Friday, March 3, 2017

Nest-Feathering Report: Entryway Photo Wall

 We're getting much closer to having this new home accommodate enough of our old lives while we nudge our way into the new. Our entryway is a good example of this. It might seem to signal the past, with its display of family photographs stretching back over the more than four decades of our marriage, and then back another twenty-some for our own childhood photos, with one or two 19th-century photos of great-great-greats....

In fact, though, I rarely displayed family photographs in our earlier homes. At various times through our 40+ years together, I've found them too hokey or clichéd or precious, I suppose. More honestly, though, I generally found myself too busy or otherwise distracted or disorganised to sort out favourite photos and then buy suitable frames and then find a spot to display them in an attractive grouping.

But during the last few years I was working, I started wanting a photo wall.  Perhaps because I wanted to expose the grandchildren to some of the family stories, and photographs are such a great starting point. Perhaps the desire started with a wish to organise the digital travel photos which seemed to be accumulating quickly on the computer but which rarely got printed.  Whatever the impetus, my office in our island home had walls of exposed cedar (that part of the house had been the original "kit" cottage that we renovated and added to), and I wouldn't have hesitated to put nails into it for hanging. Organising old photos, getting new digital ones printed, buying suitable coordinating frames, and getting the whole organised artfully (of course! by my standards, at least) onto a wall -- this project was near the top of what I wanted to do in my first year of retirement.

In fact, within the first month after my last classes ended and papers were marked and grades entered, I got myself out to Ikea and bought a cartful of frames in black, white, gold, silver, and a few in punctuating red.  I even tucked a few photos into frames, played around with possible arrangements, felt that happy tug of satisfaction at a project I could see was going to turn out well.

And then we decided to move. So instead of getting organised onto a wall, my photos (and the frames with all their thin, very breakable glass) got sorted into cardboard boxes and stayed there for the better part of last year.

Since we got back here in December and began building an awareness of how we moved in the space, gradually figuring out what furniture we could keep, what to give away, what we needed to buy, and  just, generally, all the smaller daily patterns of interaction between us and this space -- all that time, these photos have been chuntering away in the back of my consciousness. Because there are so many floor-to-ceiling windows here, we have limited free wall space. Much of what there is has already been claimed by paintings and by books.

But our entryway has a long wall, and although I wasn't sure I wanted our family photos to be the first thing guests see as they step inside, it really is the only place that makes sense. As you can see, I surrendered my idea of a wall almost completely covered in a splendidly eclectic mix-and-match of frames. I've seen that done beautifully on design sites, Pinterest, but Pater balked both at the number of holes in plaster that would require and at what struck him as aesthetically chaotic.

So we compromised, and I have to tip my hat to him on this one. I love the unifying effect of the simple Ikea picture ledges. As it turns out, we weren't able to fit all the photos onto the wall, but I'm now planning to rotate the ones we have so that the arrangement is refreshed whenever I feel inspired -- or, perhaps, for a special celebration when we might want to feature one family member or other....
Still very much a work in progress, our nest-feathering, but I'm very close to being satisfied with this corner, and I especially like the way that the new space is incorporating our past but integrating its pieces in ways. And I thought you might just like a peek at how that works in one "downsized" home. Islanders becoming urbanites, one corner at a time.

Comments always welcome (as long as you play nice, of course, which almost all of you generally do). Any "interior design" projects you're particularly pleased with recently? Or frustrations you're trying to solve in your domestic space? Or a deep contentment you'd like to share with something you're close to taking for granted, it's been sorted domestically for so long? Or just whatever strikes your fancy as we round off this first week in March, sneaking our way up to spring. Happy Weekend!

(Oh, and thanks to all of you who popped over to have a peek at the poem I copied out over here)

33 comments:

  1. I must say, those shelves are good. And it means you aren't committed to keeping the photos up all the time if you fancy a change. That is my main bugbear with family photos - they often stay up long past their sell-by date. Never been one to display photos but I recently went through the huge pile of photos that we have accumulated over the years and divided into three piles - one for each child and one for us, put them in order and added notes and dates to the back. It took days but was interesting. Still a few more to sort and put in order but the main job is done. Main thing I would like in the house now: shelves. Even a book cull shows that we have more books than space to store them. Main problem: where? Eternal question of those who love to read.

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    1. Yes, editing is the buzz word these days. . . photos, books, wardrobes. I remember reading the post where you sorted your photos -- a big job but you must feel so good to have those organised!

