Vancouver Interior Designer: Two Ways to Turn Tchotchke Gifts into Accessories

All my friends and family know better than to buy me “what nots” or “tchotchkes” as a gift. They know it will pretty much not see the light of day in my house. And there are times when I have kept the occasional knickknack out on display for fear of hurting someone’s feelings.


For example, I had these little wooden elephant bookends (that my mom gave me) on my bookshelf  for years until my friend Tami said that they were bad luck because their trunks pointed down instead of up. So then I gave myself permission to stick them into the Sally Ann box.

Sometimes collections start accidentally. I had a friend whose mom and sister just started buying her glassware with flowers etched into them because she had received some from a friend and had them displayed. Another client said, “I had two chickens and suddenly my friends and family started buying them for me and now I’m overrun with them!”


When I am in a client’s home who is overwhelmed with “one-off” candle holders and tacky $20 presents given to her by friends over the years, I ask how long they have been in the china cabinet. I think 10 years is long enough don’t you? It sometimes gets hard distinguishing between “tacky” and “an accessory.” I have been told they have enough “accessories” and don’t need any more.

What about the little things you have because they were given to you by someone special and you happen to love them? What’s tacky to someone else is precious for you or me. I have a small pig covered in fake rhinestones that sits on my bookshelf given to me by my friend Liz who passed away a few years ago. I love it because it reminds me of her.

So I have two solutions to the problem of how to display them and here’s the first one:

Better Homes & Gardens

See that little tiny potted plant with the cloche on it? It would not look quite the same with the stack of green books underneath them.

Interior by Maria Killam

Remember that sneak peek of my clients living room I showed you awhile ago? Her little hippos would not look like accessories on this large glass coffee table without the books.

The second one is wall cubes, shelves or sconces. When my friend Tami received these fabulous dancers for Christmas from her mom who had bought them for her in Cuba, I immediately pointed out that she didn’t have any table space for them. “How about displaying them on sconces attached to the wall?” “Fantastic!” she said, and rushed out to Bed, Bath and Beyond to buy some.

This set of shelves she purchased for her husband’s office. His glass trophies from work look fabulous in them! (picture to follow at some point).

Photo by Maria Killam

Here they are on little boxes we found from Bed Bath & Beyond, you can still see her Christmas tree in the reflection.

So who knew that what’s actually standing in between our tchotchkes  looking “tacky” versus “a fabulous accessory” is books and/or a cubed shelf (maybe)?

Where do you keep your knick knacks displayed?

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Related posts:

Cheap yet Happy Wall Art

Cheap Placeholder Art (Plus my dining chairs)

How to Hang Art on a Staircase Wall




leave aREPLY

  1. I’m with Lisa above – I use trays to group accessories. For example, my husband has a small collection of items that were his fathers – a wooden folding ruler, an old padlock, a small wooden level – that were just sitting on a side table – I found a great little tray for them and suddenly they have become a collection.

  2. This is completely off-topic, but I just noticed you added a “follow me” button for Pinterest. Cool!
    Back on topic, I think the best place to display tacky collectibles is in the trash. 🙂

  3. I admire your creativity; thank you for giving us some tricks to display meaningful gifts or mementoes in our homes. My hubby is a sports nut – it takes imagination and a certain degree of
    “memora-blindness” to cope but, of course, the folks we love have to come first. Must leave now – off to Pier 1 to buy a cloche large enough to hold an autographed Saskatchewan Roughriders football helmet.

  4. Bookcases are my go-to solution for this problem. All clients have books and tchotkas and a bookcase can hold and display both in a controlled, beautiful fashion. And as we all know, books are an instant warm up for any room. (My favourite is the dining room.)

  5. Maria, in the caption about the plant, did you mean “the little green plant would not look the same withOUT the green books”? (My text says “with the green books”–doesn’t seem to make sense.

  6. My husband has insisted we display an old truck & tractor models because they reminded him of his youth on his grandpa’s farm. Naturally I wasn’t happy about it. But I put them on some books on our dining room sideboard & propped a painting of a barn behind them. They became conversation pieces. The whole vignette didn’t bother me as much then.

  7. Hi Maria – great and timely article. I always rotate my accessories because 1) I get bored and 2) I have too many and they all can’t be displayed at one! I encourage my clients to do the same. I have never doen the cloche idea…that’s a great one. It gives the item much more importance…plus height and weight.

    Thanks for all of your advice over the years. I plan on coming to one of your workshops (hopefully this year). I know a lot about color because I work with it every day. But – I can always learn more and I always can improve from the experience of other experts in the field – and you are one of the them!



    • Hi Linda, yes, I do the same thing. I have five boxes, one for each season and one for Christmas. I rotate photos, what nots (although not a fan at all), table linen, candles, voitves, and cushion covers. Each season I do a complete change, and people come into the house, and like what they see but can’t quite figure it out. The furniture and curtains are still the same but somehow the house seems more summery, festive, cozy, warm and fun. All you need is five cardboard boxes.