Choosing Art to Live With Is a Real Art Indeed
By: Rose Bennett Gilbert
Q: We just finished fixing up our little place at the shore … a lot of hand-me-downs from our city house, plus neat stuff from local yard sales. With the walls all newly painted, I haven’t hung anything on them yet. My husband would kill me for too many nail holes (just kidding). But seriously, what kind of art is most appropriate for a lake house?
A: The answer is the same for any house anywhere: What’s appropriate is what you like.
Hanging art on the wall is like accessorizing a dress: It’s the finishing touch that completes the outfit. It’s also an expression of your individuality and taste. And, in the case of a second home, the “accessories” could logically relate to the home’s location: Think seascapes, canoe paddles, fishing gear … you get the idea.
Have fun shopping, but don’t rush the process. Make each selection contribute to the overall personality of your little place. Here’s inspiration from designer Phoebe Howard (aka “Mrs. Howard,” the design columnist), borrowed from her attractive new book, “The Joy of Decorating.”
She made the “art” she’s hung in this seaside breakfast nook: four pairs of bright Bernardo flip-flops framed in Lucite boxes. She found them at an antique show, Phoebe writes: “thirty pairs … all in size 7-and-a-half and all in perfect condition. I loved imagining their former owner — clearly a woman after my own heart when it comes to shoes!”
Following her example, you could frame anything from a shell collection to sand dollars to ship miniatures — there’s almost no end to the nautical-but-nice options.
In fact, the more eccentric the art, the more interesting the interior. I just visited a new housing development in a former lumber mill in Richmond, Va. (Beckstoffer’s Mill Lofts & Apartments by the nonprofit Better Housing Coalition), where antique woodworking machinery is revered as sculpture. There’s a huge molding jointer in one apartment complex lobby, a band saw preserved in another.
Sir James Dyson the English inventor (“cyclonic” vacuum cleaners, bladeless fans and the like) may be one of the world’s richest men, easily able to buy any old masterwork he desires. But when he and his wife renovated the antique mill on their 300-acre estate in Gloucestershire, they refurbished the giant old waterwheel and made it the looming focal point of their dining room.
The bottom line — and a good lesson for every home decorator: Art is whatever you can envision.
Q: What do you think of covering books in matching paper so they all look alike on the shelf? I saw this done at a designer show house last month. The designer wrapped all the books in chartreuse paper. It looked great but somehow it seems wrong. What do you think?
A: What do I think of blinding books for decorative purposes? Not much. Sure, it makes a design statement, but what it says to me is “Duh. We really don’t read.”