Go Ahead, Be a Showoff; If You Have a Collection You Love, Don't Hide It Away

Article excerpt

Byline: BRANDY HILBOLDT ALLPORT, Times-Union home and garden editor

Whether its Fiesta ware or fishing lures, collecting is the avocation of millions.

"We're all drawn to gather things for personal reasons, some so complex that we don't even understand them ourselves," writes artist, author and maven of cozy home design Mary Engelbreit in the forward to her book, Collections. "How to explain a deep-rooted love of salt and pepper shakers or old watering cans or tiny dollhouse chairs? . . . No matter what drives us, few are immune to the urge to collect, a passion that can surface as soon as we learn to walk."

Way before Antiques Roadshow and eBay put our propensity to hunt and gather personal treasures in the spotlight, we collected. Think of baseball cards, paper ice cream cups with photos of Lassie on the lid, Smurfs and Beanie Babies.

The urge to assemble en masse leads to a conundrum: What do we do with it all? You can devote an entire room, lined with floor-to-ceiling shelves, to showing off your cookie jars, or build a backyard shed for model airplanes. Those choices create a "play room" or "museum effect." You visit your treasures to rearrange, admire or show them off.

If you're stumped about what to do with your stuff, go to the Amelia Island Home & Garden Tour for inspiration. Times are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Highlights of the four houses include a state-of-the-art sewing room and restored antiques. Also see how Debbie and Woody Jenkins and Kathy and Dave Miller integrated their collections into the decor of their homes so they can see, use and enjoy them every day.

brandy.allport@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4378.

HAT'S OFF

Who: Debbie and Woody Jenkins of Amelia Island.

The collection: Debbie Jenkins loves hats made in the mid- to late-1800s through the early 1900s.

The total: She has 13 hats.

How it began: About 15 years ago, Debbie Jenkins fell in love with a black hat adorned with two large white flowers that she spotted at an antiques show in Raleigh, N.C. After that, she began searching for other hats.

Why she collects: "I like the feeling of graciousness of things from a time gone past. The hats symbolize that."

What catches her eye: An unusual shape or color. The embellishments on the hats such as the ribbons, flowers or feathers. After her grandson was born, she started adding gentleman's hats to the collection for her "little gentleman."

Displaying the collection: In one of the guest suites, Debbie Jenkins placed the hats on stands atop an antique French wardrobe. The muted palette of the walls, the wardrobe and the fabrics in the room complement the genteel essence of the hats. An iron-and- wood rack mounted in the corner of the room also holds -- and showcases -- more of Debbie Jenkins' hats.

"Sometimes I worry that the sun will damage them," Debbie Jenkins said. "But I don't like to have things stuck away where you can't see them."

When Debbie Jenkins has tea parties, she wears the hats or uses them as centerpieces on the tables. She welcomes children to come and play dress-up anytime. The French wardrobe holds a bridal gown, her daughter's old ballet costumes and more.

What else? Woody Jenkins also like to find old treasures. He has a vintage soda fountain and a telephone booth (the kind with a sliding door) that are in the family's home theater. Both of his prized possessions work -- of course.

HIGH LIFE

Who: Kathy and Dave Miller of Amelia Island.

The collection: Miller beer memorabilia.

How it all began: When they decided to remodel their home, the couple wanted a game room for grown-ups. It's a place to watch sports on TV or host a party. The first item they found was a desk lamp that had the Miller High Life logo on the light bulb cover. "With our name being Miller . . . …