Home Decorating For Dummies
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Professional decorators use a long list of traditional rules for displaying art. You’re free to accept or reject experts’ opinions, but it never hurts to consider them. When you hang a large, important picture, repeating some of the dominant colors in other accessories throughout the room is a good idea. Relating the painting to other objects in the room is a kind of bonding that emphasizes unity.

A few no-nos

Some strong social conventions do exist. Following are a few no-nos:
  • Don’t hang nude paintings in your living room or dining room — it’s inappropriate. Beauties au naturel are naughty-but-nice for bedrooms and bathrooms.

  • Traditionally, fruit or vegetable still lifes are for dining rooms and kitchens not bedrooms or living rooms.

  • Don’t hang family photos or too many wedding photos in the living room. Opt for portraits instead.

  • Never hang religious art in the bathroom; save it for the bedroom or its own niche.

  • Don’t hang small landscape paintings near large still life fruits or vegetables. The disparate scales of the two paintings make both of them look ridiculous.

  • Barnyard scenes are foul in a formal living room, but fair in the den.

  • Don’t hang blood-and-guts war scenes in the dining room.

Flowers, landscapes, and seascapes are welcome just about anywhere.

Floral subjects are usually considered feminine, boats and seascapes masculine, and whimsical themes childish. Feel free to take advantage of this traditional thinking to make quick, easy, and uncontroversial choices.

Ideas for experimenting

If you have an educated eye, you may want to go beyond traditional thinking. At least do some experimenting — most shops make that possible by permitting you to return and exchange art that didn’t work out as you thought it would.

Discuss the possibility of exchanging your art at the time of purchase, keep your receipt, and return the art by the store’s deadline in like-new condition.

Look at how professional curators, interior designers, and others hang various kinds of art. Visit museums, galleries, showcase houses, and furniture and department stores with room settings that include art. Browsing through decorating magazines is an inexpensive and time-saving alternative.

Woodcuts, etchings, and lithographs

A good starting point when finding the proper setting for your art is to look at what’s worked in the past. For example, each of the various graphic media woodcuts, etchings, and lithographs have characteristics that are compatible with certain decorating periods and styles:
  • Woodcuts have a rustic, naive quality that fits with Renaissance, Gothic, and Early American décor. Some make a nice counterpoint to Contemporary furnishings.

  • Etchings are composed of finely drawn lines that are elegant and get along well in dressy rooms.

  • Lithographs are more painterly and colorful and take on a wide range of looks and styles, ranging from romantically Impressionistic to boldly Modern.

Black-and-white photographs look fabulous with just about any period or style of furniture. They breathe fresh air into period rooms and sing the same tune as Contemporary style. Depending on the subject matter (no nudes in the living room, please), black-and-white prints are at home in any room.

Reaching for the eclectic

Contemporary interiors stress individual approaches to very personal rooms where just about anything goes. Some eclectic ideas follow.
  • Create interest by contrasting a large, important, period-looking artwork with a crisp, modern background.

  • Pit boldly colored, extremely geometric subjects against stark white walls in rooms furnished with wildly colored furniture.

  • Create art walls, which mix a diverse group of works in interiors where all other furnishings are subdued and play second fiddle to the art.

None of these three techniques mixes a lot of disparate stuff together — that’s not a style but a hodgepodge. These personal statements require a great deal of taste and a lot of confidence.

About This Article

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About the book authors:

Katharine Kaye McMillan, former senior editor of a New York City-based national magazine, is a writer whose work appears regularly in magazines and newspapers. She is a contributing writer to internationally circulated Florida Design Magazine. She is the co-author of several books on decorating and design, including Sun Country Style, which is the basis for licensed signature collections of furniture and accessories by three leading American manufacturers and importers. A graduate of the University of Texas in Austin, she holds a masters degree in psychology and is a doctoral student in psychology at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida.

Patricia Hart McMillan is a nationally known interior designer, whose interior design work for private clients, designer showcases, and corporations has appeared in publications worldwide, including the New York Times and USA Today. Known as a trend spotter and for clearly articulated views on design, she is quoted frequently and extensively in both trade and consumer publications. She a ppears on TV and talk radio. A prolific writer, she is coauthor and author of seven books on interior design and decoration, with Sun Country Style signature collections of furniture based on two books. She has taught decorating courses at several colleges and conducted numerous seminars across the U.S. She is decorating editor for Christian Woman Magazine and reports on design trends for The Sun-Sentinel, a Tribune newspaper based in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She has been editor-in-chief of two publications and was head of a New York City-based public relations firm representing some of the most prestigious names in home furnishing and building products. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, with a minor in art history (with an emphasis in architecture), from the State University of New York (New Paltz). She was awarded a certificate from The New York School of Interior Design.

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