Decorating with Collections

By Karen Parr-Moody


One might imagine that having multiple, large collections throughout a house would engender a sense of chaos. But this is not the case in the historic home of husband-and-wife artists Billy Renkl and Susan Bryant. Their décor is uncluttered and calm despite featuring multiple vintage collections of everything from Brownie cameras to apothecary scales to Mexican salt-and-pepper shakers.


“Almost all of these collections are the variations that are possible within a narrow set of rules,” Renkl explains as the reason for the tidiness.


For example, the couple has a massive collection of vases, but they have set parameters on which vases they will bring into the fold: They all have to be white and non-glossy. Bryant, a photography professor, collects hand motifs, but they are all made of simple lines in wood, ceramic and metal (photo, above right). And Renkl collects tintypes photographs; each one is the same approximate size and features a dog (photo, left).


Those who want to start a collection – or add to one – can’t go wrong by shopping at GasLamp and GasLamp Too, an environment filled with items worth collecting. Like Renkl, one could start a tintype collection. But instead of dogs, one could collect charming Victorian girls, beginning with the one in the photo left (comes in a frame; $75; B-118).


Jane Burney is a collector of Mid-Century Modern furniture, but she also loves paint-by-numbers paintings, which she uses to decorate her popular café in Clarksville, Lovin’ Spoonful (photo, below). Each wall has a different theme of paintings, from ballet dancers to kittens to Jesus. Over the years, Burney has picked up some of these paintings at GasLamp.


“The dog booth is second in popularity, losing out to Jesus, who is number one,” Burney says. “We have people comment that they painted certain dog paint-by-numbers as children or that a painting looks just like their pet.”


There is currently an adorable paint-by-numbers dog at GasLamp Too, photo below, with which one could start a collection at home ($18; Booth T-292).


Alex and Genie Lockwood are a collecting couple who live in Nashville's Belmont area in a historic home built in 1905, where they keep an array of collections. She is a vintage print vendor and has recently been collecting dream catchers, while he is a sculptor who has been curating birds figurines (photo, below).


To start a bird collection at GasLamp and Gaslamp Too would be a breeze; the stores are filled with figurines of the feathered creatures, including the planter in the photo, below right ($14; T-195). Such planters were made in the middle of the last century by companies including Royal Copley, Maddux of California, McCoy and Hull. A major trend of the 1940s and 1950s was the depiction of a pair of love birds in such planters.


Genie calls the home she and Alex share as one of “organized chaos.” And organizing the collections properly is one way the couple organizes the chaos.


“Those birds are great in that room because we put them on these Vitra shelves that are white, clean-looking and modern,” she says. “I’m proud that we display older things in a clean environments.”


Creating a clean environment for collections, organizing them properly and even setting parameters around the collection are all good rules to follow when collecting. They will contribute to creating a sense of calm in a home, even if it is filled to the brim with collections. And by visiting Gaslamp and GasLamp Too, all one has to do is start collecting.


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