Adding Art to a Room, No Hammer Necessary
By: Rose Bennett Gilbert
Q: We have such a small living room (12 feet by 13 feet). I don’t know what to hang on the walls. Anything I put up might make it look crowded, but my husband says that it’s too “minimalist” when bare. What do you suggest?
A: Your husband’s maxim about minimalism carries truth. Less is often just less. Accessories exist to add color and interest to our environments. Hence, we expect to find works of art in every room. But that doesn’t mean they can only be hung on a wall.
Here’s colorful proof. The pictured smallish living room features a lineup of glowing glass bottles and graceful branches, eloquent substitutes for the usual wall-hung works of art. Flanked by a pair of lamps made from old bottles, the collection seems to float lightly across the top of the narrow chest, used behind the sofa in place of the narrow table you usually find there.
Simple as it is, the arrangement comes as a surprise — why didn’t I think of that! It’s also visually transparent enough to keep the small space from looking overstuffed. To quote Jean Nayar, author of “Real-Life Decor” (the book from Filipacchi Publishing where we found this photo), the gleaming bottles and whimsical accents also give “personality to a bare wall.”
Q: What can you learn from a designer show house?
A: Details! This is high season for show houses, so go if there’s one within driving distance. And be sure to take a small notebook for jotting down decorative details and ideas — the little secrets that design pros develop and cherish as a way to give flair to their individual work.
Here are jottings from the notebook I recently used to purloin tidbits from the elegant Mansion in May designer show house (in Harding Township, N.J., through May 31, www.mansioninmay.com). The biennial fundraiser raises a whopping million or so for Morristown Memorial Hospital and gins up any number of priceless little decorating tips to wit:
— How to handle a fireplace out of season: Fill it with dozens of fat pillar candles on a tray. Stack up round logs with cut ends facing forward. Group three tall, fat red urns inside the opening. Stack up pristine white birch logs.
— How’s your overhead? Decorative ceiling ideas worth a crick in the neck included:
Garden trellis mounted flat against the ceiling and painted white (janetsimoninc.com). Glossy and elegant (and expensive!) waxed Venetian plaster (creativewallcoverings.com). A 110-inch movie screen that lowers from the ceiling into a home theatre/family room at the touch of a button (interchangetechav.com). Metallics — gold and silver leaf or aluminum paint — applied overhead. An antique, wooden plaster’s ladder hung over the kitchen work island to hold pots and pans.
— Nods to Nature: Chunks of tree roots topped with glass for cocktail tables (kennethdavis.net). A potager, a kitchen garden laid out formally and planted with edibles to be donated to a food pantry (Susan Cohan Gardens).
— Whimsies: Giant antique lanterns hung on block-and-tackle from a tree limb over an outdoor dining table (backtonature.net). A carpenter’s workbench, refinished as a many-drawer divider in a kitchen/sitting room (currendesign.com). Desk made of half-inch glass wedged into a narrow window alcove in the attic.
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