Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Picture This: A Beautiful Life

Aaaaaannnnd we’re back in business. It was a very fun weekend: had a smashing time with friends tailgating and enjoying all things Homecoming, our beloved football team actually won 47 to 7 (I don’t think we’ve sung the Good Ol’ Song that much all season), and I spent a glorious, crisp fall Sunday with four of my favorite gents at a local winery/vineyard, followed by picking out the perfect 29 pound pumpkin and apple cider donuts at the Annual Carter’s Mountain Orchard Apple Festival (I know I shouldn’t be eating donuts as a single man trying to land a husband, but they’re so, so good. Don’t judge.) It’s always weekends and times like these that remind me how truly blessed I am, not only blessed to get to live in a nice home, but blessed to be surrounded by so many amazing people. Ok, get out your Hunter Wellington rain boots; it’s starting to get really deep in here.

Anywho, let’s talk pictures. I’ve always been a picture person. I was actually just thinking about the dowry of printed Kodak doubles and negatives I probably have between my house and my parents’ house. Personal photographs are a great way to personalize your home, surround yourself by people, places, and memories you love, and the best part? Photographs are so much cheaper than art (well, fine art.) While it’s great to have a lot of photos, the question becomes how to display them. We’ve all seen the buffet or the grand piano that’s covered in so many family photos, they’re sitting so close together in front of each other, and you can’t even see the photos, except for the front row. The solution? Creating a home gallery.

There are so many different ways to create a home gallery of varying sizes, shapes, frames, feelings, etc. However, I figured I would at least show you how I do mine. Over time, I’ve taken some of my favorite photographs from childhood, travels, places, and just things that are going to conjure up warm memories. Sing it with me, "Memorieeees, like the corner's of my mind..."

For example, my parents have this great brick sidewalk in their backyard, that over time, my Dad swapped out some of the regular bricks for bricks from when they tore down the historic city hall in our hometown and bricks from when they tore down the elementary school that I, my siblings, and my mother all attended, to build a new one. I took a picture a few falls ago of my bare feet walking down the path, and while it looks like maybe I was trying to be Dr. Artsy or Beck Home-Ecky, the photo is a literal walk down memory lane for me. Anywho, I digress. I’ve hung photos in series in different rooms throughout the house, but to create a consistent feeling of flow, I converted the photos to high contrast black and white (can be done with any photo editing software, even the cheap software that came with your laptop or camera), and I use the same very simple gallery frames. They’re available at most craft/framing stores, they’re front loaded (glass pops out the front), they already come with the mats in fun shapes and sizes, and they’re crazy cheap.

Once I’ve declared my gallery space, I typically lay the framed photos on the floor, on a tabletop, or on a bed in the desired pattern. Remembering to hang photos at eye level (however, being a 6ft. 4 man, I tend to go a little lower so it doesn’t look like my whole house was designed for Yao Ming) I typically start with one photo, working from either the left or the center and working out. Once you commit to the first photo, it’s much easier to hang the others. Let’s face it, people don’t like to do this kind of stuff because they think it’s impossible to get everything spaced evenly and level, especially in a collage formation. Here’s the best tip I can offer you.

1. Starting with your first photo (or any piece you’re going to hang), be sure you have a lead pencil, a ruler or tape measurer) and your hammer and nails/picture hangers.
Place the framed photo against the wall in the desired location and draw a very light pencil line evenly across the top of the frame (using the frame as your straight edge on the wall).

2. Lay the photo down with the backside up. Using your tape measurer, measure the distance from the top of the frame edge down to the top of the nail hole/picture hanger on the back of the frame. If it’s a picture wire, pull the wire very taught with your finger in an upward motion toward the top edge of the frame (basically act like your finger is a nail) and then measure the distance between the center of the taught wire and the top edge of the frame. Still with me? Awesome.

3. Now go to the wall and measure the same distance from the center of your pencil line down (toward the floor)(most of the time it’s going to be 1-2-3 inches.) Make your nail dot at the bottom of the measured distance. So basically, if you look at the wall, you should have a faint pencil line and a dot drawn a few inches (or whatever the appropriate distance is) below it.

4. Hammer your nail in on the dot and hang your photo. It’s really important to remember though, if you’re using a picture hanger and not just a plain nail, you don’t want to nail on the dot you drew. You want the bottom of the picture hanger (the bottom of the J) resting on the dot you drew. If you nail the top part on the dot, your picture (which really hangs on the lower J part of the picture hanger) will hang lower than you thought.

Seriously, follow these steps and you’re going to be surprised how easy this is and how perfectly your photos line up each time. You will certainly have fewer of those “whoops” holes that are hiding behind many of our photos.

I’ve used the gallery idea to create a sort of headboard over a guest bed, to line walls and hallways, and I love to see guests actually walking up and down the walls like they’re in a real gallery. I like the cohesiveness of having the same frames in different rooms, creating the idea of a continual collection. If you aren’t feeling the idea of having family photos/childhood photos around but you still want the same look, go talk a walk around your town/neighborhood and shoot some architectural elements. Find places that are significant to you and your significant other (or just you). If the simple frames don’t match your décor or your home, do mix and match, find vintage frames from consignment shops, and create a more eclectic look. Even better, find a bunch of vintage/old frames in cool/funky shapes and sizes, and paint them all high gloss black or white, creating cohesion with a fun, modern twist. You are your own curator.

And most importantly remember, you’re life is really beautiful. You shouldn’t have to buy pictures of somebody else’s.


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