Dear Design Crisis: Picture Problems

Last week a DC reader wrote with a question very near and dear to my heart:  how to display photos of family and friends in a modern home.  Flip through any design mag (or blog for that matter) and one might believe that robots inhabit the space as evidence of an extended family or memoirs of a night out on the town are never shown.  Clustered art?  Sure  Giant black and white prints?  Yep, lots of those.  But when it comes to a quick pic of you and your BFF smiling ear to ear at last weekend's rager, forget it. Can you have snap shots in your home?  How do you display them?  Below are a few of my thoughts on the matter... you know I always have thoughts on every stupid matter... but I also want to hear what you think*

*if anyone mentions arranging photos with one of these, I will be very very mad

Ok, first I'm starting with a picture of a display in my home.  I apologize for the uber-craptastic manner in which this photo was taken.  My flu last week made it difficult for Erin and I to schedule a super star photo shoot.

I really wanted pictures of my family & friends in the house but was having a hard time working color snapshots in with everything else.  I find that basic, everyday photos work best on a tabletop or shelf, not on a wall.

Like me, whoever arranged this house likes their photos on the table.  These dudes got all gangsta and just skipped frames altogether.  Also like me, they kept a large piece of art (pieces in my case) over the photos to keep the look modern.

Another fast and hard rule I stick to with framing current photos:  keep those frames simple.  I repeat SIMPLE.  Stick with a thin frame and keep them all similarly colored.  Pick either white or black frames then mix in with only ONE of the following:  wood (all the same shade), gold or silver.  Note, I did not list any crazy shades here.  Remember, your pictures are the star and chances are they are busy enough that the whole display need not be cluttered with a bunch of hot pink frames with butterflies drawn on them.

Most of the above frames are from target (except the one in the upper right, that's Ikea).  These are all the cheapest frames they carry, which works out well, because they are also my favorite.  The cube in the lower left just looked kinda nice and think it could work well sitting on the right table.  It's sculpture. sort of.

Here's an arrangement from the hallway in my house.  In the upper left is a photo of my grandmother as a little girl.  Below that are framed airplane tickets from the trip I took where I ended up meeting my husband.  I've mixed these items in with other pieces of art I've found along the way.  I kept the frames simple:  black or black and gold; and the tones in all the images similar.  As long as you keep everything the same color you can even mix in your thermostat and no one will ever notice.  Look, I didn't have a choice, and really, you don't even notice.

Another crappy photo from my house.  The pictures on the bottom are all family portraits, above it hangs a poster from a show I used to produce.  I felt like I could mix the art and the photos as they were all similarly toned.

That's the last picture of my stuff.  I promise.

Now, I know there's not a single photo in this mix, but I feel like you could squeeze in a few color photos among all this colorful art.  I'm also giving this photo 5 stars for using simple frames in very few colors.  Well done.

via desire to inspire

I think this is a great example of photos mixed with art and nicknacks.  And that's all I have to say about that.

This month's issue of Elle Decor featured this home office.  Snapshots are gripped with bulldog clips which hang from thumbtacks in a bulletin board.  This is the most organized bulletin board in America, FYI.

And here is the least organized bulletin board.  I prefer this one, hands down.  Ok, so most of these pictures are ripped from a magazine, but I feel like personal photos could get tossed into a look like this and hold their own just fine.

Just try not to let your bulletin board look like this.  Too many small things piled on top of each other is janky to the maxx.  Admittedly, I only showed his picture so we could all collectively swoon over that lamp (not the shade).

Another haphazard arrangement of art and photos.  These dudes have even thrown a few mirrors in for good measure.  I like it.

And on the opposite end of the spectrum, these perfectly spaced photos function as one large piece over the fireplace.

If you truly want to get OCD, you can pimp out your hallway like-a so.  But then you would be ignoring my first rule of framing:  simple colors, dudes, simple.  Ok, I just really don't like red on anything.

If all of this seems like too much work, and I really wouldn't blame you if it did, might I suggest a nice photo album on your coffee table?  Relax!  You need not look like you do your shopping at the scrap booking store, there are a few nice photo albums out there for you.  You can always go uber simple with this leather album from rustico leather, the air traffic control (my name) album from urban outfitters, or this lovely camera album available at fred flare.

I hope this helped, dear reader.  And, if not, I'm sure our readers will hook you up with some great suggestions in the comments section (wink wink, nudge nudge, ya'll!)

Dear Design Crisis: Jen's Fireplace Conundrum

Recently our good friend, fellow blogger and style icon, Jennifer Perkins of Naughty Secretary Club fame wrote us with a fireplace conundrum:

I have found myself in quite the home decorating pickle.  My fireplace has become an eye sore and I do not know where else to turn.  As you can see in the pictures at one time I had a screen covering my fireplace.  The screen was made by my grandfather and painted by my grandmother.  However, my 11 month old daughter has just started to crawl and pull things down on her, like heirloom screens for example.  We removed the screen and now there is a big black ashy pit staring back at me complete with cheap chain shades.  I need some suggestions for something stylish and baby safe to replace the screen.  I have thought about having a mantle built but my fireplace is stone and I am not sure how I would mount it on all the texture.  Also, it may appall your readers, but I have a naked picture of Burt Reynolds above my fireplace.  He was fun for awhile, but I’m ready to replace him.  I have debated on a large piece of art (possibly by my sister), several smaller prints in a cluster?  I’m just not sure and this whole fireplace overhaul is where I am hoping Design Crisis will come in.  Please oh please can you and your readers save me and help me find a cute, eclectic, kitschy and kid proof fire place.

