Every interior design room plan needs a good strong focal point… one spot that attracts most of the attention. A single large scale piece of fabulous original artwork on the wall is often the choice of interior designers. However, finding a massive and impressive piece that suits the room and fits your design personality (and your budget) isn’t always that easy. One solution may be to create your own art. “But I’m not an artist!” you say? Nonsense! All you need is a basic understanding of what makes an artistic composition work and the materials to make it happen… not canvas and paint, but your “favorite things.”
If you’re like most antique lovers you’ve started to collect a specific sort of vintage or antique item that appeals to you. As a collection grows it can tend to take up space and create clutter. But it’s so hard for a collector to pass up “just one more thing,” right?
All those much-loved objects often end up being just scattered here and there in a house and, unfortunately, some end up being boxed up and stored away. Why not show your treasures off in a really big way?
Curated items from your collection of antiques and vintage items are the perfect artistic medium for creating a mix-and-match “masterpiece” to suit a spot in your home that’s just begging for Big Art. A collection of almost anything… valuable antiques, nostalgic memorabilia, or everyday vintage items… can become something grand when grouped together in just the right artistic way.
TRUST THE PROCESS… AND YOURSELF
To get a project like this going in the right direction it’s a good idea to review some design basics. You’ll need to use these concepts to guide you as you develop a workable plan for your composition of collected items. Your goal is to work sensibly using The Rules as your guide to create something that expresses your personal style in a very orderly and professional looking way. Keep thinking “artsy” instead of “craftsy”… the line between the two is a fine one. To keep your creation on the right side of the line you should always refer to The Rules.
But, the first phase of the process… looking for artistic inspiration and opening your mind to all the possibilities… has no rules. Just relax and have fun with this part. Feel free to let your imagination run wild during the initial process of dreaming up your creation. There are wonderful examples of Big Art everywhere… in the real world as well as the virtual one… that will get your creative juices flowing. Think about all the places you’ve visited at some point in the past where large scale art installations have been created with similar objects, colors, or shapes en masse. At the top of the list are exhibitions at art museums…
as well as boutique hotels…
and fine dining spots…
and high-end retail stores. There’s a lot of “wow” in big city windows.
And don’t forget those charming little out of the way specialty shops. Boutiques, gifts shops, and quaint antiquing spots are usually somewhat smaller in scale, so they often have ideas that translate well at home.
So, could you (or would you) actually duplicate imaginative displays in your home that are like the onesthat are meant for public venues? Maybe, maybe not. But, that’s not the point. Over-the-top art installations make it so easy to see how a single big, bold unified form can be created using the power of multiples. And, this is the concept you’ll use for your work of art composed completely with items from your collection.
Free your mind from conventional ways of thinking about home decor to come up with solutions that go beyond the typical overgrown gallery walls, crowded curio cabinets, and shelf-scaping just for decor’s sake. Don’t be afraid to try something no one else would do. The best art is original art, so let the one-and-only you show in your design. It’s your collection, after all. Your creative ideas for showing it off will make your “masterpiece” unique. Have confidence in yourself! Yes, you can do this!
You may be tempted to skip the preliminary planning phase of the “Big Art” project, but please don’t. As the old saying goes, “plan your work and work your plan.” The time to get your tools together start working is after you’ve finalized your plan for an attractive, organized design that guarantees maximum visual impact.
A BLANK CANVAS
The first thing to consider is your “blank canvas”… the space where you’ll put your design. Are the dimensions…height, width, and depth… big enough? Does the space work for the shape you have in mind for your composition? Will the texture and color enhance your design? Is there an optimal location in the room for a powerful center of interest… a place where your collection can be viewed from a proper distance? Large artwork is often seen on the walls over mantels and sofas, but don’t let the obvious choices limit your imagination. Any large visually empty space in your home can be your “canvas.”
You may choose to add depth to your “canvas” in the form of functional supporting structures like cubicles…
Additions like these can be appropriate… but only if they truly enforce the cohesiveness of your design and enhance the individual items in your collection. The same goes for lighting. If you feel that subtle illumination is needed for your creation to really shine then add it.
Gather all the items in your collection in one spot. If your collection is large you probably won’t use everything, but why limit the possibilities? Spread all the objects out on the floor or other large surface… that’s your workspace for planning and perfecting your design before putting holes in the wall, building shelves, etc.
The specifics of your planning phase will vary depending on whether your want to hang your collection, stack it, or showcase it as a part of the interior architecture with custom built-ins or other structural components. But, planning should always start with some rough sketches of your artistic vision that are based on accurate measurements of the space as well as the sizes of all your objects. Don’t be in a rush to put anything permanently into place until you’ve had a chance to do an honest self-critique of your design… a gut check to make sure it’s time to make your idea a reality.
It’s a great idea to get a second opinion… but not from a real live person. Ask your cellphone to help you out. “The camera doesn’t lie,” as they say. So snap plenty photos with your cellphone during the planning and the execution of your project. Examining a picture on the small screen of your phone lets you see things in a more detached way. The “mind’s eye” tends to view things inacurately by either glossing over or fixating on specific details. The camera is more visually “honest.” Using photography this way is one of the little known “tricks of the trade” that many artists and designers use as they work. Try it. Sometimes just a glance at a photo makes it perfectly clear where the strong and weak parts are in a design.
Think wisely when choosing your hanging paraphernalia. The devices you use to hold your collector’s items in place will vary depending on what those items actually are… their sizes, shapes, weights, etc. Every item needs to stay safely in place. Rare items of exceptional value deserve the very best method you can find in order to attach or support them to prevent damage. Make sure that whatever method you choose will anchor each item securely in an attractive, distraction-free way. In most cases the pieces in a creative wall composition objects should appear to practically float on the wall… no hangers in sight.
