Plates perfectly suitable to display on wall

I'm always perusing new books that can help my readers better see some of the many possibilities for designing a personal interior. And I've just come across one book that not only offers lots of detailed information but is beautiful to look at.

"Bunny Williams' Point of View," written by one of America's finest interior designers, provides many learning opportunities. As Williams herself notes, "you learn from people with great taste."

And she certainly has great taste, even though the settings shown in this book (published by Stewart, Tabori and Chang) may strike some readers as over the top. Williams has the skills of a successful teacher as well as the knowledge of a master designer. Her book suggests ways of adapting fundamental principles of design to fit specific circumstances as well as financial limits.

Q: I have inherited a collection of decorative plates and serving pieces that were displayed in a large breakfront in my childhood home. I don't have a similarly large cabinet for housing the collection now, so can you give me some suggestions for how to show off at least a few of my favorite pieces?

A: You don't need cabinetry to display this kind of collection. In fact, when I first saw the accompanying photo, I was going to advise you to place your pieces on a wall in more or less the manner seen here.

But as I read the text alongside this image in Bunny Williams' book, I came to realize that these aren't actual plates but rather a set of designs on paper for faience plates. They were pasted up like wallpaper, with a trompe l'oeil artist painting shadow lines around the plates and a bracket on the wall to create an illusion of depth. The moldings and paneling in the rest of the room were also painted in this three-dimensional, trick-the-eye style.

But since this isn't a real collection of plates, this photo doesn't really respond to your question. Still, a few relevant suggestions can be made on the basis of what you see here. My main recommendation is that your collection should indeed be displayed on a wall.

Notice, for example, that this faux collection has been arranged by the color, size and shape of the various pieces. Such symmetry in placement is essential in displaying a collection of the sort you've inherited. In general, the largest and/or most colorful items should go on top, with a balance being maintained as you work your way down to the smaller and less intricately patterned pieces.

The location of a collection within a room matters as well. In your case, I recommend placing it over a console, library table or server so as to ensure safety as well as proper viewing.

Rita St. Clair is a syndicated columnist with Tribune Media Services Inc. E-mail general interior design questions to her at