What to Place In a Large Decorative Bowl

I recently went on a little cleaning marathon – it doesn’t happen often, but the dreary weather was making me want to add some sunshine and cheer to my surroundings. One thing led to another and I ended up changing a few things in my family room.


One of the things I changed was what I put in a big white Pottery Barn bowl in my family room. It has been empty since Christmas when it was filled with colorful ornaments.

I usually change what I display in the bowl seasonally, but the months of January and February left me a bit uninspired, so it sat empty. In the past it has held Easter eggs, Autumn leaves, seashells, and carpet balls.

I needed to come up with something new to put into it until Summer rolls around when I will place shells back in the bowl.


I wanted something different that would also fill it.  I needed a collection of something.

After a bit of contemplating, it came to me  – my favorite collection –“why had I never thought of that before?”  I think I always felt I needed to protect it, but why have and collect something you love, if you can’t enjoy it? Right? It can become the best  home decorating accessory, better than just another tchotchke.

I don’t collect many things as I am a firm believer in less is more, but I do have an abundance of one particular item – a true collection in every sense of the word.  A collection that I am rather fond of and that has many memories attached to it.

I went in search of this collection – It is in a big hat box that has been stored in a closet. Bringing it out to see the light of day I realized was also going to help me keep one of my New Years goals in check  – to have my favorite things around me. Happy colorful things that make me smile…

…like hundreds of matchbooks and matchboxes!!!

How to display a Matchbook-Collection

I have a lot of them in all shapes, sizes, and colors from places near and far.

Each of these matchbooks has a story behind it. I can pick one up and automatically I recall a fond memory. The restaurant where Ed proposed to me, or the department store where I got my first job in retail display, and the trip we took to Hawaii.

When I thought more about using the matchbooks as a decorating accessory, it made even more sense as matchbooks fill the bill in more than one way. When placed on a table they can become interactive conversation starters as well as visually adding color and interest to the tablescape.


My matchbook collection started when I was in elementary school. My mom thought it a good idea that my twin sister, Carol and I each collected something. She called it “broadening our horizons”. 

My older brother collected stamps so we knew a little bit about collecting as a hobby and were excited to have a collection to call our own. My mom decided that I was to collect matchbooks and my sister miniature books.

Collection of matchbooks on a pretty plate on a coffee table. Use What You Have Home Decorating Ideas

We both still have our collections. I have a lot more items in mine as matchbooks were a little easier to acquire than mini books.


They are not as easy to find anymore – since smoking is not allowed in most public places and most smokers use lighters nowadays.

Matchbook-Collection-Display ideas

My dad traveled to many business dinner meetings and always brought one home for me wherever he went.  Most of my matchbooks are from-restaurants, hotels, supermarkets, drug stores, department stores, beauty salons, and banks as there was always a stack of free matchbooks for the taking.

I had an aunt that lived in Brooklyn and worked on Wall Street. When she came to visit, she always had a bag full of them for me. As a kid these were the most exciting to acquire since they were from the big city – they were shiny and big from sophisticated and elegant establishments.

As I got older, I started picking up matchbooks wherever I traveled. These have become my favorites – the ones I picked up myself.


I love seeing all of them together, but I do have a few favorites – one from a long gone restaurant that was on the bay in Ocean City, NJ called Holgate’s.

I also love the one from Hess’s Department Store, The Copacabana in NYC and the real estate office in Ocean City that my family used to use to rent our vacation home every summer – fond memories.


Most collectors choose what they want to collect, but my mom knew me well when she chose matchbooks for me. She knew the colorful art and designs on the covers would pique my interest. She was right as I still pick them up if I see an interesting or colorful one when I am out and about – it has become an automatic response.

How to display a favorite collection

My mom is no longer living, but I think it would make her smile if she walked into my house today and saw that I have them prominently displayed.  They are the perfect decorating accessory – interesting and meaningful.  I have to thank her for wanting to “broaden my horizons”.

Did you collect anything as a child that you still have or display in your home?

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  1. Love the idea. I myself found these bedside table lamps for my bedroom that I liked at Ikea, they are clear class and when I saw them I thought, “cute, but they beg to be filled with something interesting”. I plan to put my handed down match collection in the lamp bases! The only downside is that I’l have to break the lamps when I get tired of them but hopefully that won’t be for years to come!

  2. I love the idea of displaying your matchbooks in a bowl. I too have a collection of matchbooks that I love that are hidden away. You have inspired me to get out my collection that I love and put it in display. Thank you!!

  3. Love your matchbook collection, what fun! I noticed your old Portifinos resturaunt matchbox… It’s still here and still one of the best in Bermuda- my favorite. Your blog is wonderful, glad I happened by.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Angela – Thanks for taking the time to say hi. My husband and I ate at Portifinos almost every night on our honeymoon in Bermuda. It was recommended to us by a friend who told us it was the most affordable place to eat on the island. It fit perfectly into our budget. Makes me happy to know that it is still around. :)

  4. antiquechase says:

    I’m sure that would make her happy to see them on display. I love this kind of decorating!

