Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Personal Record: Vixens of Vinyl & The Music Man

For those of you about to rock, we salute you. For those of you about to hang that Dave Matthews poster over your bed, hold up. So, I often get a lot of questions about art: where to buy it, what would look good in the master bathroom, where to hang it, etc. First off, I really do not consider myself to be a purveyor of art. A lot of times, I understand a lot of art about as well as I understand America’s obsession with Longaberger Baskets (I’m sorry ladies, I love you all, but I just really don’t get it.) I tend to either A. frame my own photography/art work, B. just buy what I like because I think it’s pretty, or C. rummage through antique stores and consignment houses for affordable “one-of-a kind” pieces. Rarely will you see me walking guests around the living room, talking about how I found a particular print by an up-and-coming, starving artist in the East Village and how I think her delicate strokes mimic both fear and desire, simultaneously. Instead, you’ll find vintage UVA Football program covers of the 1940’s and 50’s, black and white family photos, and 2 of my favorite pieces, 2 large, vintage prints of what I believe to be fraternities at Oxford circa early 20’s (they used to hang in the short lived Polo Rugby store at Barrack’s Road). Needless to say, a vintage yet eclectic feel.

Art can be expensive, and let’s face it, people can usually tell when you went to Target or Bed, Bath, & Beyond and purchased a “painting” or pre-framed photograph of a sailboat. If you’re going to take this route, you just have to be prepared to overpay (typically, pre-framed, new artwork in a major chain is just a poster or print on glossy paper and is sealed in a frame that will be difficult to ever re-use if you ever decide to change it out.)You also have to be prepared to walk into the scrapbooking party at Kaky’s house (the new girl you just met at Junior League) and be prepared to see the same painting, hanging over the same micro-suede sofa from Grand Home Furnishings, with the same coordinating throw pillows. Once again, I’m not knocking it at all, but you aren’t allowed to get mad at her for having the same living room and art as you. She did the exact same thing you did. Also, don’t try to pass your “new” art from the major chain off as a unique, one of a kind piece. How tragic would it be for your next house guest to call you out at the neighborhood cocktail, telling your friends there’s no way your grandfather took that picture of the sailboat after he sailed it to Captiva, because they have the same one hanging in their half bath? It would be like that commercial when the Soccer Mom tries to pass her Glade scented candle off as being from a French boutique. Que c'est triste! You bought it in the check-out line at Bed, Bath, & Beyond (I guess you could say you bought it in the Beyond section, since it really isn’t Bed or Bath…). Now own it and love it. If you’re going to buy mass-produced, go for unframed pieces. Matting and framing your piece out in a custom or vintage frame can totally transform the look of your print. If you take a walk past Freeman-Victorius Framing Shop on Charlottesville’s/UVA’s historic Corner, there will often be a large box of unique, professional quality frames outside, right on the sidewalk, on major clearance, we’re talking nice frames for under $10—definitely worth a look!

If you’re like me, you love music. I cook to the best of Motown, I clean to the worst of the 80’s, and I fall asleep to Zero 7 and Thievery Corporation. Hell, I even spent over 10 years on Pat Howard’s piano bench, learning to tickle the ivories. I might not be able to talk serious art with you, but I can definitely tell you about my favorite song by The Decemberists (Cville Pavilion, September 24th, tickets still on sale by the way) If you’re also like me, you learn that your love of music can be difficult to incorporate into your design style without hanging a trumpet from the ceiling or using your cello as a coat rack. And let’s face it, you reach a point when you’re too old for music posters. I was reminded of this last week when UVA hosted its annual fall poster sale on-grounds so all of the students could decorate and transform their cinder block dorm rooms. All of the boys get the same Bob Marley poster, even though they may have heard “Jammin’” once. All of the young ladies buy the same Audrey Hepburn “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” poster, even though 98% haven’t seen the movie and would look at you strangely puzzled if you asked them who Holly Golightly is. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. I finally parted with my “Caution: Student Blood Alcohol Experiment Now in Progress” poster from the basement last summer. Oh, freshman year. No wonder my colleagues looked at me funny when I carried a red, plastic solo cup full of iced tea into the board room on Friday.

