Picture, picture one foot tall, why should I put you on my wall?
My husband and I were having a conversation the other week about photography over our anniversary meal. It was a quiet celebration at home this year but over mussels and champagne it gave us a chance to discuss my newly launched blog and my husband's always improving photography portfolio. Then he said something to me that nearly made me drop a mussel, “I want to take a picture that you would put up on the wall!” Gulp! "But I love all your pictures darling" was of course my response. But he had a point. I am so incredibly fussy and deliberate about what pictures I hang on the wall and spend a lot of time thinking about what to put up and admiring other's gallery walls on Instagram but end up doing nothing. And our house is in limbo and currently like a film set, some rooms completed and other bits like a building site.
Images courtesy of John Ford
It really got me thinking about why we put images on our walls and what we put up. There is so much to choose from and I think that's part of the problem. Oil paintings, family pictures, landscapes, typography, prints, letters, maps, illustrations and even blank frames. The list goes on and in the digital age we have thousands of photographs to filter through as well. I'm going to journey through five rooms in my home and reflect on the meaning behind them in the hope that they might inspire you to hang some things up!
This post has been heavily influenced by my amazing friends who have not only supported the launch of my blog but also engaged with me in many conversations about interior design and personal meaning on our walls. We can all identify with the desire to display portraits of our family such as beautiful images of our newborn babies so we can remember those precious early days or parents that live too far away. We also want to remember those who are no longer with us. In my hallway I have a gallery wall (also known as a salon-style display in interior design speak) as nearly all our close family live in other countries and some on the other side of the world. We dearly miss them and want to hold them closely so they all feature on the wall. Years ago I remember seeing a similar collage of black frames on a white wall at a friends house of parents and grandparents and I think that concept stuck as something I'd like to do. The smiling faces of my own parents on their wedding day is one of the most precious items I own. I think that one piece of paper encapsulates my entire childhood. We also have a photo of John's grandad from 1915 before he went off to France to fight in World War One. Edmund's story is an important part of the Ford legacy. Although he was unfortunately shot by a sniper, the bullet narrowly missed his spine. He was sent home, avoiding the Battle of the Somme and survived the war (we still have the bullet to this day!). A chilling reminder that John and his father and consequently my children almost never existed. Our eldest son has Edmund as his middle name. I love that as we pass that wall a hundred times a day we're reminded of such rich history.
The process of creating the gallery was a labour of love but definitely a worthwhile one as I spent very little money and it seriously brightens up a grey wall. It took over a year to source the frames, choose the images, create black and white images of each and eventually get round to painting the frames. Then I had to decide from a plethora of charity shop frames which family member fitted and suited each frame. The next step was to get mounts fitted to border some images that needed it. Next I used an Annie Sloan tester pot for the dark grey frames and used Yellowcake and calcium carbonate to mix my own chalk paint. I'm generally not a fan of chalk paint but they work a treat on decorative profiles which are near impossible to sand down. Plus I love the matt finish as it nicely contrasts the gloss of the image behind the glass. The gold frames themselves tell an interesting story. They were passed on to me from my Gran's bungalow when she died where, might I add, she lived on her own until she turned 101! I don't think a gold frame can ever go wrong especially on a wall with colour. The final stage was placing them on the wall and it took an entire afternoon to create the resulting organised randomness. If you've got a huge blank wall by the stairs the best thing is that there is plenty of room to keep adding new images constantly. So although it takes a bit of planning, it is well worth it. Having been directly asked how to display images of the children I'd say start of with your favourites photos maybe professional ones or just of a special moment that you never want to forget. Depending on the quality of the image you could have a huge canvas created or, if the quality is lacking, a collage with all white or black frames. Why not start today by choosing some images that could start of your own feature wall?
Next we move to the bathroom and consider typography and the art of displaying words or sentences up on the wall. These are either statements about who you are or what you desire to become or reminders of how to exist. They also express your personality. For example you might have a joke or an ironic comment hung for all to see when they enter your home. These are very on trend at the minute and are constantly popping up on with gallery walls on Instagram. I've not yet used this much in my home but have a powerful message in our downstairs bathroom.
I purchased this around the time when I was struggling with my identity in terms of my career after having my second son and this was a great daily visual reminder that I am already enough. It's situated just above where I go to ground myself, in the bath. One of the most important things we do in our homes is refresh and rejuvenate ourselves and we all do this in different ways. I'm planning to jump on the trend bandwagon with this one and would like to get a customised foil print of the inscription inside our wedding rings and have my eye on a few flamingo prints that I'm planning to hang off the picture rail on the landing.
