Collect-orate, or something like that.

Like most people, our style has evolved over the years. What was once filled with furniture and decor from large chain furniture stores, is now a home mostly made up of pieces that we have found or made. I know it sounds corny, but the term I may have just coined, “collectorate”, is a great way to describe decorating with items that you collect. The term curate is a little overused these days, but still useful in characterizing the process of selecting special pieces for your home that create interest, tell a story, or have a special meaning.

Vintage Pipe Collection

I am always fascinated by what people collect. At a recent auction I came across this awesome pipe collection. The box I came away with was only about a quarter of the whole collection. Ben could not believe I did not grab them all. Along with pipes, the owner of the estate had also collected miniature Liberty Bells and decades worth of Pez dispensers. Random, I know. But it struck me that anything of similarity that can be displayed in groups or large quantities can be kind of cool. And then it struck me that we already do this in many of our rooms.

18 vintage German aluminum keys

When Ben built picture frame moldings for our master bedroom, we had a narrow space between 2 windows. He decided that instead of trying to find one picture or object of the right size to fill the space, we could make a display of these 1940’s keys we found at The Old Lucketts Store. The keys are made of lightweight aluminum during this era because Germany reserved the heavier metals for the war effort.


Another one of our favorite collections is of old panoramic military photos. This is just one wall representing some of our collection, including photos from various eras – and even a non-military one from the Texas A & M Firefighter school graduation.

Militaria wall

I love these colorful vintage Boy Scout arrows below that we currently have in our shop at Sweet Clover Barn. They would be awesome displayed on a wall or in a large vase.

Vintage Boy Scout Arrows

Other collections prominently featured in our home include skulls, bugs & butterflies, vintage sports photos, globes and maps, old books, rocks & fossils, and other nature “artifacts” gathered by our kids. Designing with these collected items have the side effect of teaching our kids to be curious about the world around them and respectful of history.


As you can see, collections do not have to be limited to fine china or milk glass (although those are great!), but can reflect anything that you find interesting, fun, or beautiful in their own way.

If only I could find a way to decorate with piles of laundry or dirty dishes — the most commonly found items of similarity around our house!


I am excited to write about a project that I have been working on in my mind for many years. While my husband Ben and I work on creating some pieces and building inventory, I thought I would start sharing some of the ideas and inspiration behind Story Design House. As long as I can remember I have loved to learn about the story behind things – songs, photographs, old houses, furniture. I hunt for unique items and Ben uses his creative skills to build and/or repurpose the cool stuff I find. Fun right?
A couple of years ago we relocated our family of six from our home state of Texas to Northern Virginia. We are situated between the bustle of the DC scene and the gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains and Virginia Wine Country – and in the middle of the backdrop for much of our nation’s early history. We love the notion that things were made to last and created with quality craftsmanship and we hope to honor that tradition. Even though I grew up around antique collecting and selling, and making things has always been a part of my life, the cultural and natural beauty of our new home prompted me to merge my passions and share some of our finds and creations with you. Our aesthetic is eclectic, but leans toward industrial-classic-rustic. We like old wood, metal, typography, symbolism, and nature. If you’re interested, stay tuned for posts about my conquests of local barn sales, estate sales, and flea markets, and pics of some of the pieces in progress. We will also feature other independent makers and sellers whose stuff we think is cool – because there is just too much talent out there not to. Thanks for checking us out and following our Story.