Although we don't talk about it as much, one of the biggest dilemmas when decorating a home isn't what color to paint the walls, it's what to hang on them.
Choosing art is an intimidating business. It's so personal, we tend to get a bit paranoid about what those pictures say about us. Is it too loud, too mundane, too flowery? Is it any good? If you aren't an art critic, how can you tell?
Well, as with everything else in your home, the only issue is how you feel about it. Art, whether it's a poster or an oil painting, is a strong communicator. A picture can set a mood, make you think, drive your imagination and arouse memories. An image can make you feel good just seeing it, and no matter how many times you see it, the magic doesn't wear off. If you are having difficulty starting your own collection, here are a few guidelines I've used that work well.
To begin with, don't fret if you are on a budget. Art posters, photo blow-ups, even fabrics all look good on a wall. Custom framing can be costly, so look for ready-made frames, new or old, and size the image to fit. There are also framing shops that supply all the required materials and allow you to do the framing right there.
You'll find an excellent selection of posters at museum and art gallery shops, and poster stores generally carry pictures that span the theme spectrum from old film bills and travel ads to beautiful botanicals. Keep an eye out for local college art exhibitions. This is a great way to find inexpensive art and to support up-and-coming artists.
Photographs look good in a series blown up to a comfortable scale for viewing. Black-and-white photos framed in black are simple and smart.
Heirloom fabrics such as tapestries can be hung on their own, or frame smaller pieces for a great effect.
At the Interior Design Show in Toronto this year, I was intrigued by a room created by interior designer Jill Greaves. It was the artwork that drew me in. Framed images of large, friendly looking animals welcomed me into the living room, and I wanted to rest awhile in their company.
Greaves explained that animal prints work well in almost any space. People relate to them; they are a good neutral subject more understandable than abstract pictures, more interesting than landscapes.
The key to using animal images successfully is to make sure they are more graphic than realistic. The animal prints seen in the accompanying are actually framed tea towels. The strong graphic images and texture of the linen worked well with a series of identical frames in different sizes.
When you are ready to purchase a more expensive work of art, consider where you will hang it. A small painting will be lost on a big wall. Greaves suggests that you can mix various types of art; however, because of the different characteristics of each type, it is important to make sure that you are putting pieces together that flatter each other and the space they are in. That large wall requires a large canvas or triptych, which is a series of three images that are self-sufficient but link to each other and are meant to be displayed as a single piece of art.
Debbie Travis' House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Travis on Twitter at www.twitter.com/debbie_travis and visit www.debbietravis.com.