A solution for risers might be as close as your garage. Old bricks and wood scraps can give a literal and figurative boost to smaller products, especially jewelry. The bricks were used at Voces de Copal Gallery in Oaxaca, Mexico, and the lumber at Union Handmade. AMY MEADOWS PHOTOS

We have all had those moments of chemistry — discovering the perfect dress, house, or spouse.

When it feels like this match was meant to be, go for it! Whether you are following your gut instinct or your retail brain, they are both good at knowing when the pieces fall into place.

In gift stores, one of the greatest challenges can be finding ways to create harmonious adjacencies when, in fact, the styles or categories might vary. The automatic and completely understandable default setting is neutral.

Yet, if you have some wiggle room or wish to extract and spotlight a certain vendor, style, or material, the more congruent your display props and materials can be, the more successful the overall appearance — and sales — can be.

Reclaimed Lumber

Have we seen the end of shipping pallets as tabletops? Overhead grids? Backdrops? Nope!

Not to worry — they are timeless and extremely useful. While these rough, rustic elements can be used as contrasting materials, I think they are best used to complement the featured merchandise.

Examples of these elements are upcycled or recycled goods, such as textiles and yard art, and wooden items like trays, bowls, and platters.

Or, how about fences? Lengths of picket fences can meet very similarly, especially if your merchandise is more nostalgic or cot­tage-core. The sturdy upright slats can accommodate cup hooks, picture hangers, and other devices for hanging or mounting products.

The trick? Keeping the fence standing up straight. I recom­mend creating a base with lengths of lumber that sandwiches the fence base. In a pinch, use bricks! Again, if the merchandise is a bit rough or rustic, this is the perfect pairing.

What is not to love about books? We created curtains of individual, vintage book pages with monofilament. SUSAN KEZON PHOTO
While I cannot condone ripping covers and
bindings from books, there are candidates
at thrift stores that are fine. These books are bound with twine, serving as a handy prop. AMY MEADOWS PHOTOS


Yes, you can judge them by their cover, and you can choose your own cover! Vintage, leather-bound volumes work beautifully with similarly vintage items like handbags, jewelry, and fashion accessories.

Looking for the perfect riser for a decanter or cocktails? Older books work well, and recipe books or mixology guides do, too.

You can also make your own book covers! Kraft paper is the perfect neutral, while gift wrap, art paper, or colored paper allows you to create the color or texture story of your choice.

Wrapped books can be used en masse to create an imaginary library — vertically—or across a larger display surface, designing a landscape with height variations. This is especially useful when showing jewelry, avoiding an expanse of sameness in gold and silver.


Who does not love branching out? There are a million different types of branches that work well in displays, but I am going to choose my favorite: birch.

What is so special about birch? For starters, it works for spring, fall, and winter. You do not have a lot of fussy branches to work around and worry about storing.

They work well in 6-foot lengths, shorter cuts, or even slices the thickness of a coaster. I love seeing birch poles that have been brightened with wrapped fabric or yarn.

Likewise, birch poles that have been wrapped with other natural materials, such as grasses and vines, take that neutral setting to the next level. Another reason to love longer, less fussy wood pieces? They work well vertically and horizontally!

Kraft Paper, Wax Paper

If you purchased kraft paper for wrapping books, you would want the right weight for clean creases. But you know what else is cool? Kraft paper that has been scrunched and then smoothed out. Depending on the weight of the paper you might need an iron (low setting), and you can end up with gorgeous lengths of paper for backdrops, case pads, or wall panel inserts.

I have seen wax paper worked the same way and it looks like a mysterious mineral — again, very cool. You would use this in a shadow box or vitrine, as crumbled wax paper works best in smaller settings/quantities.


We use fabrics for upholstery, paneling, tablecloths, and back­drops. Chances are you will want a textile that best corresponds with the type and quality of the featured product — complemen­tary, not contrasting.

Rustic, handcrafted wood and pottery pieces? Start with a tightly woven burlap or coarse muslin. As the literal polish of the merchandise increases, so can the woven good’s finishing level. Coarse muslin can be upgraded to raw silk or linen.

Hide any raw edges, stitch as needed, and whatever you do, iron that fabric. If I walk into stores with creased or wrinkled table coverings or toppers, I quickly turn and leave. You would not go out in public like that, so please do not let your shopping public see you in that state.


We frequently see squash and pumpkins worked into autumn displays — fabulous color and texture to support the season at hand. But let us not overlook smaller, dried foodstuffs, such as rice, beans, spices, and grains. These handy pantry items can be used in shallow trays or bowls, serving as a bed or cushion for products — especially jewelry!

Hurray for kraft paper! This creative interpretation of wallpaper at the One of a Kind spring show was eyecatching, easily installed, and easily removed — a bonus consideration if you are working holiday shows, booths, or pop-ups. This example is from Megan Lee Designs.
Do not overlook your grocery store or local farmer’s market for items as perfect for your displays as they are for your favorite meals. Farro, anyone?

Have an interesting display to share? Or a question about visual merchandising strategies for your business or your district? Visit www.windowsmatter.com for more information.