Sunday, September 19, 2010

Let's not always take ourselves too serious, k? Part one

Family, Friends and a few strangers who have stumbled upon my blog....I want to be upfront about something.  I have been struggling with the idea whether I should post this segment. I don't want to look like the" bag lady of design". I am the first person to persuade you to invest in that "fabulous most exquisite thing" in the store. If I pick something up off a shelf or a rack...oh yeah, it's got the biggest price tag. So, I say this with all honesty, I am no craftsy girl, I shop at Michaels only when I need to, I am not good at finding stuff at garage sales, I am not a scrapbooker and I am not too handy.

What I do know how to do is prioritize when it comes to designing one's home. Now, like no other time in history, do we need to take a step back and look at what we have, spend a little less where we can, save a little more for what we want, and laugh lots and lots. I'd like to share a few helpful ideas when it comes to tackling this idea.

Part one: Let's start with our walls.

My first piece of advice is to invest in a few pieces of really good art. If you are lucky like me, to have inherited artwork, and have a mother and a father whom are both fabulous artists, piece of cake. But, in actuality, most people don't have this situation. So, my suggestion is to use good scale, pick pieces that will work in many different places in your home, living room, bedroom, dining room. If you can't afford artwork from an artist, buy prints and have them framed really nice. Crop the poster to the edge of the artwork. Some  posters include a title at the bottom (especially posters of well-known artists).Try to crop the artist's name/or exhibition. Leaving the title cheapens the print/framing. I will show you  examples of poster art where one has been cropped and the other hasn't and you can be the judge.
We all know this is Van Gogh, it would look better cropped into the image
This is also poster art of a well known artist , but it's cropped into the painting itself and nicely framed with a nice mat and a fillet.
When mixing pieces, keep in mind a general color scheme. Unless you are trained in art or design, it's best to keep the same color palette throughout your choices, this makes mixing different types of art, (abstracts, figurative, landscape) easier. Mixing colorful art and black and white etchings can be fun and effective in filling a space.
The black and white portrait on the left works wonderfully with the center bold abstract and left contemporary piece.
This grouping of smaller pieces is a wonderful mix of figurative and abstract pieces, tying in the color scheme and combining black and white pieces as well.
In my own home, I've combined a grouping over the fireplace of an abstract oil, a simply framed old etching and a few sculptural pieces. (The etching was actually my grandmothers, worth nothing, but has so much meaning. It has a quote at the bottom which reads, "If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way
In an another example, I have grouped some figurative pieces and abstract pieces together in the same room, with an overall color palette which pulls it all together.
On the left is an abstract piece, and the right is a grouping of 3 figurative pieces, but all have the same general color palette.
Using reproductions of prints from an antique store is one way of finding art that is relatively inexpensive, but has a high end look. One store in Charlotte, Interior Marketplace, on the corner of Providence Road and Queens Rd., has a booth in its store with a wide selection of subject matters, really nice quality. You could easily buy a group of prints, say six botanicals, for about $40 a piece, and have them framed for a dining room or living room. Just be sure to watch your scale on the pieces.
The designer utilized the whole wall by only using 5 small pieces, and pumping up the framing with large mats and fillets.
In this bedroom, the botanical pictures are grouped across a wall, 4 on the wall, and three more leaning in the built-in.
In the reflection of the mirror, you can see here a whole grouping of botanical prints framed in a simple frame.
Tiff's tip: Don't always limit the size of artwork to a sofa or piece of furniture. Sometimes it's better to scale the art with the dimensions of the wall size, leaving an "invisible frame" around the artwork. Here are a few examples where designers have utilized the space well.

Three dimensional art is also an effective way to compliment framed pieces, and can be very economical depending on where you find them. Even places like HomeGoods (there I go again, mentioning that place!!!) or stores like Pottery Barn.
Three inexpensive mirrors can be hung across a wall and look great.
If your art budget is tight, the one place I highly recommend you don't spend most of your budget is in secondary areas, like childrens' bathrooms and playrooms. This area can be easily decorated with minimal cost and have more meaning.

