Cabinet of curiosities
What to do with all those holiday souvenirs and other cherished trinkets?
You'd swear that the last time you picked up your suitcase it didn't weigh half as much. What's happened? You've only been away a fortnight and now you'll need a lorry to get your suitcase home?
Of course, you collected a few pebbles (but only really beautiful ones lovingly polished by the Mediterranean and then decorated by the kids), and then there was the plaster reproduction of Botticelli's Venus, which was so adorably kitsch you just couldn't resist, and then those irresistible multi-coloured oversize necklaces, the giant seashell, the miniature Greek house (with blue shutters), the sand in a test tube and a doll in traditional dress. But now it's time to go home.
Frontpiece of the Wormiani Historia Museum showing the interior of a cabinet of curiosities in Worm.
Kitsch, so what?
So what are you going to do with all these keepsakes, won't they look out of place in your oh-so stylish home? Are you going to take the easy option and stuff them into the back of a cupboard or spread them around the house in the hope of forgetting about them? Why not display them in a cabinet of curiosities like the eccentrics of old?
Very fashionable in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, these small personal museums housed strange and unusual objects - antiques, natural objects, coins, seashells, etc.
Now we're not suggesting you display that stuffed donkey or the banned ivory necklace but your lovingly decorated pebbles will nicely offset your Botticelli Venus decorated with oversize necklaces and surrounded by giant seashells. DIY: version kitsch.
Now, don't misunderstand us when we say "display" - we don't mean in the middle of the living room. Quite the opposite, a little discretion will give your fantastical museum some charm. It should attract an inquisitive glance without monopolising: your guests should come upon it by chance, it should be glimpsed through a glass door or arranged on a shelf in your otherwise functional and minimalist bathroom.
You can change it too. It doesn't have to be static. Add finds such as conkers, autumn leaves, a butterfly, a pretty ornament you found at a flea market or in your attic...
As its name suggests, a cabinet of curiosities should arouse the curiosity of your guests but discretely. It should intrigue and amuse and, if done carefully, will only add to your style credibility.
Intrigue but don't shock