Art for the Home

Full disclosure: I don’t really know anything about art.

But I’d like to.

Owning real art seems like such a grown-up thing to do. It says that you’re past the stage of hand-me-down castoffs and IKEA furniture. You no longer own a futon. You own art.

Two years ago, I bit the bullet and hired a decorator to help spruce up Fancy Pants Ranch.

We bought our house six years ago without too much forethought. We were moving to our city. We needed a house. This one was available. It was new. It was nice enough. The location was great. We moved in.

Fast forward: as time went on, the mild Builder Beige paint on most of the walls didn’t suit our style. It was time for a change, and while I definitely know what I like, I don’t have the time or the eye to really put it all together. Hence, hiring a professional.

Working with a decorator turned out to be a great experience. She had access to a lot of great vendors that sell only to the design trade, meaning that we got some unique pieces that you don’t see everywhere.

She also encouraged us to add art to the walls. One big mistake I’d made in the past was buying art that was too small.

Here’s an example of a prior mistake:

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I bought these two 8″ x 10″ prints from 20 x 200, a project that started in 2007 to produce affordable, yet cool, art. Prices now start at $24 for a small print. The two photos above show the end of a decadent party (my younger self very much relates to a stiletto smashed into a plate of cake) and two leopard-clad women (one with a young hand, one with a wrinkled, older one; I felt like this was the younger me connecting to an older me).

Now I regret getting such small prints. I still love them and want them displayed, but they’re hard to see and make so little visual impact. Right now they hang on a short wall in the kitchen where it transitions to the dining room. The only thing that makes them sort-of work is that I have two to hang together as a pair.

There is a short but helpful interview about choosing art for your home in the April issue of Allure magazine. The interviewee is Maria Gabriela Brito, an art collector and designer in NYC. Her words:

Go Big. The bigger the piece, the more it will transform a room. People tend to choose art that is too small for the space. Take your cue from the furniture your art will hang near. If your sofa is 70 inches long, go for a piece that’s 50 inches; if the couch is 96 inches long, try something that measures 80 inches. If you can’t find one really big image you like, you can cheat by placing two side by side. The bottom of the frame should sit six to ten inches above the top of the furniture, and the closer the top edge is to the ceiling, the higher your ceilings will look.

Here’s a slightly better example of scale from Fancy Pants Ranch:

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This abstract black and white print is narrow but almost six feet tall. It makes a big impact on a short wall in the family room (wall paint is a dark charcoal gray, which repeats in the dining room. Other walls are painted light gray, bright fuchsia – yes! – and Orange Crush orange).

We also went in a different direction for a wall in the dining room, using sculptural elements.

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The scale is hard to interpret, but the bowls range in size from 10 to 20 inches. Together they take up most of a wall and brighten up a space that otherwise can be dark.

A final piece of advice from Maria Gabriela Brito:

Before you automatically hang a new piece in living room, think about your entire house. Instead of the predictable console and mirror in a foyer, imagine a huge, vibrant print there. I especially love to incorporate smaller pieces of art in unexpected places, like a bathroom or kitchen.

Me, too! Great tips.

 

What You’d Expect

No one is going to be surprised to hear that I am waaaaay behind in my holiday preparations.

So, yeah. It’s the usual.

Other than piling up boxes inside the front door that have been delivered by the FedEx guy – whose kids I am singlehandedly putting through college – I haven’t done much.

Ever Patient Spouse decorated the exterior of Fancy Pants Ranch with lights and animatronic penguins playing football (Don’t ask. Ok, ask. Every year he sets up an elaborate scene with a flock of penguins getting into some holiday shenanigans and this year they are decked out like rival football teams. There’s even a lighted goal post. This is what happens when you’re married to a mechanical engineer).

He also put up the tree last weekend (A record early for us! But history suggests that it’ll still be up in February or until it spontaneously combusts, whichever comes first. Last year’s tree made it out of the house by mid-January but was in our back yard until July).

Spouse did the lights on the tree but MGM and Trixie put on the ornaments. Now, if I had my way, we’d just have lights, zero ornaments, and no kitschy decor littered throughout the house, save perhaps an abtract, vaguely Christmas-y sculpture or some other piece of art.

But since I don’t, we have wall-to-wall items that include three different musical animated creatures (Snoopy, Mickey Mouse, and a snowman), all of which are extremely loud, get played non-stop and are annoying in different ways. Snowman is particularly irritating since he inflates and then deflates as he “melts,” and he’s been played so many times that the tinny recording of some “Frosty the Snowman” rip-off song is completely distorted and just sounds creepy. It haunts me, people.

When I was a kid, my grandmother gave me an ornament every year for Christmas, and since I grew up in the late 70s and 80s, there is an abundance of Muppets, Holly Hobbies, and Spuds Mackenzies. Instead of putting something simple and more elegant on the tree, the kids are drawn to my childhood ornaments like moths to a flame. And there is zero distribution of said ornaments. They’ve all been jammed onto two low branches that are now so heavily weighed down that there’s an ornament crush dragging to the floor.

Here’s a mid-decorating snap:

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Seven ornaments on one branch!

What you don’t see here is the elaborate train set that Mr. Mechanical Engineer also built exclusively for the children. I emphasized that last part because by “children,” I just mean him.

The train project started two years ago. It was initially billed as a tasteful circle around the tree with a small holiday train.

Currently it occupies all available floor space in our front room (the furniture is temporarily shoved elsewhere), and there are multiple trains, multiple tracks, complicated switching mechanisms, village scenes, cows, etc. And I was just informed last night that the children desperately needed several new trains purchased from Ebay, lest those deprived waifs suffer even more. Yep, they’re a regular pair of Tiny Tims.

At least those new trains will keep the FedEx guy in business.