But there’s always the rare case when the opposite turns out to be a brilliant idea!
The selection and spacing of your collected items should create a bold, unified visual statement to be an effective center of interest. Make the placement of every piece feel very deliberate and the entire wall, well organized. The composition should read visually as one piece of Big Art instead of just a mismatched gallery-style arrangement on the wall. Here are some things to keep in mind that will help you reach this goal.
“MASTERPIECE” BASICS 101
The success of any work of art depends on knowing and using the basic rules of design. These guidelines are part of the basic skill set of any artist or designer. So, let’s take a look at “the rules” for putting things together. With practice they’ll become second nature as you develop your eye for what’s right and what’s not.
ONE FOR ALL & ALL FOR ONE… UNITY
The ultimate goal of any design is unity… a coming-together of various parts to create an interesting unfied whole. When all the individual elements work well together and support each other, that’s good design “teamwork”… every individual “player” is important but never more important than the whole “team.”
It’s not always easy choosing what will be winning combination of elements in a design. The creative selection process usually takes a good bit of thought and experimenting to get just the right mix to make a design strong and interesting.
A BALANCING ACT
In any design composition the goal is to create balance using all the essential elements of design….line, shape, size or mass, texture, values of dark and light, and color. Balance is the visual weight distribution of objects, colors, and space throughout your design.
There should be enough similarity of elements to create harmony, but not so much that the design is ho-hum. Using contrast between the basic design elements makes things interesting and creates a definite focal point. Keep in mind that it isn’t necessary for a design to be symmetrical in order to be considered visually balanced. An asymmetrical design can also be balanced… and it’s usually much more interesting and energetic.
Symmetrical balance is fairly easy to achieve if your collection includes pairs or sets of similar items. It’s simply a matter of placing one item on one side and a match (or close to it) on the other side of an imaginary center line. Symmetrical arrangements tend to be a bit formal and static, but also calm and orderly. Symmetrical groupings are often softened with a few variations that are so subtle that they do not disturb the effect.
Asymmetrical balance uses a group of items on one side of a design to balance a larger item of equal visual weight on the other side. Grouping larger and smaller pieces asymmetrically helps to create interest and energy. The effect is more dynamic and interesting to the eye, but can look cluttered and distracting if the placement of items is not carefully thought out. Asymmetrical groupings are often stabilized by using strong similarities of some sort… color, theme, framing, etc… to bond the objects visually.
HARMONY VS. CONTRAST
The design elements of line, color, value (light and dark), shape, size, and texture can be used to create both harmony and contrast in any design composition. Harmony pulls the design together and creates stability.
Applying contrast to a design allows you to emphasize or highlight key elements to create visual interest. A pop of color is often used to create contrast. But, the juxtaposition of opposites can also be used… rough vs. smooth textures, large vs. small shapes, and thick vs. thin lines just to name a few.
Proximity… closeness and distance… is the relationship of how objects fit together in a composition. Regulating the amount of space between objects organizes your design. By placing two or more elements in close proximity to one another, a cohesive group is created instead of just a scattering of unrelated objects. Current wall decor trends feature arrangements that are very tightly spaced or layered… a perfect example of proximity at work. Keep it close.
Distance is equally important for the success of your design. A wide surrounding area of empty space will strengthen a grouping in much in the same way that a mat on a print shows it off to perfection. It sets it apart visually so the art itself can be the center of attention. In design lingo this is called “negative space” or sometimes “white space.” But it doesn’t necessarily need to be white, it can be any color (black, blue, red, yellow, etc)… it’s whatever the background color is. White space is important for the display of your collection because it provides visual breathing room for the eye which makes the design stand out as a feature in the room.
REPEAT THAT, PLEASE
Repetition is probably one of the most often used ways to unify a grouping. It strengthens a design by using similar elements throughout the entire piece. The obvious examples are sets… framed prints, porcelain plates, etc.
But repetition of a particular format (framing for example) or of similar colors, shapes, or textures throughout your design can also create consistency and continuity.
Most people usually collect items with something visually or thematically in common. So, creating repetition with objects that are alike in some way should be easy for most collectors.
STAY IN LINE
Alignment is one of the most basic and important principles of design. Individual elements that are “in line” make a design sharp and organized. This concept is really pretty basic… a group of straight edged objects such as framed art, tiles, etc. should be parallel, square, and level if they are to work together successfully as a whole. Perfection prevents a sloppy appearance.
Line can also be used to create movement and energy in a design. And it also defines the boundaries of the form that a design will take.
ON THE PRACTICAL SIDE
Using your collected objects for this Big Art concept has practical aspects as well as aesthetic ones:
First, it frees up storage space. Displaying a collection that has been stashed away often empties lots of room in drawers, boxes, closets, etc.
And, it’s often true that displaying in a main living areas gives treasured items a much better environment to live in than in the harsh conditions of attics, basements, or storage units. Also consider that when a collection is unboxed and out in the open it is more likely to be properly maintained on a regular basis.
Last but not least, the sight of our favorite things gives us joy. That’s why we collect them, after all!
Enjoy exploring your inner artist as you think of all the ways you can display your antique and vintage collector’s items in a big way at home. And, by the way… “just one more thing” is perfectly fine. Whatever makes you happy. If you’re looking for a special vintage or antique item to add to your collection Montgomery Antiques & Interiors is here to help. Just get in touch to let us know what you collect. Come by, call, or click to ask us about what’s in stock… we just might have that special something you want.
Montgomery Antiques & Interiors