were (other than the one on the windowsill next to the mousetrap in the basement) but they didn’t have any huge impact.

Now they do. Instead of detracting from each other they amplify each other.


You probably have collections around your house and not even realize it. Like me.  ‘Cause we’re idiots. In fact I’m such an idiot I didn’t realize I have subconsciously created collections all over my house. Wherever I have a collection that part of my house looks good. Put together.  Instagrammy.

So why is this a trick?  Because it fools everyone into thinking you know what you’re doing.

Taking similar stuff and piling it together automatically gives you design cred. There are a few guidelines if you really feel like you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.

Guidelines for Displaying a Collection of Objects.

There are a few things that will constitute a collection:


  • round, rectangular, organic etc.


  • vases, plants, photos, bowls, clay pots, scary clowns, PEZ dispensers … you get the idea.


  • repeating colours or tones


  • wood, metal, plastic etc.

Sometimes things will look better if they’re all the same colour and some things will look better if they’re all different colours. You just have to keep trying stuff.

Why the vessels work.

All of the things are similar objects.  Vases/vessels.  Plus they’re all similar shapes.

They’re all different materials with ceramic, glass, metal and even paper. But because they’re all a similar objects and shapes it works.  If they were all random shapes with some having very geometric shapes it wouldn’t work nearly as well.  If they were all the same colour, having different shapes would work fine.

See?  You have to balance enough similar things in a collection for it to look pleasing to your eyeball. You might put things together and think NO that doesn’t look good, but you can’t figure out why. Keep in mind the 4 categories I’ve laid out and you should be able to figure out why something is or isn’t working.

It could be that things are either too similar or not similar enough to the eye.

It’s all about balance.

An entire row of vases that are all the same height and colour would look kind of dull for example. 


Grouping collections works especially well if you have at least 2 of the boxes checked off.  With these suitcases for example, they’re all the same thing (suitcases) and all the same shape (rectangular). They aren’t the same colours or materials but they all have a similar feel; old and dirty.  With a bit of yuck.



With these cutting boards again they’re all the same “thing”.  Unlike the suitcases, they’re different shapes, but they’re all made out of the same material.  Plus it’s echoed with the pizza peel hanging on the wall.

And seriously, find me one blogger that doesn’t have a shot in their kitchen of a “random stack” of old cutting boards.  It’s a thing.  Trust me.

Those aren’t old cutting boards by my sink by the way, I made them all and I know you want to make them too now.  Go read this post about how to make genuine new old cutting boards.



Remember a long time ago when I said if you had all kinds of white vases that were the same height it would look kind of boring?  Ignore that. I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m an asshead.

This collection of *almost* identical ironstone bowls on top of my cabinet proves that theory wrong.  Behind them is another collection of ironstone platters, which are different shapes but the same colour and material.


The copper pot collection I’m accumulating may soon be relegated to a hanging pot rack over my island. I haven’t decided yet. My ceilings are lowish so it might just feel weird. On the other hand, it would be a great place to hang a sloth for photos.

For now they’re all alone within arms reach of my range along with a couple of other copper cooking things like measuring cups and a skillet.

If you’re feeling a bit of the winter blues with your house try creating a collection this week. If you already have one try fiddling with it to make it better.

And I know. You don’t think you have a collection. But you do.  Let me remind you of your toes. You didn’t realize you had a collection of those did you?  So wander around your house, basement, closet, under beds and put some things together by shape, object, colour or material and see what you can come up with.

THEN when you come up with something good, post it on Instagram and hashtag it #TAODScollection (that way I can find it and repost it).

Extra points for anyone who’s able to incorporate toes.

→Follow me on Instagram where I often make a fool of myself←


The Decorating Trick Bloggers and Decorators Use ALL the Time.


  1. Marna says:

    Great tips! Love the copper! Lol about the sloth! :)

  2. PMMK says:

    Thank you for this post. I was starting to get the hang of collections but wasn’t quite there. You’ve finally disclosed the secret to making it work. Mine were still looking too matchy-matchy.

    Still loving your mid-century lamps. Two is a collection, right? I like your buffet too. IKEA or custom?

  3. Alena says:

    That’s why I always had 3 greyhounds.

