Accessorize With Photos

Photographs are a great way to accessorize any room.

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My decorating partner, Matt Fox, and I have decorated hundreds of rooms and have found that it is the accessories, or the stuff, as Matt calls them, which put the finishing touches on a room.

Accessories add personality to a room, helping to make the room a reflection of its owner. Matt and I have found that photographs are the perfect accessory to create that personal touch.

Family photos are commonly found in living rooms, family rooms and bedrooms. They help to create a feeling of warmth and intimacy.

But photographs can also be used to produce drama in a space. Matt and I recently used black and white photos to create a wall montage above a staircase. Since the staircase was visible from the main entryway, the montage became a dramatic focal point, welcoming visitors in a bold, but inviting, manner.

When creating a wall grouping with photos, it's important that each piece be part of the whole. There are several ways to achieve a unified look.

One way to maintain consistency is to group the photographs by color. We used black and white pictures to create a modern gallery look.

Sepia-toned photos work well with traditional and country decor. Full-color pictures are best suited for more casual rooms.

Another interesting way to group photos is by theme. Themes might include a collection of photos depicting vacations, family or special occasions.

Picture frames and matting techniques also can be used to create a unified look. One possibility is to use the same frame and mat for every picture in the display or, for a bit of variety, you might choose different frames in the same color and similar style.

Once you have chosen your photos and frames, the next step in creating a wall montage is to determine the best layout for the grouping. This is not as difficult as it seems.

To avoid mistakes (and lots of unnecessary nail holes in the wall), it's a great idea to try out different arrangements. First, make a template out of brown craft paper for each of the photographs you are planning to use. Cut the templates out, being sure to mark the placement of the saw tooth hanger or the center of the picture wire. Tape the templates to the wall using painter's blue tape so that the tape will not mar the wall's surface.

Keep in mind that photo arrangements do not need to be symmetrical. To give added interest to a wall montage, put an odd number of photos on the wall.

Move the templates around until you are happy with the arrangement. Then using a pencil, punch a small hole through the brown paper to mark the placement of the picture hanger.

In order to mount your framed photos to the wall securely, be sure to use the correct hanger. If your framed print weighs less than five pounds, a simple saw tooth hanger is appropriate. If the photograph weighs more than five pounds, consider attaching two screw eyes to the outer edges of the frame and then string braided wire between the two.

All photographs will fade with exposure to light, heat or humidity. If you want to display old family photographs, consider displaying a photocopy instead and storing the original in an archival box. This will prevent any deterioration to the original print.

There are several other advantages to using photocopies. Multiple prints can be made and shared with other family members very inexpensively. Through photocopying, sizes can also be adjusted to fit existing frames.

Photographs are a great way to accessorize any room. Family photos can bring back wonderful memories and feelings of nostalgia. Today's digital cameras make it a breeze to take wonderful pictures, which is great because today's photos are tomorrow's memories.

(Matt Fox and Shari Hiller alternate writing this column. They also are authors of Real Decorating for Real People and co-hosts of the Home & Garden Television show Room By Room.)

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