Are you a collector and have a bunch of classic action figures that are prized parts of your collection? Maybe you’re an anime fan and you have figures from some of your favorite series or characters around your house or room? Maybe you have some video game figures that came with collectors’ editions of your favorite games? Or maybe still you just love toys in general and like having them around to brighten up the place.
All in all, if you’re like most of us, myself included, you have more than a few action figures in convenient places around your home. You may have a handful or you may have a lot, but you’re probably struggling with the same types of questions: how do I display these without looking creepy or dorky? This week, I’m going to help you answer that question – and trust me, the answer is not and never will be “put them in a box and hide them.” I’ll walk you through figuring out where the best place for your figures is, what types of figures you’ll want to show off and which ones you’ll want to keep to yourself, and even come up with some ways for you to make sure you keep your “exhibit,” as it were, fresh and interesting for anyone who stops by, regardless of whether they like or collect figures themselves.
This could easily turn into a multi-part series about design elements and different ways to highlight the types of figures you have and the ways to light them and different types of furniture for your space, but we can get into those at another time. This time around though I want to focus on three major elements that are important to making sure that the toys and figures you have are clean, well-presented, and most importantly, highlighted in your preferred space.
We’ll look at ways to choose which figures are on display where, ways to display your figures, and ways to highlight your figures and draw positive attention to them. For example, if your visitors are usually members of your preferred gender and you’re worried you might scare them off with the sexy anime figures on your mantle, it might be time to put them on their own shelf…in your bedroom, where that atmosphere can benefit from something a little scandalous.
We’ll also talk about shelving and display cases, and we’ll also talk about avoiding figure overkill – something most serious collectors understand, but those of us who just buy what we like can find ourselves trapped doing before we know it. Ready? Let’s get started.
Picking the Right Figures to Display
Let’s start with overkill, because it’s such an important topic. It’s tempting to put every action figure or toy you’ve ever loved or every single figure you like up somewhere in your space, whether you live in a studio apartment or you have a home office you’d like to decorate or you have an entertainment room where you have free reign over what’s displayed where, but resist, my friends, resist!
Think of your figure collection the same way the Smithsonian thinks of its exhibits. They don’t show everything all at the same time – they have rotating exhibits that draw interest, different looks and features cheap oakley for different times of year or different occasions. If the Smithsonian just decided to put every artifact or object they have on display at the same time, there wouldn’t be enough space in any museum to display it all. The ability to pick and choose what should be shown and what should be retired, even if it’s only for a while, is what makes a collection – even if it’s just a grouping of items that you like or enjoy looking at – really special.
Take a look at your figure collection, and pick out a reasonable number of figures for each space you’d like to put them in. Remember, it’s okay to have some spaces that are not populated by a figure of some kind. Just because there’s an open space big enough to fit a cute little Nendroid doesn’t mean you have to fill it with one! Take a moment and pick some of your favorites – keeping in mind that you, like me and like most people who like having a few toys around, will probably buy more at some point when you see something that strikes your fancy.
Try to think, while you’re choosing those first few figures, “where will I put the next one I buy?” After all, we all know there’ll be another one soon, and you don’t want to unbox it and fall in love with it only to wonder after your wallet is that much lighter “where the hell am I going to put this thing?” Pick out the ones you want to display, and try to put them into little “exhibits” that you think makes for good showing in different areas of your space. They can be figures with a common theme, or figures that look good together, or figures you just think are nice for different places, it’s up to you!
Another thing to consider when you’re choosing your figures is where you’ll display them. You don’t have to worry about how you’ll display them, we’ll get to that later, but you’ll want something that matches the environment and atmosphere in the room. Don’t worry about colors and such, but for example, if you have a lot of video game figures you’ll probably want to put them near where you play video games – maybe on top of the entertainment center or next to the consoles.