Here is a shot of Jen's living room:

A few things have changed since this photo was taken:  the carpet has been removed and now pretty medium-toned hardwoods lay in it's place.  I'm sure she's probably moved other stuff around, cuz that's how she rolls but I can't say for sure.

You can see that the fireplace is free standing, there are openings on either side leading to her Florida room.  Let's get a closeup of the fireplace:

Burt Reynolds picture:  check, ashy pit: check and check.  Jen!  You called us just in time, let's see what we can round up to help you out.

I searched far and wide for a stone fireplace like your own with a mantel, this is the closest I could find.  I really like how the wood is clean and simple.  If you go with a mantel, I think this is the way to go, the sleekness of the polished wood is a nice contrast to the heavy-textured stone.  If you're worried about making and installing said mantel, I bet my honey bunny could help you out.

What do I think you should do with the fireplace?  Paint that sucker.  Ok, I know I'm going to lose some readers here, but this is where I stand on painted stone and brick:  Is your stone insanely beautiful?  If the answer is Yes, don't paint it.  Are you planning to sell your house soon?  Again, if the answer is Yes, do not paint it.  Otherwise, it's your dang house and you should do what makes you happy.

PS, never mind the rest of this dullsville room

Here is a before and after I found via the magic of the interwebs.  See what a dramatic (and amazingly wonderful) difference a couple coats of paint will make.  I know this is brick, not stone, but whateves, it's pretty, so hush up.

I threw this picture in for good measure so we could see what a lovely coat of black paint will do for ya.  Although I'm pretty into the white, myself.

Let's talk about what goes over the fireplace.  You know I love Burt Reynolds and will promise him my allegiance until the very end, but I think it's time for him to relocate.  I put this picture up because I really dig the scale of the mirror over the fireplace.  If you decide not to do a mantel, I'd pick a piece that is taller than it is wide.  It will make the space that much more dramatic.  And Jen, you have a giant panda head in that room, don't try to tell me you don't like drama.

Speaking of drama, check out this artwork that frames the ENTIRE thing.  How do you do such a thing you ask.  Read on.

Remember once upon a time I posted this before and after of Diana's fireplace?  My sweet little mattybear built a frame around the old brick fireplace (so no brick was harmed, brick lovers) then coated it in plaster.  You could do something similar and keep as is... OR you could paint the whole damn thing.  Your sister could create her masterwork, or you could cruise over to the east side and pile a bunch of hoodlums into that fancy new car of yours then let them go graffiti crazy on your new digs.

Ok, moving on to the ashy mess.  I'm not sure if you have the ballz to light a fire in this Texas heat, if you're like me, it probably lies dormant 99% of the time.  I say, why don't you just go ahead and bump that number up to 100 and trick the inside of it out?

The now defunct Domino magazine suggested lining your fireplace with wallpaper then throwing in some hot pink logs for good measure.  I am in love with this idea.  Always have been, always will be.

Another Domino suggestion was to put a mirror inside the fireplace.  Could be good.

Or you could be a little more practical and fill it with logs.  Feel free to paint them multiple colors.

I saw this picture about a hundred years ago and thought of you, Jen.  If you do decide to do a mantel, I believe this is what the top of it will look like.   I imagine you pairing this with a fireplace filled with bowling balls or perhaps some trophies from your extensive vintage trophy collection, or, even better, you can use this as an excuse to start a whole new collection.  Swoon!

If, for some ungodly reason, you do use your fireplace here in the Lone Star state, I found a few screens for you to consider.  Both of the above are from Target and they're both pretty lame but...

A quick coat of paint later and they're pretty spectacular.  I'm guessing the option on the right is slightly more baby-safe.  Maybe just a little.

Also, if you decide to go this route, be sure to look into heat resistant paint.  I know they make it and this is probably the time to use it.

(ps, find these screens un-photoshopped at Target here and here)

Here are a few more screens I found on the interwebs, all varying in price and baby-safeness.  Feel free to paint as needed.  Clockwise from top left:

Muskoka Onyx Fireplace screen $79.99 at Target

Fireplace Screen by Peter Maly $460 at Unica Home

Handmade Lacquer Screen $231 at Overstock

Vestal Firescreen, price upon request (ahem) at Lyle and Umbach

And just for fun, I took the liberty of making some mockups of your new fireplace:

The most conservative option:  white stones with natural logs and a large piece of black and white art hung over the fireplace.  The piece shown here is by David Ostrowski

Still white, but now with a piece by Jen's sister, Hope, over some hot pink logs

And finally, Jen's fireplace with a white mantel and the crazy collection I know only she is capable of both finding and styling so it looks insane.  In a really really good way.

Alrighty readers, what do you think Jen should do with her fireplace?  Want to know more about what she has in her house before you can make a life decision?  Check out her home tour on apartment therapy here.

Jen, keep us posted!  We want to see the afters!