Living Large with Art and Antiques


I meet many people who tell me that their collections are overtaking their living spaces. Most have collected objects for years and don’t know how to enjoy their collections and embrace their limited space. Here are some basic design tips, from my years designing museum exhibitions and appraising furniture to best highlight your art, antiques, and collectibles.

Breathing Room

In a selected room, feature a great piece of art or antique. If you want to decorate a room around a particular piece–like a great painting by a major artist, a Victorian sofa, a mid century modern coffee table–give it some breathing room. Don’t cram an antique piece in among other unrelated or large scale furniture. Make sure your room can accommodate a major piece of antique furniture or fine art.
If you want to make a small room look bigger, you can use one old decorating trick—the mirror. An antique mirror can serve to enlarge the look of a room. For instance, a circular Rococo Revival style mirror with carved rose garlands or a rectangular Federal-style mirror boasting an American eagle motif can visually expand the size of a room and reference its antique décor, too. Numerous small mirrors can also visually enlarge the size of a room.
If mirrors aren’t part of your decorating plan, consider other solutions. Place the featured art piece at the furthest point from the doorway or on the wall that is farthest from the room’s entryway. This position will draw your eye to it every time you enter the space.

Care Free Décor

In addition to highlighting an antique’s best features, care-free and clutter-free decorating will help protect the condition of your antiques. The fewer objects surrounding an antique and the more air circulating around a fragile piece or valuable collection will prevent damage from unexpected bumps or accidental scrapes.
We all love our pets, but they are not always our antiques’ best friends. Try to keep the occasions when your pet decides to take a cat nap on your 19th Century needlepoint dining chair to a minimum. Also, don’t allow the little ones, I mean children or grandchildren, to play roughly in the vicinity of your valuable antiques or cherished collections. If you politely yet seriously explain the history and importance of your antiques to youngsters, you will serve to train a future generation of collectors to respect and enjoy antiques. You will educate children about what fine art and antiques say about history, culture, and society, too. This should be viewed as a good hands-on history lesson.

As a long time educator, I know that most children think it’s cool to live with historical objects. With a little bit of thoughtful consideration, you can make a big impact when decorating with antiques.


Celebrity Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events nationwide. As seen on NBC’s The Tonight Show and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, watch Dr. Lori on The Balancing Act on Lifetime Television. Visit,, or call (888) 431-1010.

A spectacular work of art like this landscape by American artist and illustrator, Frank Schoonover can make a big impact.


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