When my boyfriend and I moved in together a little over a year ago, one of the first topics of dispute was what to do with my ever-growing collection of vintage soda bottles. While we often saw eye to eye on many design-related issues, this bottle collection — a mishmash of specimens saved from places like my grandfather’s home, pseudo-archeological digs and hipster Brooklyn flea markets — was all too eclectic for my boyfriend’s modernist leanings. The bottles, which I had lovingly arranged on a shelf in my previous apartment, represented to him little more than glorified dust collectors. As the bottle collection continued to grow, so did his concern for my mental well-being. To me, the bottles seemed relatively harmless, like jolly little capsules of nostalgia. For my boyfriend, they were dangerous — things that, allowed to go unchecked, could explode into hoarder-status levels of clutter.
Indeed, with television shows like Hoarders gaining national attention, hoarding has become an all-out phenomenon, adopted into our daily lexicon with alarming rapidity. Collecting, which until recently seemed rather innocuous, has now been pushed into the realm of mental pathology. Collectors previously thought at worst to be eccentric now appear to many as clinically deranged. This needs to stop! I, for one, would like to defend these collectors.
As I combed through the Design*Sponge archives recently, I learned that collections are much more than the results of unbalanced brain chemistry and unhinged neural pathways. They are, like all things we surround ourselves with, communicative — and oftentimes beautiful. Collecting, I believe, stems from a very basic human desire to remember and to project. The things in our collections remind us of past or even imagined experiences. They are outward expressions of our selves, physical mile markers that remind us and the people around us who we are and where we have been. To some, a collection might be a way to remember a loved one. For others, it might simply be a way to brighten up one’s home. Sometimes, collection building becomes an art in itself. The following images are all collections culled from the Design*Sponge archives. While formed for different reasons, these collections are wonderful examples of how fantastic — and totally not insane — collecting can be. — Max
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Image above: Photographer Jo Metson Scott’s collection of globes and photographs.
Image above: An assortment of color-coded travel and flea market finds from the studio of graphic designer Louise Fili.
Image above: Graphic designer Liz Cook’s display of vintage photography ephemera and Chicago World’s Fair memorabilia. “The projector I inherited from my grandma is still in tip-top shape,” she adds.
Image above: Blogger Hilda Grahnat’s apartment is home to a collection of vintage clocks inherited from her grandfather.
Image above: Artist Ryan Humphrey’s collection of vintage ’80s skateboards.
Image above: An assortment of matchboxes and matchbooks collected by Greenwich Letterpress’s Amy Salvini-Swanson.
Image above: Collections of vintage glassware, books and packaging ephemera line the built-in shelves in Jordan Provost and Jason Wong’s Crown Heights home.
Image above: A collection of tin toys that once belonged to designer Emma Jeffs’ late mother. “They are very precious to me,” she says. “The tin cable car (on the top) was one she bought for me when we lived in San Francisco.”
Image above: Paul Donald’s refrigerator pulls double duty as an ever-changing gallery for his growing collection of ephemera.
Image above: A small assortment of vintage tins gathered for a photo shoot became a passion in itself for photographer Corbin Lee Gurkin. Now she has amassed quite the treasure trove, gathered from travels in Europe and Maine. “I try to find a tin from each new place I visit,” she says, “but the best ones have come from Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill.”
Image above: A herd of wild deer figurines lines the headboard of Shauna Alterio and Stephen Loidolt’s bed.
Images above: Artist Lisa Congdon, who pretty much wrote the book on collecting, has turned her kitchen into a gallery for beautiful midcentury kitchenware, including a number of stunning Cathrineholm pieces.