Anywho, that leads to my next question, how do you incorporate this love of music or even of a particular group/artist without tacking/framing a poster on your wall? My answer? The album cover. After all, they call it cover art for a reason. This is not a brand new concept or one I by any means invented, but it’s one that I’ve found to be fun, simple, effective, and even sophisticated. Framing out a few of your favorite classic LP album covers is a great, affordable way to create a conversation and add personalization to your space. Let’s face it, despite their lack of current use, record albums are pretty accessible. A lot of us have a dusty milk crate full of old LPs our parents/grandparents gave us, or they can be easily found at second hand stores for dirt cheap (we’re talking .50 to $3.00), Goodwill, library sales (stay tuned later in the year for the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library sale in Charlottesville on Gordon Avenue...tons of books, tons of old LPs and albums) and used book stores. You can look for particular artists you love (The Beatles, The Beach Boys, etc.) or pick an era to convey a theme. I looked for vintage collections from the Rat Pack Era/days of the cocktail hour, and came across three of my favorites in a used record store called Stereo Jack’s in Cambridge, Mass. I loved the clean and modern lines with the pop of pink on the “Music for Bachelors” album. Plus, hello? Can we say current soundtrack to my life. I also fell in love with the “How to Strip For Your Husband” series. Besides being only $2.00 a piece at Stereo Jacks, I thought they were so scandalous for the era, had great colors, and would be fun, funny, and sexy adorning a bedroom wall. Plus, talk about a roll model. A woman who can unzip her own cocktail dress, all by herself, while her husband drinks the martini she had ready for him after work. I’m pretty sure she also had a roast in the oven at the same time. Multi-tasking at its finest. You can’t make this stuff up. (And to answer your question, no I’ve never played these 2 records, and no I haven’t practiced their “how to” techniques). Do you think I’d be writing a blog if I knew how to do that? Why did I choose the Beach Boys album? Because not only do I love summer, the ocean, and sailing, but my Dad used to sing Beach Boys Songs (Don’t Worry Baby, In My Room, etc.) to my sister, brother, and I before bed, and when I see it, it just makes me smile. Choose albums that have special meaning for you. Maybe you danced to Tony Bennet’s “The Very Thought of You” for the first dance at your wedding, why not have that memory in your home, in a unique way? After all, that’s what our homes should be, filled with the things and the people we love.

Record album frames are available at most major chains, framing stores, and craft stores (Michael’s, etc.) Urban Outfitters is currently running a buy one for $15 or buy 2 record frames for $20.00 sale online at (record frames are typically even cheaper in stores). These sleek, modern, simple frames come easy to load and ready to hang. Use several in a grid pattern to create a bold statement or scatter a few around your home on bookcases, in media rooms, or above your music library. A collection of vintage Disney or sing-along/musical albums could add a fun, funky look to a child’s bedroom or playroom. Or what about a classic Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis/John Coltrane album on a shelf or bar cart with a few martini glasses and a sterling silver cocktail shaker? Depending on the albums you choose and how you choose to display them, these simple, unique pieces can work in any space, from the most traditional of homes to the most modern loft.

The other benefits of using your old record albums as art? You don’t have to frame the actual album. Leave the LP in the white protective slip or sandwich it between cardboard folders, and just frame the album cover, all while you continue to play and enjoy the music. Also, you can easily swap out the records depending on your mood, changes in décor, or if you find something new on your next excursion to the thrift store. Treat them like a rotating gallery. The frames don't damage the album covers at all. I’ve also found it fun to swap out the records for vintage holiday albums around Christmas (Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, etc.) So next time, think about this chic, affordable alternative before you buy that framed Rat Pack poster at Target or before you pull that Bangles poster out of the attic. You’ll be glad you did.

Who knew vinyl wasn’t just for sofas and hot pants?


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