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  2. Another coincidence - I am busy planning a family photo wall, too, especially as the weddings mount up. On the same theme, I spent some time with the picture framer this morning getting a few of my collection of paintings and prints framed ready for hanging. All the things you do when you have more time, and very rewarding too! Have a good weekend.

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    1. It is rewarding to get to these items we've wanted to do for so long but not had the time. It will be great to have your paintings and prints out of their folders and into frames, on the wall.

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  3. What a perfect use for a hallway and a very homely idea. We have something similar in our kitchen. Two enormous frames. One with a collage of our children from birth through childhood. The other a collection of family photos from the 19th century onwards. I feel you new home is really taking shape and I love the idea of the picture shelves. B x

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    1. I love that British use of the word "homely" (the N. Am. use is not so happy ;-) -- I think this might be why I'm so pleased with the photo arrangement. It softens the potentially hard lines of an urban condo - I didn't need that in our earlier houses which were already "homely" enough as they were.
      btw, we have one of those huge collage-filled frames, which my mother-in-law put together about 35 years ago from her family albums...

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  4. I like this display...so much that I have done the same above the buffet in my dining room. An added bonus, based on my experience with the non-photo gallery wall in my living room, is the ease of removing/dusting/replacing with the picture ledges. (Oh no. Now I am looking at the lr gallery wall out of the corner of my eye. It needs attention.) ;)

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    1. I'm lucky that the lighting isn't great in the hallway, but yes, I think it will be easier to run a duster over. Did you use the Ikea shelves as well or cleverly make your own?

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  5. Like you, for years I resisted displaying family photographs. But I've recently started putting them out, and - I confess - finding some satisfaction in having my family and forefathers/mothers around me. Is it something about getting older, I wonder? - seeing a younger generation (entirely oblivious to such things!) growing up around me, and feeling the loss of previous generations, and even a few contemporaries. So an attractive design feature like your wall, yes, but also something more, I suspect, reflecting our own stage of life and our place within our family and our world.
    Good luck with the nest-feathering project!
    Rosemary

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    1. I think it must be about getting older, Rosemary, and also, as I say above to Barbara/Coastal Ripples, partly a need to sustain a sense of hominess through a move to a harder-edged, downsized condo. And as the elders, of course, perhaps we feel a responsibility to remember?

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  6. Hi Frances, those picture ledges are great. Years ago we used one in our hallway as a little shelf underneath a large pinboard - it was the perfect message centre. We also don't have that much wall space left, but we are planning to put up a couple of rows of photo ledges to fill the large space above our tv.

    I would so like to have our main floor painted, but right now travel is a priority. Normally I would do the painting myself, but we have such high ceilings here ... there's no way I'm getting up a really high ladder!

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    1. That's a great use -- I've seen some clever Ikea "hacks" using these shelves in surprising ways (as a bike holder on a wall?!!!)

      Travel trumps wall-painting anyday, in my book ;-)

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  7. Looks great. Gotta love IKEA for their mastery of practicality. I like the rotating exhibit idea. I have my family photos on the mantle, and am trying to figure out where to move them, as I want to put something else in that space.

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    1. There are reasons to denigrate IKEA, as many seem to, but I do appreciate many of their creative and practical and affordable products.

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  8. Frances that looks wonderful. What a happy sight to greet you and your grandchildren as you enter the condo. You've done such a good job thinking it all out and, as you say, planning to offer certain photos as points of reference to tell family tales to your grandchildren. Haven't met a child yet who isn't intrigued by photos of their
    parents when they were small. Photos are perfect conversation starters, aren't they?
    Another way I have displayed photos in every home I have lived in is on a table/ bureau, such as the one under your photo ledges. I arrange the photos.(and ticket stubs, birth announcements, etc.) pleasingly under a piece of glass cut to the size of the top of the furniture. Adds more display options in a tight space.
    For six weeks I have been going nuts,cleaning out every drawer, every file, every closet, every shelf. Feel as if I have run a marathon a week but bags and bags of things have gone to the charity shop. What a relief. Furniture has, too. Have repainted many things and the cleaning lady and I have scoured every inch of most surfaces.
    So much was mentally aggravating me about things I wanted done that I have been on a tear...a mad woman. My "cleaning frenzy"as my mother used to call them.
    It feels so great to feather your new nest, doesn't it? Glad that it is giving you so much enjoyment and that you've had some fun outings with family and friends this week.
    My only goal leading up to Spring,re: house projects, is to paint our front door glossy black as I have been wanting to do for, oh, six years! A.in London












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    1. Thanks, A! I know you have a strong background in interior design, so I appreciate the thumbs-up. And I love this idea of a piece of glass cut to fit atop a dresser -- we will follow up with that for the one under those photos. I'm going to have fun with that, a good place to display programs from operas or the grandkids' drawings.
      Now, is your glossy black door in London? That sounds perfect to me!