  5. I didn’t collect anything as a child, but I did start my oldest son’s Star Wars collection. He still has it and occasionally, I’ll add to it if I think his wife won’t get annoyed! :-)

  6. Athena at Minerva's Garden says:

    What a delightful post, Diane! I love your matchbook collection–so colorful. I used to collect stamps when I was a kid, and I have no idea where that collection got to. My mom might still have it stored away somewhere, or it got thrown out years ago. I will have to ask her and see if she remembers.

  7. charisse andrews says:

    What an interesting collection. I can certainly see why they would hold such an attraction for you. I especially love that your Mom suggested it, and with her passing, will remind you of her as well. I love that bowl! I collect sea shells from every beach I have been to. I have shells from every shoreline state in the US, and have used them all over in lamp bases, and more. I will always be a New Englander at heart, and they bring back so many memories for me, like the matchbooks do for you. Thanks for sharing…….

  8. ashley @ the handmade home says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE! As always. ;}

  9. Diane Scott says:

    I had to smile when I saw your collection today :). My mom passed away two years ago, and one of the things I brought home from clearing out her house was a huge glass pig filled with her collection of matchbooks. I gave them to my daughter whose boyfriend gave her two square glass lanterns for Valentines Day to keep them in. They look great and are a constant reminder of her Nana.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Diane – The glass pig sounds interesting :) Displaying the matchbooks in square glass lanterns would look extra colorful as you can see through the sides of the glass. I am sure your mom is smiling from heaven knowing that they are making your daughters house a home.

  10. Barbara @ DIY Home Staging Tips says:

    Lovely story. Great display. You never stop surprising me.

    Whether you’re young or old, having a collection of almost anything makes life more interesting. I have a collection of rubber ducks and I collect milk glass, two affordable choices, but not quite as affordable as matchbooks!

  11. I just got rid of my collected matchbooks and matchboxes on Wednesday! I never thought to display them – what a lovely idea!

  12. Hey Diane; What a Wonderful Collection!!! I too collect Matchbooks, and they are very hard to come by now!! I have not added to my Collection in quite sometime!!! I have some of mine in a massive glass jar, which I can look at and the rest are in a large box in a closet.
    I wanted to mention to you that I saw some recently at a Flea Market, and was immediately drawn to them and I thought that the price would be cheap, low and behold the Dealer wanted an outrageous sum of over $50.00 for a small box of them!!!! The Dealer acted like they were pure gold lol.
    Thank-You so much for sharing, as I am going to “copy” you, and place some of my favorites in a large Antique bowl in my Livingroom, so that I can sort throught them, and smile :-)

  13. I have a matchbook collection as well. I used to display them in a giant martini glass! Now, they are tucked away in the attic, too precious to discard. Lots of memories of good times.

    I also have a shot glass collection, which I started right out of high school to mark each state I have traveled to. They are displayed in a pretty wall cabinet, and I still have seven states yet to visit to complete my collection!

  14. I, too, have a collection of matchbooks tucked away. It used to be so easy to collect them but I haven’t added any in years – seems to be an old way of advertising. Few businesses have personalized matchbooks anymore. I guess that’s really a good thing – smoking has decreased as well!

  15. Cindy Eikenberg says:

    Diane, love your collection! I have one, too, that my grandfather started long ago. I collect way too many things! My oldest collection is vintage jewelry, because I fell in love with my grandmother’s. thanks for sharing this! :)

  16. That’s so great, Diane! Exactly the kind of thing that should be on display!

  17. Sheryll & Critters. says:

    I so understand the memories involved. I used to collect matchbooks, but through the years, they got lost and I had a fabulous collection of swizzle sticks, that are gone also, not that I wanted to lose them or such.

  18. Laura @ Laura's Crafty Life says:

    I used to collect matchbooks too. I am not really sure when I stopped or what happened to the ones I had, but this is such a fun reminder! What a fun collection to display! So colorful. :)

  19. Your collection brings back memories for me! Especially Hotel Tremont, Hess’s and the Cross Country Shop.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Toni – Do you remember the Cross Country Shop? That was my favorite place to shop in high school. I got a lime green pullover sweater there with my monogram on it. Preppy city! It was a fun place.

  20. My mom has a collection of matchbooks and with an upcoming move she just questioned what she was going to do with them. Some are in a bowls, some are in frames, some in boxes. I know they have many memories for her as dad traveled internationally for many years and they’ve been married for 60 years! Thanks for sharing! I’m going to encourage mom to keep them and go through them occasionally. I bet there is one from the hotel she worked at in the Outer Banks for several summers and where she met my dad. Like you said why have something you love if you can’t enjoy them. If she decides to get rid of them I’ll take them as they are very hard to find nowadays.

  21. I love my initials: J & A; there are so many fun letters to make! Count me in on the Handwriting Revolution! Thanks for an exceptional post & chance to win this wonderful giveaway!

  22. That’s an awesome matchbook collection you have! We want to start collecting too!

  23. Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions says:

    What a great collection, Diane, and a great idea to show them off in that pretty bowl! All the colors are so you, too!

  24. I love your collection. Like you, I think less is more. But love little collections. And I love your way with words in describing all that you love about yours!! I have never been much on collecting things but..never say never. ;) Thank you for the uplifting post. I also love that bowl!!

  25. Love, love, love the vintage matchbooks! Pinning! Thanks for sharing! I’ve been following your blog for a few months now and just love everything you do!

    Jenna @ Rain on a Tin Roof