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The Nest Issue: Stuff and How to Have It

Amy Meadows

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Amy Meadows has a thing for miniature chairs. Salesmen's samples, dollhouse furniture, and replicas dominate a wall in the dining room of the three-bedroom Old Irving Park foursquare she shares with her husband and two teenage children.

"What I've learned over time is the value of grouping a collection," says Meadows, a freelance retail window display designer. "Dropping pieces throughout the house is certainly one way to do it, but I don't feel it creates the visual wow of putting them together. It kind of becomes a trail of bread crumbs."

Meadows keeps duplicates from the chair collection in a plastic tub in the basement, alongside containers holding assortments of folk art crosses, antique hand tools (levels, squares, fold-out rulers, crosscut saws), paint-by-numbers art, and vintage souvenir plates from places like the Pro Football Hall of Fame. She rotates the collections into and out of storage, most recently retiring her crosses from a spot in the front room. "Sometimes collecting is simply keeping track of all the things that come your way," she says.

Rather than toss years' worth of postcards sent by traveling relatives, Meadows deposits them into either of two shadow boxes hanging in the master bedroom. And there's an antique medicine cabinet in the dining room for miscellaneous odds and ends, including a small painting of Hank Williams and a nativity scene carved into a wooden matchstick. A first-edition Christo print sits on the top. "I mix and match high and low," she says, adding that Tiffany's is famous for doing the same with its windows.

In fact, decorating a home isn't so different from styling a store window, she says: "You want to exaggerate for effect in order to catch the eye, amuse, challenge and entertain." —Tate Gunnerson

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"I didn’t wake up one day and say, 'Oh, I think I’ll collect small chairs.' The first one was a gift from co-workers on the occasion of my marriage in 1991, and I realized that I really did have a fondness for chairs. I’m sure part of is that a lot of lovely Danish modern furniture, the beautiful, almost sculptural lines of some of those early pieces.

"One of my favorites is perhaps the humblest one, which is just twisted wire. Was that something somebody made because they were bored to death? Is it a gift somebody created for a child? Is it art? I don’t know, but I think that because it’s so humble, and I love the lines. It reminds me of some of Alexander Calder’s wire sculptures.

"But the sentimental favorite for me is the one that started it all--a winged skull....

"Placing the 3D pieces on the wall is a little bit of a surprise. Put them on the wall and let the wall stand on its own as an installation."

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