9 March 2015

Wonder Walls


A home isn’t dressed without some artwork, whether family photos, prints or paintings. Gabrielle Fagan helps you to get the picture.

It could be argued that we’re all artists, snapping away with our mobiles and generally enjoying a more visual world, but all too often our ‘work’ ends up unseen.

Photographs of family, friends and holidays are commonly left lingering on laptops and phones, despite the risk of accidental deletion or a system crash, instead of being out on display.

Google’s vice president, Vint Cerf has even warned internet users to print out photographs or risk losing them in the future as technology advances.

Heeding his advice could not only save the heartache of losing a treasure trove of memories, but also provide a brilliant source of decoration for the home. What could be easier than dressing your walls with personal photos and artwork for an instant injection of personality?

“Even a single piece of art, beautifully framed, in the middle of a blank wall can have an enormous impact, especially if the piece is particularly small or particularly large,” says Luci Noel, director of the Affordable Art Fair. Now in its 16th year, the AAF has has held 111 events across 11 countries and prides itself on making art accessible for everyone. Its latest event will be at Battersea, London, from March 12-15.

“Art creates a real focal point for a room, and symmetry of furniture or furnishings around the piece can also help to draw the eye to it. Conversely, a cluster – known as a ‘salon hang’ – can vary from a few pieces up to an entire wall filled with a collection. Be as creative as you want to be, even hanging objects or mirrors within the cluster to fill a space,” Noel says.

If you’re bewildered by the vast array of art on offer, or struggle to identify which photos to include in your home ‘gallery’, she advises hanging with heart.

“It’s all about browsing at art fairs, visiting galleries to discover what resonates with you. Maybe print off a selection of your photo prints, so over time you can narrow down your choice,” she says.

“Art should be an emotional experience – buy only what you love and what you want to live with and will enjoy every day. It’s all about personalising your space and making it unique to you.”

Snap it Up

Traditionally, the walls of ancestral homes were hung with elaborate paintings of family members – and now, the modern, affordable equivalent is photographic family portraits.

“We find scaled-up individual portraits and group family member portraits are the most popular styles for wall art,” says Richard Mayfield, creative director for family photography specialists Venture Photography, which has 24 studios nationwide.

“There are lots of ways to display photographic wall art. Individual shots can be blown up into high-impact images and displayed as a focal point. Another successful approach is for each family member to be shot separately rather than as a group – which captures the personality of the various individuals, then each can be framed and the prints grouped together on a wall.”

Top Tip: Create a gallery in a hallway or corridor – use matching frames in the same size and hang them in rows to draw your eye along the space, suggests Mayfield. If your photo selection is random, take images to a high street photo shop and consider making them all monochrome with the same finish, then mount in frames in one colour to give cohesion to a display.

Get Focused: Photography experiences at Venture Photography start from £35 and the fee includes studio time, digital retouching and a framed photograph. Embrace the future by having your photographs enhanced with a 3-D effect. The process is available in five sizes, starting, from £59.99, at Jessops from March 7.

Mindful of boring friends with endless holiday snaps, I particularly like the idea of focusing on one classic shot of a favourite holiday destination and having it personalised in a print. A Personalised Vintage Travel Poster Print, priced from £29, at The Drifting Bear Company, echoes the nostalgia of the vintage railway posters.

Out of the Frame

Photos and paintings don’t tell the whole story when it comes to art, as our desire for more decorative interiors has inspired a revival of artistic effects on everything, from murals to furniture.

“The great thing about adding art to your home is that it can be done on practically any budget,” says Katie Watson, interior designer at furniture store, Fishpools. “Whether it’s investing in a painted piece of furniture or framing old postcards or vintage prints, creating a cool, cohesive look is simple, effective and a great way to bring a home to life.”

Top Tip: It’s generally agreed that the centre point of a piece of art should be at your eye height, although there may have to be a compromise if you or your partner are considerably different heights, says Noel. “A mid point of 60-65 inches is usually comfortable for most people.”

Get Focused: Wall murals, once so naff, have won back their style credentials. Pixers has a vast mural library with a comprehensive range of foreign landscapes, feature shots and famous views from the Pyramids to the Eiffel Tower. Alternatively, opt for a gentle, bucolic effect with its watercolour landscape, Near The River Bank, from £32. Carry on the rural theme with upholstery depicting a wooded landscape on the seat back of the Black Picture Print Club Chair, £752, at Artisanti. Alexander & Pearl, always ahead of the curve on trends, has a Young & Battaglia Three-Drawer Cabinet, £350, decorated with a hand-painted female head in the style of the Old Masters.


Kicking convention out the window and displaying images you really love will result in walls that speak volumes about your taste and way of life.

“Artwork is such an easy way to add visual impact in any space,” says Claire Hornby, creative stylist at Barker & Stonehouse.

“A vibrant or quirky piece of artwork adds a splash of personality in an instant. If hanging prints isn’t quite your thing, consider utilising shelving space and carefully display framed artwork on it, or simply put prints on the floor and lean against a wall. For an inexpensive, imaginative touch, use your children’s artwork – the more abstract and playful the pictures, the more striking the display will be.”

Top Tip: Don’t be afraid to put a larger picture next to a smaller one, but perhaps balance it by having two or three small pictures taking up the same space as the larger one, suggests Noel. “A series of different sized pieces can look striking when carefully spaced and hung at the same mid-point, but allow each one enough room to breathe. Don’t be tempted to hang your paintings or prints too close together.”

Get Focused: A wall sticker depicting a masterpiece by UK street graffiti Banksy would give any room an edgy feel. One of his classics, Maid Sweeping, £24.99, from In Spaces, shows a girl in an apron hiding rubbish by lifting wallpaper to reveal a brick wall. Another of In Spaces’ stickers – a life-size British Deer, £39.99 – is surely the animal essential for today’s on-trend rooms. Call up vibrantly coloured Superheroes for a stylish touch – comic book heroes feature on wacky wall art from Bombus, with a circular single print, £20 and a set of nine, £160. The company will try to feature a requested comic book star if they have a suitable image in their archives. Young & Battaglia, who are famed for their highly individual approaches to art, don’t disappoint with an Ostrich Printed Canvas, that resembles a classic ancestral portrait. It’s priced from £183 at The French Bedroom Company. Ayers & Graces’ selection of frames includes a handsome gold gilt ornate Monaco Picture Frame, £165.


View this and more articles on the Belfast Telegraph.

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