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  9. That is a very clever and practical way to display those much loved images. I also have "organize" photos on my to do list post retirement. I may copy some of your hallway ideas!
    Thanks for sharing, Suz from Vancouver

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    1. Copy away -- I know I did ;-)
      Is retirement getting closer on your horizon?

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  10. I love it. Photos are my nemesis. We have a long long long entry hallway that just looks ridiculous and barren so what you've done in your new home makes me wonder if I should be doing the same. Our first thought was to put up all my favorite paintings. So that's an idea too. Really like the warm feeling you've created.

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    1. Thanks, Sally. We're really pleased with the space now. We wouldn't have designed the interior with so much given over to hallway, but at least we feel as if we're making the most of it now. As you would with favourite paintings. Or you might find ways to combine paintings and photos....

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  11. I love the wall. You did a great job. After my mother passed, we had to go clear the house & the biggest gift was finding old photos. Their wedding album, baby pics of my sister & I along with pictures from her childhood. It was like finding a storybook. My parents never spoke of their past so it was such a wonderful gift to know their story through pictures. Never consider your family pictures "hokey"

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    1. Now I'm curious: did you have some of the stories to go with the "storybook? Were you able to identify any/everyone in the album?

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  12. I too love the ledges... so much more flexibility than hanging on wall! You can mix in cards and drawings as you get them, or even your own drawings ;) You can change the order, or add a few seasonal items for holidays, if you wish. It is as if all the generations are welcoming you each time you come home.

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    1. Yes! I've been thinking I'll mix in different mementoes, cards, drawings. And I love this notion of all the generations welcoming us as we walk in the door. Thank you!

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  13. I love seeing this post today, as I dismantle my own photo-wall from the house that is going on the market. I resisted putting them up for so many years... Now I don't know if or where they will go in the new house, but I suppose we will just have to find a new symbiosis when we are reunited

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    1. Isn't it interesting how each home reconfigures us as we move into its space. I'm guessing you've already read Bachelard on this? The Poetics of Space? Rereading him has been on my After I Retire list for a while....

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    2. No, I haven't read Bachelard. Now I must...

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  14. I love the wall of photos! I have no interior design to speak of right now, but I sense I will have some more on this topic in the coming months.

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    1. Oh, I'm sure you will . . . Can't wait!

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  15. I am in the same boat - decades of photos, and I've intended for years to arrange them nicely. There was a perfect place in the lovely, spacious house where I lived for 20 years and brought up my children - the wall along the stairway in the foyer - but it has been almost a year since my sons and I moved out of that house and I have just moved into my second rental house. I was always daunted by the prospect of coming up with the perfect arrangement, and a horror of putting nail holes into the beautiful plaster walls and the full spectrum paint covering them. I love your solution - the shelves look great, and the arrangements are fluid - no fear of doing something wrong and having a hole left.

    When my son went to college last year, I learned about command hooks. I wish I'd known about them earlier. They come in all sizes and will hold even heavy things, and remove completely without leaving a mark.

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    1. As hard as it can be to leave these beloved homes behind, Marie, perhaps we're lucky to learn that we needn't come up with "the perfect arrangement." There's something about these movies that forces or lets us move into the fluidity which is more honestly our existential condition. Or something. ;-)
      And along the way, you've discovered command hooks! (really? you can remove them without leaving any mark at all?) I'm being a bit tongue-in-cheek, obviously, but really, look at you! You've moved twice, this last year, and got your youngest set up at college, and you're planning new decorating projects and learning new things and reaching out into broader community conversations. I don't know you well enough to say you're thriving, but from here, I'm very impressed at your strength in moving on. So I'd love to think of you putting up a new wall of photos, arranging them just as you wish with the idea that you might change that arrangement completely if you want, two or four or six months down the road.

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  16. I love the display of family photos-the idea with shelves is great
    I didn't have plans for this spring ( although the interior needs painting,but thinking about all the job around it ,I 'll get it done next year),but there is a suspect patch on my bathroom ceiling (and we did already repair some leaking after house renovation).....let's hope it wouldn't be a huge problem :-)
    Dottoressa

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    1. When we meet, remind me to tell you a funny story about a suspicious patch we once found on a celing in one of our homes. I'll keep my fingers crossed yours doesn't indicate a problem.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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