For example. My children collected seashells this summer at the beach and wanted to keep their collection in the house (yikes, all I could think of is a bunch of bugs walking around, and broken pieces shell embedded into the carpet). So, I went over to H---G----, again, and picked up a banged up frame on clearance for five dollars. I arranged the shells the way I wanted them on the perimeter of the frame, hot glued them on and then bronzed the whole thing with some bronze paint.
A five dollar frame at HomeGoods in the clearance aisle.
The shells have been hot-glued to the front face of the frame
I painted on the base coat of a two-part bronzing kit, and decided to stop here. I liked the bronze finish.
Now some of you may be thinking, why are you covering up the natural beauty that shells possess? Well, I can honestly say I love beach houses, they are beautiful, and frankly, I wish I owned one, but my house is not beachy at all, and this was my way of making it my own. I had some photos at the beach of the family printed in sepia to pick up the tone in the bronze paint and now I had a memorable piece of art, that I will always cherish. I hung it on an empty wall above my desk. It's either chic or eek. Who cares, I love it, and now I'll never lose my keys!

Another room that can be easily decorated with you own memories is the childrens' bathrooms. Instead of buying cheap art fillers with pictures of bath-tubs and sinks, put your kids in there with family photos. Blow up pictures of them in the tub with all the bubbles, and frame them with colorful mats. Another idea would be to buy inexpensive canvas from an art store and make handprint and footprint art of your children.
This kit can be purchased from
I had some frames that I had bought on clearance and decided instead of photos, to insert the children's footprints that the hospital had made when they were born. They were just sitting in a file, hidden amongst other papers, when they could be framed and cherished daily. To make it just a tad more personal, I bought unfinished wooden stars with a picture insert from Michaels (just $1 each) and roughly painted them with watercolors to match the tub treatment. I printed out the children's names and birthdates and inserted them in the center, that way we knew who's feet were who's (I'm a mother, I know!!!! But the kids got a kick out of their names being up with their feet). Another personal touch, with minimal money spent.

I incorporated the colors from their tub drape and accessories.

Playrooms, lofts or spaces in your home that are designated "kid-spaces" need to have some humor, fun, and let's face it, not break the bank. Children are only young for a short period of time. We either want to spend money on quality pieces that can stay with the house, even when the kids are gone, or we can do fun things that can be practically free, have fun with our kids doing it, and put it away when they've moved on to others interests. Chalkboards are great, and if you own your own home, chalkboard paint on one wall, whether it's just a panel, an inset, or a shape is really fun.

Wall decals can be really interesting too, with minimal cost.

This race track decal is from
This is a playful take on the abc's also from Blik.
I decided that I didn't want to spend any money in our playroom since we were renting and I had know idea how long we would be there, or whether our next home would have a designated playroom. My daughter Sydney and I love to paint together, and since we've moved to Charlotte seven months ago, I've been painting the alphabet letters for fun, so she gets practice in saying her "ABC's" and we talk about what things starts with each letter.
I just used inexpensive crayola watercolors and paper.
Now that I finished them, I wanted her to be able to enjoy them everyday and remember all the things we talked about. I took an idea I got from Jennifer at Small Hands/Big Art in South Charlotte, which is an open art studio for children. They have classes there as well. When Sydney and I took a class together,  I noticed that Jennifer displayed all the kids' art by hanging them with clothespins on strings/yarn across the wall like a clothesline. I thought it was so simple. And hey, let's not take ourselves so seriously here, People! It's a kids play area, not a living room! Michelangelo ain't comin' in here to do a mural on the ceiling! So, it's a little craftsy, who cares.
I decided to paint the clothespins different colors, just using the same watercolors I used on the alphabet letters (crayola). My daughter had fun helping me paint them too.

I bought 50 cent ribbons from the clearance bins at Michaels. The kids love how it turned out, and I put an extra clothesline for their own artwork (at 3 and 6 the artwork comes home in droves weekly). I even put a beaded necklace across this section that says "Artist of the week" They can take turns sharing the spotlight!
So, have fun, don't take yourself too seriously. Prioritize. Of course you don't want to string clotheslines all over your dining room.........with napkins. But we also don't want to spend money when it's not necessary. I've got enough serious faces in my house:

A few painted shells to preserve a few memories and save a few dollars here and there is okay. It's better than's perfect.

(Some of the photographs have been taken from the the following publications; Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Veranda, Celerie Kemble, To Your Taste, Mariette Hines Gomez, Houses Inside and Out, Feathering The Nest, by Tracey Hutson.)

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