He wants to display them in the living room, but they just don't seem to "go" with our very contemporary furniture (besides, making it look way too cluttered).
A: The "c" in collection doesn't necessarily stand for clutter, too. The trick is to find a way to organize the display so the sum is truly greater than its parts. In design terms, that means gathering all the elements together — in a vitrine, on a wall or across dedicated shelves — so they read as a cohesive whole.
Witness the impressive solution designer Jamie Herzlinger came up with for her own collection of the old and interesting: everything from books, photos and majolica to Victorian crystal door handles. She organized a grid of display shelves that run almost all the way up the wall of her elegant breakfast room.
"I've been fascinated with lines and grids since I was a child," Herzlinger explains. Here, she backs her precise arrangement of horizontal and vertical lines with white laminate. "Don't be snobby about materials," she cautions. Against that background, the disparate objects coalesce into a display that becomes the center of attention in what is a "breakfast room" in name only.
"It's my favorite room in the house. I'm a cook — the other side of the room has all my cookbooks," explains Herzlinger. "And we often eat dinner in here, too." See more of her "out of the box" thinking at www.jamieherzlinger.com.
A similarly inspired grid of shelves in a family room, his den or even a dining room could turn your husband's "clutter" of old toys into a contemporary room-maker.
Q: Unfashionable plants?
A: If you think Mother Nature is always in vogue, think again. Plants have long come in and out of style, depending on the times. The Victorians, for example, adored exotics like iron plants (Aspidistra elatior) and ferns of all kinds — these were the first things to go when decorator Elsie de Wolfe threw over all things Victorian and invented clean, modern interior design in the late 1800s.
Anyone who remembers the 1970s also remembers the notoriously finicky Ficus tree (died if you looked at it). African violets also had their day in the sunlamp, and we're just edging past the age of "Lucky Bamboo."
What's next on nature's list of decorating hits? Many things green, according to interior forecasters Hermine Mariaux and Patricia Bouley, who saw it coming at the trend-setting Maison et Objet home show in Paris.
"Europe has fallen madly in love with miniature gardens," Mariaux reported to members of the International Furnishings & Design Association (IFDA) in New York. Of special interest to fervent cooks is a wall of growing herbs to keep just outside one's kitchen door for instant "picking, plucking and cooking."
Moss is newly hot "for its sculptural effect"; ditto, cacti, which are "fashionable, not only as plants but also as motifs printed on fabrics and embroidered on curtains." And — black thumbs be warned — Ficus benjamina trees are back in vogue. A trend as short-lived as the trees themselves? We'll see.
Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Manhattan Style," "Hampton Style," and five other books on interior design.