We've all have amazing holiday experiences that we never want to forget whether we've been far away on a trip of a lifetime or down the road to Cornwall. Similarly to why we create family gallery walls, holiday photographs are there to help us remember the 'good times'. We moved into our first flat together after coming back from Cuba on a truly amazing honeymoon and we immediately got images developed of three iconic cars of Cuba. These old cars appear to be sleeping so we arranged them in a line across the Hawaiian Blue feature wall in our bedroom. Now they reside in our living room. They've been there so long I don't notice them anymore, but when I do I am reminded that when arranging images on the wall it's always a good idea to have a theme. Maybe its a collection if beach images or welly boots in different locations. Colourful shoes could really jump out and add a dash of colour to a neutral room. I'm hoping to replace these frames and images with portraits of different characters we have met from our travels and at some point create another gallery wall in the new reception room of a favourite moment from every trip we've been on together.
On a recent conversation with a friend (loving the blog for all the conversation starters!) about how she often purchased a sketch or a painting of a special location from her holidays. That really made me consider whether people still put landscapes up on their wall or is this something that we can leave to a previous generation? I'd really love to know your thoughts on this one. My husband has taken some incredible landscapes photographs but for some reason they don't seem to fit in aesthetically with our home. Is part of the reluctance that we actually want to be in a beautiful landscape and atmospheric environment rather then just look at it and hence why a representation of that place in another medium such as pencil drawing or illustration is more fitting? Thoughts on a postcard (or email) please. I've always fancied a travel poster of Northern Ireland to remember my childhood summers there and a connection to where I come from. In a friend's house I've also seen framed posters of an event they experienced which has the same purpose as holiday snaps, recalling an experience in time and space.
Next we venture into the kids' rooms to consider what we can hang on their walls. I think this is where we can get really creative! In Jack's room I have a framed tee-towel of an old illustration of the Natural History Museum as it is our favourite place to visit as a family. The small animal pictures are actually cards that have been writing to Jack on his dedication with very precious messages inside. The frames cost £4 each from hobbycraft! I made my own art using scrabble letters and lego figures as Jack LOVES Star Wars and this was actually Father's Day present but has ended up in his room. Another idea is framing your favourite illustrations from your children's books. I'd love to do this with Where the Wild Things Are and The Places You'll Go.
I am ashamed to say that we have not much artwork in our house. However in John's study we have some art prints that tell a really evocative tale. Over ten years ago and before I met John he was wandering through Comminges, a small town in France with his parents (who have retired to the foothills of the Pyrenees) and they accidentally stumbled upon an exhibition by Croquis Nicolas Lavarenne that left them all quite moved. Imagine huge human sculptures suspended in the air on stilts. The erotic, Rodin-esque figures almost seem to dance across the sky and that sense of movement is amazingly portrayed in 2D. His parents bought him a set of four ink drawing prints as a birthday present from that exhibition which John stashed safely in a drawer until last year when I cunningly snuck them out of the house to a local framers. I returned them to John in a gold framed mounted in a dark green to blend seamlessly with the Studio Green walls. Even still for john they trigger such a strong memory of that utter joy of pottering and enjoying art with his parents many years later. Even writing this makes me well up with nostalgic tears!
Some close friends of ours who rent their family home and have openly confessed that interior design isn't really on their radar. But when I probed the conversation further they admitted that someone had recently complimented the colourful artwork in their home, all of which is by various artists from Eastern Europe and all known personally by the couple. You see they used to live there and that really spoke to me about belonging and that our visual identities are displayed on our walls. I'm becoming more and more interested in how intrinsic interior design is in expressing our identity and how what we create in our homes is connected to our sense of belonging.
Mirrors in any room
I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that we all have mirrors in our house. Probably more than one. They obviously carry out a very important function, looking at ourselves! The other wonderful thing about mirrors is that they bounce light around the room. In my previous home I had about five of these amazing bevelled mirrors on a feature wall but now they are spread throughout the house as they are just so versatile. In the hall, in the bedroom and even in the bathroom. I picked up most of them for around £20 each from eBay or flea markets. I just can't get enough of them.
To leave you with a few more ideas you could get fun and feminine with some watercolour creations from Amanda Greenwood or even something a bit more quirky and retro from Hazel Nicholls. I also have a flamingo card I picked up from the shop at the Horniman museum recently and a photograph of a flamenco dancer from a friend that I think will be hung from the picture rail in the landing with a host of other illustrations and images. I'm well aware that there probably needs to be another blog post about how and where to hang pictures, what frames and mounts to use and where to source them but that will have to wait for another day. In the meantime check out the Pinterest page for more inspiration and some quirky ideas and please upload your own meaningful walls and their stories on the Facebook page.
Looking back at the ways that we can dress our walls there is a clear theme. We value memories and expressing our thoughts. It's just one way of 'marking out our territory' and belonging in the space we call our home through interior design. This is just the start of my exploration into how designing our own homes lead to well-being. To end, my favourite recent addition to my hall (sourced at So Last Century) is a 1915 street plan of where we live which reminds me that we don't just belong to bricks and mortar but to the people and community around us which means more than any item we could possess.
DISCLAIMER: All photography is my own unless otherwise stated.