MCA-Using Personal Mementos in Your Home Design-1

One of the chapters in my book The Art of Space, The Seven Fundamentals that Guarantee Great Interior Design is entitled: “Significant & Relevant Ornamentation.” Wall art and accessories are the final layer of every home design. Creating that final layer is what gets your interior design across the finish line. Or it can stop it in its tracks.

The simple truth is, we all accumulate a lot of “stuff.” A LOT of stuff. So integrating our mementos into our homes can be tricky. It’s very easy to have our precious mementos overwhelm our spaces and clutter our homes. Here are some tips to get you started on designing with your favorite keepsakes.


Pick Real Mementos

Naturally, you’ll need a plan. And a good place to start is to get an honest, realistic assessment of what’s “precious.”

This can be difficult. A good rule of thumb is to apply this simple test: if you haven’t looked at, admired it or fawned over it in the last year, it may still be precious to you, but not precious enough to put on display in your home.

This is actually the hardest part of the process. Once you’ve made those tough emotional decisions, the rest is execution.

Group Them

Take a look at it all. Exactly what do you have? Start sorting. Break them down into categories. Put the single items off to the side. Group collections together. You may even decide at this point that something isn’t as precious as you originally thought. Think them through. Do they need to be protected or preserved by glass, or a frame? Are they for a quickly changing stage of life like a child’s first pair of ballet slippers or a little league trophy? Or do they represent seminal moments that will be treasured forever?

Send Them to Their Rooms

Then, decide what mementos should go in what rooms, and decide how to display them. There are three basic scenarios for displaying of mementos. They can be hung on the wall, displayed on a shelf, or arranged on a table. When you put the mementos in their “assigned” rooms, you’ll quickly see which of the three display approaches is best for each group.

Make Arrangements for Them

Now comes the fun part – and it’s important. Just as important as what you have, is how you put it all together.

For collections, collages can be effective in covering a large span of wall space and creating balance in a room. Here’s an invaluable tip: measure the wall space, and tape off the wall dimensions on the floor. Arrange your collection on the floor. Rearrange it. “Work” it and adjust it until you’re happy with it. Take key measurements. Another handy tip: take a few pictures to use as a guide when you hang everything.

Larger items that demand a shelf of their own will also need to be choreographed in the room as a whole. Smaller scale accessories that are integrated into shelves together with books become part of a composition and can be worked until you reach a pleasing arrangement that adds the final level of harmony to each room.

Two important things to remember: 1. Whittling down our choices is hard because we get emotional about our mementos. 2. Once you’ve done that, the arranging is creative, rewarding and fun.

Mary Cook & Josh Kassing

Written By

Mary Cook & Josh Kassing

Founder and President of Mary Cook Associates (MCA)