Why let your collection sit in a closet?

Displayed well, memorabilia can make a memorable impact.

A friend once told me about a woman with a huge collection of vintage cowboy boots. Instead of stashing them away in her closet, the woman displays the boots all over her house. They adorn shelves in nearly every room and add a splash of color and personality to the interior.

One has to watch PBS' "Antiques Roadshow" just once to realize that most of us collect something, whether it be as hip as vintage cowboy boots or as ubiquitous as baseball cards. But why take the time to amass a collection of say, Art Deco posters, if they are just going to live in a closet or back room?

Unless you own the first photograph ever made, "View from the Window at Le Gras," by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce circa 1826 (which photo collectors will know is owned by the Ransom Center), or similarly delicate pieces that can be damaged by light or certain climates, your collections should be displayed and enjoyed.

A collection can be anything from art glass to war memorabilia. Austin interior designer Sharon Radovich of Panache Interiors (452-7773, www.panacheinteriors.com) helped one of her clients create a room that centers around Pacific World War II items, such as a wooden airplane propeller and a flight suit and bag.

"He really didn't have that stuff out before," Radovich says. "And so we started collecting all of it from his parents."

Now, a substantial cache of war-themed DVDs is prominently and handily stored in a low cabinet with clear glass doors. Above the cabinet, the aforementioned propeller is securely attached to the wall and on an adjacent wall to the right, a folded American flag is framed in a custom, triangular shadow box.

Radovich completed the look with a commissioned painting by local artist and faux-finish expert Zita Raymond of Zita Design (5300 S. Congress Ave., 440-8191, www.zitadesign.com). The painting, which lives above the fireplace mantel, features a coconut palm tree in the foreground and a 1940s commercial U.S. sea plane in the background.

"To create a nostalgic feel, we painted the walls and trims in contrasting khaki tones, faced the Sheetrock fireplace in knotty pine trimmed with iron, painted the fake limestone surround to match the black firebox (and) replaced the laminate bar with solid Douglas fir," Radovich says.

The flight suit and bag are hung simply on hooks, and additional objects are placed throughout the room on tables, cabinets, shelves and the fireplace mantel.

You don't have to devote an entire room to a certain theme or collection in order to creatively display your favorite pieces. I don't have a large collection of any one thing, but I keep a grouping of about seven antique cameras on the mantel and a trio of elephant figurines on a bookshelf; I had two vintage, heirloom handkerchiefs (they belonged to my great aunt) framed, and I display them in one of our powder rooms.

If you have too many of a certain item to have the entire lot on view, keep some out and store the rest, then rotate the collection with the seasons or whenever it pleases you. This will keep the look from getting stale and will allow each piece to shine in its own right, rather than it becoming just another "thing" lying around the house.

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of taking a tour of Anne Elizabeth Wynn's Lake/Flato Architects Inc.-designed house in Tarrytown. Wynn had the brilliantly creative idea to attach shells and fossils gathered over the years by her and her daughters to the wall above the chair rail in the powder room.

I also keep shells, as well as rocks, in bowls and containers throughout the house, but until I met Wynn, I never thought of gluing them to the wall. Radovich is also a fan of gathering shells and rocks and finds several fun ways to keep them in sight.

"Anywhere I go, I bring rocks home," Radovich says. "They are just scattered all over. There are some in the garden, some in potted plants, one big one on the front porch to weigh down papers I leave for people."

As I mentioned earlier, unlike your average rock, some things need special care. So, if you have a stockpile of fragile antique textiles, rather than hoisting them onto the wall or storing them in a damp garage, you may want to invest in a book, such as the 2005 tome "Saving Stuff: How to Care for and Preserve Your Collectibles, Heirlooms and Other Prized Possessions," by Don Williams and Louisa Jaggar ($16, Fireside). The authors will guide you step-by-step through preserving everything from your child's plaster-cast handprints to your expensive Majolica teapots.

The book also offers a chapter about determining what to give away or toss. As much as our "stuff" can enhance our interiors, tell our guests a little about us and provide much-needed comfort, it can also easily take over the house. If you have so many M.I. Hummel figurines on your end tables that there isn't even enough room to rest a juice glass, you either need to get rid of your least favorites or store some of them away for rotation.

That being said, it's not only often visually attractive to display collections, but as Radovich tells me, "it stimulates good memories, special memories." And after all, that is one of the many ingredients that makes a house a home.