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Curating collections

My friend Holly likes collecting things. And she has a LOT of things. But collecting is an art, and she is good at arranging stuff, so it doesn't look like she lives like a crazed hoarder, or at a car boot sale. 

As Terence Conran says in his excellent The House Book, the 1974 edition of which I am somewhat addicted to: "The most disparate and surprising objects can be happily brought together. They may be related in shape, in genus, in colour of not connected in any way – there for the simple reason that their owner likes the look of them." Below, you'll see examples of most of those approaches.

The birds "Genus" grouped things give a sense of order to otherwise disparate objects – in terms of shape, colour, size and so on. The black and white pair, far left, are from Twenty Twenty One, priced £26.50 each. Maiden do an owl moneybox similar to the white fellow in the middle for £11.

Oh yes, and this is Holly.

In case you're wondering where you've seen that directionally coiffed chap behind her before, possibly in photos of my house.

We are the only people we know who has one, it was a sew-it-yourself doll that our mums both saved coupons for when we were little from a cereal called Force Flakes – hair man, whose name is Sunny Jim, was their logo. You can sometimes find them on eBay.

Plated up Holly's collection of side plates follow no rule except that they are all plates. Because they're all little, rather than dinner plates, even the pricey ones can be an affordable luxury. I like that they are a mixture of random charity shop finds (the Millenium plate, above, bottom left) and posh shop buys. Says Holly: "The London Eye plate [second row, centre, above] is the most expensive; I love that at first glance it's a classic 50s utopian style, but on closer inspection it depicts urban decay... and the London Eye. It's by Timorous Beasties – and I've  always been a fan of Robert Burns so their name just adds to the joy!" (It's part of TB's Toile range – you might have seen the fabric and wallpaper. Buy from £30 at Kitchen Critic.) Most of all, I like that they all have a story. This is what home is all about.

As for the other plates: "The elephant one was an unsought-for find when I was cutting through Peter Jones one day. It was under a tenner and I just had to have it. It's now got a little chip on it, but somehow that just makes me more fond of it." (This Emma Bridgewater design, commemorating the Jubilee, is similar – though bigger and pricier.) The cow types plate [bottom left in left hand image, above] is one of the most recent additions and my current favourite. I bought for 12 Euros it in Lisbon; it was in the window of an old-fashioned tobacconist's. We walked past it every day and I became totally obsessed. The lady in the shop seemed surprised I was so excited about it. When we walked past the next day, she'd replaced it with one showing different types of hot air balloons. The hearts plate was a bargain at 99p, from Tiger, my new favourite shop. It made its debut on Valentine's day when I gave my boyfriend his morning toast on it. The Spanish red tapas plate is the first I ever bought. It's from a gorgeous homewares shop in Barcelona – it was about 4 Euros and I love the bright 50s feel of it. The yellow tapas plate came from the same shop and the Banania one was about 2 Euros from a French service station on the road trip we took to get there, for some friends' wedding. Le Page De Dessin plate (bottom right, pale yellow) was my mum's – a gift from her oldest friend, years ago. I coveted it and last year my mum very kindly gave it to me." The top one, the face with the orange hair (she's called "Meg" and was a present from me because Holly is fond of ginger hair), is by Donna Wilson.

Get a grip Who needs matching cupboard doorknobs? I love how these add interest and colour to uniform, white bathroom cupboards. Not on the High Street have a decent selection, or do like I did to spruce up a plain Ikea set of mini drawers, and eBay as many as you need and collect slowly.

You've been framed An immense array of pictures work together because although all the frames are different, they are all black, and all the images are monochrome. Holly had previously had the wall behind them painted a paler grey, and they looked OK. But when she switched to this stronger shade the photo wall really came into its own. So think about what's framing your frames, too.

What a card The Penguin Postcards (£9.74 from Amazon, above right) I've featured before, as I have a set too. But I like how Holly's arranged them all in this double-sided frame (you can get them in Habitat).

Over to Holly to explain the display on the left: "The V&A shop sell these funny limited edition boxes of tiny prints, every one is different. They had one displayed in a frame and I loved it so nicked their idea. Itt took bloody ages but was worth it." The V&A shop still sell them, they are by Tom Martin, and the box-full costs £25.

Well padded Holly is a demon crafter. One of her crafts is making cushions – which is why she has so many. It gives her something to do with all the fantastic fabric she collects...

Date for your diaries: cushion sale, London, Saturday 14 April
Holly's having a sale of around 80 of her designs on April 14 in central London. I'll post  more about it nearer the time, but put the date in your diaries if you're local and drop by for details in the next couple of weeks (you can always sign up in the subscription box, top of the column on the left hand side of this page, to get posts delivered direct to your inbox if you don't want to miss it).

Here's one of her beautiful creations in solo glory.

I will also be running a cushion competition – so definitely sign up if you want to be in with a chance of winning one, as well as some other hand-made goodies for runners up.

And of course not everything needs to be part of a collection. Some things just look lovely on their own.

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