If you have a lot of classic figures that may be worth money, like old Superman toys or mint condition Transformers, you might want to put them somewhere out of high-traffic areas (maybe your home office, where you can see and enjoy them frequently or maybe a guest room or someplace you like to escape to so you can relax), and if you have kids or have kids over to your space frequently, somewhere out of reach. After all, your action figures are your cousin’s little kids’ toys, and they’ll treat them as such. Don’t let yourself get heartbroken because you left that 1984 Generation One Optimus Prime on the bottom level of your bookshelf and little Timmy from next door got his hands on it while you were having coffee with his mother or father.
Like I mentioned above, if you’re a bachelor or bachelorette and live alone, those sexy figures can pretty much go anywhere, but don’t set yourself up to have to move a bunch of them when you have a date coming over for the evening, or your family drops by for a visit. I know you want to keep them around to look at, but if you either a: don’t traditionally date people who share your interests and tastes in geekery, or b: know your family or other friends cheap oakley sunglasses would throw a fit if they saw a busty or bishy cast-off PVC figure square in the middle of your coffee table, save yourself the hassle and make yourself a little sexy exhibit for the bedroom.
After all, you shouldn’t have to be ashamed of your figures or your hobbies – and easing people into them by putting the fun and non-scandalous ones in the living room and keeping the salacious ones on a shelf in the bedroom until they’re ready can be fun too, and won’t freak out random guests, or your apartment’s maintenance staff when they come to change the air filter every six months.
Displaying Your Figures
This is where the fun begins, from a design perspective. Remember, you want to pick a method of display that either works with your current furniture, or if you’re a collector or connoisseur, a way that showcases your figures with an attractive display but also that keeps them safe from dust, dirt, grime, and moisture. There’s nothing worse than putting your figures on a shelf that’s near the kitchen and then frying up some bacon – only to realize 48 hours later than all of the bacon grease in the air has now settled on top of your prized Miku Hatsune VN 02 Mix figure.
Let’s be clear though – you should know how to properly clean your figures no matter where or how you display them – most of the time a little dusting will suffice, but if you’re noticing stains you may want to try a little soap and water. Make sure to use a non-abrasive and color-safe soap, nothing that’s going to pull the color out of your figures, and a little canned air to get all the water out and blow it dry after you’ve wiped them down with a towel or a bar mop (lint-free, of course!)
When you’re not cleaning them and you want to show them off, you’ll need a place to keep them. You can go the affordable route and simply line open space on your bookshelves with figures, and this is a great way to go if you don’t have a lot of space or the space you have is already dominated with furniture or shelving units. Clear out a little space for your exhibit, and go ahead and put the figures up! It’s a delicate balance to keep them close enough to keep a good group look but not so close that they essentially overlap one another and look cluttery, but you’ll know when you have it down – they’ll look good, and at just about every angle you’ll be able to appreciate the individual aspects of each figure without seeing another one in the way.
I’m a big fan of clearing off enough space to display your big figures on their own shelves or in their own space. That doesn’t mean they have to be alone, but it does mean you shouldn’t crowd them too much, especially if they’re large figures with wide stands or bases. If you have smaller figures that can sit in front of other things, like on a bookshelf in front of a row of books, go for it as long as you think you’ll continue to appreciate them in their new home.
All in all, if you’re going to use your figures as decoration for your current space, the important thing to remember is to make sure you don’t lose the sense of appreciation you have for your figures when you put it somewhere. If you put your figure in a place and immediately forget it was ever there or just can’t see it ever, you might want to move it, unless you just don’t care (in which case maybe it shouldn’t be in your exhibit?)
If you have some budget, you might consider dropping a little cash on a display case or shelving unit to keep them safe, covered, or to give them their own space. For example, you can go out and buy something simple like this traditional horizontal display case if you only have a few things to display, or alternatively you can pick up something more substantial like the IKEA Bergsbo which comes in a number of colors and gives you full glass doors that you can close in front of your figures to keep them on display, at the center of attention, but safely protected behind glass in their own display case. Or consider the really stylish IKEA Linnarp, which comes with or without glass doors depending on your budget and what you’d like to do with it. This method even works if you have a lot of books to shelve but want a way to display and protect your figures on their own shelf!
