The Insider: How to display stuff

There's an art to arranging one's things to look pleasing, rather than cluttered and claustrophobia-inducing. Yet, too much order can appear contrived and create a visual sense of unease. So how does one get the balance right?

Three is the magic number

"The key to displaying collections is subtlety," says Kate Mooney, founder of Occa-Home. Fake thrown-together chic by "grouping in odd numbers of threes or fives and varying heights and textures".

Low rider

Terence Conran's brilliant The House Book (Mitchell Beazley) is tip-tastic: on table-tops, he suggests keeping objects low, "like a form of bas-relief" rather than something to crane necks over. For ease of dusting, "contain it on a tray". A collection of attractive bottles, meanwhile, "looks best when light can shine through them".

All that glitters

Hang jewellery from a horizontal row of thin nails straight as a rod (hello, spirit level) for a striking effect.

Case the joint

Glass domes somehow lend authority to the objects encased beneath. For a contemporary twist, try a Muji upturned acrylic DVD box (£6.95) over something old to contrast with its sleek, sharp edges. Mine houses antique dolls.

Hang up

Peg cool postcards from string and hang like bunting.

Off the wall

Follow the stylish Saltoun Supper Club's approach to DIY art and pin at least eight small, cherished objects – such as saucers, model chairs, paper butterflies – in a neat, well-spaced grid to a blank wall.

Keep on moving

Conran gets the last word: "When you no longer feel some positive pleasure while looking at your things, it's time to rearrange them."

Find Kate's blog on affordable interiorsat