Interior Design Displays and Collections
Furniture and furnishings make a room comfortable and, with luck, good to look at. The pictures, objects and accessories are the elements that give the room personality — although it is important to remember that, if you are to achieve a truly personal room, the objects themselves must be personal, liked for their own sake, thought about deeply, lovingly chosen and put together with care and enthusiasm. Buying objects because they are fashionable or because they were displayed in the store alongside the furniture is not at all the same thing. Just as you buy paintings for their own sake and validity or for their subject matter, rather than because their colours suit those you have chosen for your room, you should select objects because you like them. Mind you, serendipity can creep in here as anywhere else: happy accidents, after all, have a lot to contribute to the character of a home.
There are two quite separate schools of thought concerning the possession and display of artworks and objects. One school opts for simplicity, the other for clutter. The difference is between offering up one or two exquisite, interesting and/or rare objects and presenting a magpie collection of objects and possessions which can generally be termed ‘memorabilia’. The difficulty with the former proposition is that the few objects must either be really beautiful or extraordinarily well displayed; the trouble with the latter is that the clutter must be organized in an interesting way or else it looks like nothing more than, well, clutter. This means you have to assemble the items carefully and thoughtfully according to their colour, shape, texture or theme. Thematic collections of small objects — for example, glasses or butterflies, birds’ eggs or stones — should always be grouped together rather than scattered all over the house.
To take another example, old coloured glass is often shown to particular advantage against other pieces of glass, so group such items on window sills or on glass shelves stretched across a window. Larger objects, however disparate, can be contrasted with each other, but their arrangement looks best if they have something in common with each other (eg. colour); as ever, balance is all-important. If arrangements are grouped on low tables that are used also as adjuncts to chairs and for the casual dumping of books and drinks, leave appropriate space so that the composition will not be ruined.
If arrangements are on a glass shelf, try lighting them with an uptight from below: this gives extra sparkle. If they are on a solid shelf, try lighting them from above with a downlight or spot, or with a small strip of lights. It is important to realize that collections of objects can be as idiosyncratic as you want them to be. In fact, assemblages of quite ordinary things — like old spectacle cases, watches, keys, snuffboxes, toastracks or whatever — can often be much more interesting and decorative than much grander objects.
Although some people who own serious art collections see a wall as a means to an end — a convenient space for display — most of us want to use that space to its most decorative advantage, and therefore need to find some unifying factor to bring together our disparate collection of prints and paintings, posters and objects. A miscellaneous series of prints, for example, can be given a unity it would otherwise lack if each is mounted with the same distinctive colour — say buff, deep red or dark green — and framed in the same way. Again, you can group similarly sized and shaped frames together — ovals with ovals, small squares with small squares. One of the easiest ways to get good groupings without making an awful mess of the walls while experimenting is to lay out on the floor all the pictures you want to hang. After you are satisfied with the arrangement you can measure out the spaces for the hooks on the wall itself, using pencil or chalk that can be rubbed away easily.
In general, you should be careful not to hang things too high or too far apart. Do not fix anything so low over a sofa that people will knock their heads on it — although, when your seating is at a very low level, there is no reason why paintings cannot be hung much lower than usual. Vertical arrangements will make walls seem higher; horizontal ones will make them seem longer.
Posters are best slipped into special holders so that they do not tear or curl up at the corners. They can be balanced by size, subject or colour, depending upon which seems most appropriate to the room.
Wall hangings can be made from just about any piece of decorative fabric, from fragments of old robes to pieces of abstract modern cotton. Hang very heavy fabrics or rugs on slim curtain rods suspended from hooks, or stretch them like canvases over a frame.