  4. Humorous post with great information. Thank you.

  5. Laura Bee says:

    This is one of at least 4 things I forgot to do this week. Better late than never! I love my little collections. Try to keep them small but some I get carried away with. #taodscollection on Insta I think.

  6. Judith says:

    I thought what a great idea. Taking it further, it could also reflect a hobby/interest you have. Next step is i love murder mysteries…I could assemble a collection of murder instruments….which leads, of course, to my kitchen….and there it ends because living room mantle will not be the repository of my kitchen implements!

  7. Liz says:

    Karen, I have cancelled every blog subscription I have ever been duped into signing up for, except yours! I actually look forward to seeing your name in my inbox. Your honest, fresh, and quirky comments are so relate-able, reading your posts is a bright spot in my otherwise mundane and sheltered life. Thanks for keeping it real. (And for sharing great ideas!)

  8. Elaine says:

    You’ve given away my secret, Karen! For decades now, I have fooled a lot of people into thinking I come from “old money” (I wish!) because of my collection of blue and white vases, bowls, etc. The most expensive one was about $40. I once used them in the kitchen to hold sugar, tea bags and such but now have them grouped on a buffet in my living room. I saw that in a decor mag way back in the 70’s and never tire of the “expensive look”. Thank you for the fun post.

  9. Rebecca Holt says:

    Thanks for the tip. Just posted on instagram. I wish I would have done a before, hodgepodge, and after. Needs more work but a start.

  10. Donna says:

    Your cabinet is full of awesomeness. Underneath you have a collection of ironstone bowls, gravy boats and serving plates. That piece is a decorator’s dream!

  11. Lynn says:

    I’m inspired that your collections also look useful! I think my problem is actually needing less collections of dust catchers, OR more places to put the tons of stuff I have and the creative juices to make them useful.

  12. Mary W says:

    I noticed that Martha Stewart did this all the time way back when I first got her magazines – before jail. She could take one tiny sugar cube snowman, decorate it slightly then take a bunch more of them, group them, shoot a picture and I wanted to make a sugar cube scene just like hers. Groups were vital to her popularity. I always said she could gold emboss a turd, grouponize it and sell them. Well I’ve used this theory in decorating my Christmas tree. I made bright colored cardstock origami stars – huge stars 8″ across, hunge them with cute hangers, and my tree looked fabulous. In fact, my daughter still uses them each year to ‘base layer’ the tree then decorate with real (store bought) things that break. I put tiny bits of flowers in tiny clear old glass creamers, tiny glass perfume bottles, tiny glass medicine bottles, and these sill setters looked fab on my window sill . Well they did until the cat decided to reach up and swat them all down. The lizard never had a chance nor the bottles – I guess it was easier than trying to sell them at a yard sale. You have a wonderful way of looking at things in depth – then sharing it with all of us. You are NOT a part of some group – you are unique and so special!

  13. Bonnie Harris says:

    Putting the larger white platters behind the bowls makes all the difference, very nice. Your copper collection might be big enough for that pot-hanger over the island now. Mine looked best when it wasn’t too cluttered and especially if each pot was a good size. Then you can carry the copper tone over to the shelf a bit using the leftover small pieces. Thanks for the inspiration, I’m off to hunt around the house for new and better collections.

  14. Dian Amick says:

    I have several collections…my favorite and most prolific is my blue and white porcelain pieces. Only a few are valuable, but I love them all.

  15. LISA STEELE says:

    You’rs brilliant you know that? Of course you do. Off to find my toes and some other random stuff that is actually a collection….

  16. judy says:

    I did not believe that your foyer could be improved upon,but as usual your wonderful eye added beauty in the shapes,forms,colors and textures of your vessels. Standing ovation and where’s the champagne?

  17. Clem says:

    Thanks Karen. I had never noticed this before! Please keep doing your thing.

  18. Always fun and educational..
    Keep up the great work, Karen.
    I love learning with a laugh

  19. Deborah Burns says:

    Yes! And…. a collection tends to look best displayed in odd numbers. :)
    My, what nice collections you have!

  20. Kim says:

    Great idea! I’m so going to try this!

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