So we all have them. And we all want to display them. But how do we get started?
Whenever I pick up the latest Pottery Barn Catalog, I have to say that even though the furniture is beautiful (as long as you don't look at the prices), and the displays are eclectic and engaging (because no one really lives there), the thing that really strikes me are....the photos. Granted the family photographs in such publications are most probably made up of fabulous models treated with a secret airbrushing formula not accessible to the average joe, but they still draw me like a moth to a flame. Yes, the people in the pictures are usually abnormally beautiful, but more so than the subjects, the placement and arrangement make me drool. Somehow, the editors of such catalogs have the enviable talent to make family memories feel organized, artful, yet casual and unexpected at the same time. And that of course is what we all want to pull off in our own homes.
It would be wonderful if we could just throw our favorite family photos into a few frames, hammer a nail or two, and call it a successful day, but for me, it really does take a bit more effort than that. At the same time, the techniques many DIY experts recommend involving the creation of frame templates et al (picture Elizabeth Perkins and Kevin Bacon in She's Having a Baby with their newspaper furniture layout) are a bit high maintenance for those of us juggling staff meetings, cub scouts, and an 11-year old with the flu, so a set of guidelines that falls somewhere in between might be the most helpful. In light of this, here are a few thoughts to consider when you are making your personal photo extravaganza a reality:
1. Get Creative with Your Favorite Subjects. It would be fantastic if every member--or sometimes at least one member--of our family was naturally photogenic, but that being a perfect world where none of us actually resides (aka Pottery Barn Land), sometimes when it comes to family pictures you need to (and I can't stand this phrase but here goes...) think outside the box. Do you have a non-smiler? I do, and one of my favorite photos of her is of her adorable little face peeking over a hydrangea blossom, so you can't tell if she is grinning or not. Is it hard to get everyone to look in the same direction, much less have a look of happiness on their faces? Try taking a photo from behind...it will feel contemplative and eccentric. Also, try getting in close--on hands, feet, eyes, your subject's best feature if you wish--and see what cool results you end up with. And when you do get that great shot but the colors are dull or the angle isn't what you hoped for, don't be afraid to use the magic of digital photography to play with your pic!
2. Pick a Common Thread and Run with it. Some designers can put together a mix of frames and photos that have nothing to do with one another and make them work, but for me, I need one trend to resonate throughout for my display to make me smile. In this way, I suggest keeping all the frames the same finish (or get out the spray paint and make your existing frames match), or the photos all black and white or all color, all the mats in the frames the same width...pick one thing to tie your wall or shelf all together and your display will feel finished and on purpose.
1. Once You have One Connection, Mix Up the Rest. Once you find that one thing that ties all the parts of your collection together, mix up the other elements to keep it fun. Combine close-ups and more traditional pieces, choose frames for your black and whites in various shades of silver and black...or pink and green for that matter, to keep things fresh. And just because your main objective is to display your picture, don't limit yourself to photos in your display. Use mirrors, monogram letters, framed postcards or correspondence, shadow boxes with special trinkets or momentos, anything that enhances the feelings you have when you look at the pictures of the ones you love. This type of approach will keep your vignette fresh and unexpected, and make your guests pause and look longer at what you have created.
1. Make Your Memories Make Sense in Your Room. When we hang a piece of artwork or add an accessory to our space, we usually tie it to the rest of our room through color, style, or some connection to what we have already designed. The same needs to be true of our photos...they need to have a connection and make sense in the space we put them in. For this reason, think carefully about where your photos should be placed--connect them to a piece of furniture or an existing display so they enhance the spot they are in, or have a color or a theme tie the photo/s to what else is going on. And if your pictures are going to stand on their own, like on a big wall in a hallway, or going up a set of stairs, go big or go home---have enough of them , close enough together, that they can make a statement and, in turn, make your guests gush.
So be intimidated no more! Get out those beautiful photos and get to work making them a part of the design that makes your house not a catalog, but a place where real people live and love and grow. Because, with a few guidelines in mind, your memories can only prove to enhance the space you call home.