Some folks I know have made use of the gorgeously designed IKEA Expedit, which doesn’t have glass or a protective cover, but it is a gorgeous display case that fits snugly against the wall and has square cubbyholes for books, gadgets, tools, and yes – figures! I’ve seen some people use the entire Expedit just to display figures, since each cubby is large enough for a large figure or a few small ones grouped together logically. Best of all, the Expedit, unlike a lot of traditional display cases, can pull double-duty as a shelf or bookcase, so it doesn’t have to be a single-purpose piece of furniture. You know the classy way: nothing in your home or space should do one thing only unless you absolutely need something that specializes in a single purpose.
If you’re not looking to spend that much money, I can personally suggest the IKEA Billy, which comes in a wide-body variety linked here but also in an array of product types and suites that fit virtually any space and any budget.
If book cases aren’t your thing and you just want a shelf in the bedroom for one of your exhibits, or you have a small space and not much room for additional floor furniture, remember the old designer’s rule for small spaces: expand up, not out – meaning shelves on the walls above the floor level allow you to turn empty wall space into instant storage for just about anything. In these cases, especially if a nice floating shelf over your workstation or next to your bed or entertainment center makes a nice spot to display some of your figures, the IKEA Lack or just about any floating shelf you can buy from a department store or furniture store is a lifesaver. They’re small and relatively affordable, and as long as you know where the studs in your walls are, you can mount them easily.
You don’t have to break the bank to make a great display for your figures, but if you’re willing to put a little money into them, you’ll get a space that’s attractive and protective. Regardless of what you choose in the way of displaying your figures, try to make sure the ones that are special to you keep a place of honor in your space – someplace they’ll be seen and appreciated, especially by you on a day-to-day basis.
Highlighting Your Figures
Remember when we were talking about choosing select groups of figures to create an “exhibit?” This is even more important when we discuss how to highlight the figures you want to display. Rotating “exhibits” create interest in your space, whether it’s in your home office or your living room, and make for a self-highlighting display. You’ll feel as though your space is always refreshing and rejuvenating itself just by picking some figures you want to see right now, and then switching them out every couple of months, or maybe when spring cleaning time comes around you can swap out for some figures or toys that have been stored away for a while.
Additionally, when you get all of the furniture you want to use, regardless of what it is, think about which areas in your space are high traffic and high visibility. These are the spots where you want your figures to live, because they’re high visibility. Also worth considering is the point I mentioned earlier about placing figures oakley sunglasses cheap in places that make sense. Video game figures would do well with your controllers and consoles, and toys from your favorite TV series’ would look great on the entertainment center. Still, save your best exhibits and collections for spaces where they have room to stand out and be seen.
When you have your figures in place, some good lighting helps. Nothing says “display case” like a small LED or push-light at the top of your bookshelf that you can turn on when you want to be able to see your toys or you have a guest over, and off when you’re not home or not looking. For example, the IKEA Grundtal or IKEA Hopen for a couple of examples of small spotlights that can be mounted to the floor of a display case, the back wall of a bookshelf, or the top of a bookshelf with glass doors.
You’d be surprised how well some solid placement and good lighting will go towards making your action figures and toys stand out among a wall of books, DVDs, CDs, or other items.
With a little thought, a little placement, maybe a little furniture, and maybe a little lighting, you can make sure your favorite figures are on display and well seen by the people who drop by your home and more importantly by you when you’re at home relaxing, resting, or working. Best of all, if you take the time to think about which figures you’d be happiest to display now and which figures you don’t mind stashing away for later, you can avoid overwhelming your guests and creating a massive wall of figures that all blend together indiscriminately.
If you want a single place to keep lots and lots of figures, a bookshelf or display case will definitely do the trick, and do it with style – once your figures have a home, you have the freedom to put more of them in the same space.
All it takes is a little forethought and a little class to make sure your figures look great anywhere you choose to put them. Don’t be ashamed of them, and don’t listen to designers and decorators who tell you that it’s all “clutter” and you have to put it away for a stylish and clean look. I’ve often been upset with television design shows that imply that in order to get an elegant look in your space you have to remove any semblance of personality. So bring your personality into your space: make it your own, and show off those shiny figures, toys, and action figures.