1. Unification. Unify disparate types of art with similar frames. You can find inexpensive frames anywhere- consignment and antique shops, off-price retailers, yard sales, IKEA, etc. Paint them or stain them, or just buy them in similar shapes and colors- such as black, square.
2. Family Photo. Check out this funky wallpaper by designer Lisa Bergstein called “The Family.” (above.) Its frames create the perfect display for your existing photos, in standard sizes. How fun! (www.bodieandfou.co.uk)
3. Think outside the frame. Not all photos or art need to be in a frame to be chic. How about displaying ATC cards or small photos in square glass vases or glasses? Or a sturdy double matted piece of art casually displayed on a wooden easel? Easels can be sizes anywhere from 3” to floor length displays- and you can switch out art at a moment’s notice. 4. Make your stairway or another narrow wall into a small gallery. (right.) Gather group frames with 3x5 or 4x6 openings and group them in no particular method along the wall.
5. Clothesline fun. Stretch a clothesline or metal cable from one end of your mantel to another, and use chic metal clips to attach your favorite pieces. To protect them, use copies of the actual art- or use this technique for your child’s artwork or inexpensive pieces that don’t need to be covered with glass.
6. Go big! You can turn any photo- your own or someone else’s (including mine!) into an awesome gallery wrapped canvas for a stunning focal piece. For the crispest finish, the photo should measure 300 dpi (dots per inch). You can search online for services such as Canvas Art (www.canvasart.com) that provide this service- or check with your local photo lab.
7. O.K., Corral. Corral small “tchotchke” frames into a worthwhile collection. (below.) You know all those small toy frames with random photos you have lying around? They look cluttered. Bring them together in one area, streamline the sizes from smallest (front) to largest (back), and display on a nice mirrored or metal tray for modern elegance, or a rustic wooden tray or woven basket for seaside cottage charm. On the small mantel below, various sizes of small paintings and artwork are displayed together, and it looks charming- the colors are complementary but each piece gets more "oomph" being displayed with a group versus by itself.
I love this idea because I've collected many small pieces over the years that I don't necessarily want all over the place, and I don't want to hide them either. (Just try to make sure the collection you end up displaying is cohesive and doesn't look like a motley mix of stuff that didn't fit anywhere else.)
8. Bring other items into the mix. Flat baskets, trays with sawtooth hangers, architectural salvage pieces- anything that fits your style- will look great when mixed on the wall with photographs or artwork. (left) A section of old fencing from a flea market or antique shop works beautifully on this small alcoved section of wall.
9. Play the numbers game. Here’s what I’ve always found to be true: more formal walls and rooms benefit from symmetry, and even numbers of items. (below)
However, if you have an obvious central point in your room- like a fireplace or large window- even numbers, like two framed photographs on either side of the focal point- will create one large odd-numbered display, visually. That’s because the focal point itself becomes part of your display- and thus adds another variable.
10. Mat and Frame choice is important. The smallest photo can be made to look large with a larger mat and thin frame; a thin frame with no matting can give a photo a more comtemporary, clean-lined feel; and a vintage frame with lots of detail can give any piece of art an aged character. Also consider that a rectangular photograph or art piece doesn't have to go into a rectangular frame! Try framing a square picture inside a larger rectangular frame, using a standard size mat. You can switch up frame or mat colors if you wish to have a more casual look, or if you want a matching color to some other element in your room- like a sofa, a window pane, or another piece of art.
If you're not sure where to start, browsing the aisles in any home or craft store will give you an idea of what sizes are pre-made the most, and may help guide your art buying decisions. Custom framing is much less expensive than it used to be, too- don't hesitate to get a quote on a nice piece of art that you weren't able to find a ready-made frame for!
Check out this article entitled "How to get the most from your mats" for some great information on matting and framing, Photographer Jennifer Squires also has compiled some wonderful and useful information on her blog about matting, choosing artwork sizes, and displaying artwork on her blog.
(photos from top: Bodie and Fou, Better Homes and Gardens.)