Philip Mitchell Shares Creative Ways to Show Off Your Collections

Make them the star of the show.

October 28, 2021

Designer Philip Mitchell is known for his layered, more-is-more approach to decorating a space. Each of his projects is chock-full of discoveries and precious finds, from beloved family collections and gorgeous antiques to groupings of contemporary artworks and rows of books, as showcased in his new tome, Collected Interiors (Rizzoli). In the excerpt below, Mitchell illustrates how he expertly displays his own stylish stockpiles of treasures and knick-knacks in his historic 18th-century home in Nova Scotia—and we’re studiously taking notes.


Collected Interiors, $55. rizzoliusa.com.

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1. Plates Aren't Just for Dining

My mother and grandmother left multiple sets of Limoges fish plates, which we had previously stacked in cupboards with other china. When Mark finally said he would never eat off a plate that looks back at him, we decided to treat the plates as the art they are and hang them in this vast grid.

2. Make Guest Rooms Feel More Personal

Wedgwood, especially Jasperware, was a passion of my mother’s, and she left a lot of it. Though it is not a particular favorite of mine, the collection has great sentimental value. It makes me happy to have it in the guest bathroom. And everyone who visits asks for the story because they have never seen so much green Wedgwood in one place.

3. Zhush Up Empty Nooks

This stair landing was designed to be fourteen inches narrower than the others to allow space for built-in shelving, which contains great books that we have read and loved, books waiting to be read, and reference books and histories of this village and the surrounding locales. We have stocked these shelves in part to give our guests the inspiration and reference material they might need to go out and explore the region while they are visiting. Occasionally, we will find a friend just sitting here, nose deep in the pages of a book about local history or regional industries, such as maritime trade or shipbuilding.

4. Blend Function and Beauty

An Irish open-rack dresser, ca. 1870s, from 1stDibs creates a perfect display space for Majolica and houses other serving pieces and linens behind closed doors; the wood finish also works harmoniously with the butcherblock counters.

5. Mix Collections to Pack a Punch

Different tastes, styles, and stories come together on this dining room wall. By adding multiples to the two Staffordshire dogs that Mark inherited, we gave the figurines an entirely new character—fun, cheeky, and a bit ironic. With Julie Trudel’s Croisements, through Galerie Hugues Charbonneau, which hangs above, and the other neighboring art works, the pack of porcelain pooches also packs a powerful visual punch.

6. Turn Unexpected Spots Into Show Stoppers

In every room, the eye should be engaged and delighted at close range, middle distance, and farther afield. This is just one reason why it is so pleasing to incorporate collections in unexpected places, like linen storage by a bathtub. From shelf to shelf, commissioned pottery by local ceramicist Paula MacDonald infuses this essentially all-white space with saturated color and earthiness in a nice contrast to the surroundings.