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Thinking Outside the Frame: Tips for Spicing Up Your Walls

Outfitting your first apartment on a budget can be a challenge but a little bit of decoration can go a long way in making it feel like home. Check out our tips for sprucing up your place without breaking your budget.

Being financially challenged and hardly settled in my dream home, I’ve found it easy to brush off the idea of decorating my walls with art by telling myself I’ll do it when I have more money and time. Yet after spending a long weekend at a friend’s apartment (just as small and semipermanent as mine), I was blown away by what a difference some unique and well-thought-out art pieces on the walls made in terms of her place’s ambience.  I’m not sure why it took me so long to realize it, but having tons of money and hiring an interior designer are so not requirements for tastefully adorning your home with artwork. All it takes is a little footwork, some forethought, and a willingness to experiment.

Buy Local
Who says you have to spend a fortune to acquire unique art? It’s possible to find authentic, interesting works without dropping a bundle in a fancy gallery. Many up-and-coming artists and art students sell their own work directly, either right from their studios or from stands they set up in busy areas like farmers’ markets and flea markets. Check out art institutes and college campuses in your area to see what’s available around you.

Surf for Art
Let’s not forget the Internet. Web sites like Etsy.com offer not just paintings, but also sculptures, photographs, and prints that are searchable by medium and price. And don’t discount less art-focused, more mainstream sites like IKEA and Target, which offer a huge variety of decorative options, all of which you can easily give a unique twist with the right framing and display techniques (more on that below).

Go DIY
Just because you don’t buy something doesn’t mean it’s not art. Old calendar images, advertisements, and even pressed flowers can make interesting wall adornments; I’ve begun framing cheap postcards I’ve picked up while traveling. Literary types can make art out of their favorite quotations—find colored stationery, then neatly write (or type) the words, frame it, and voilà—truly unique, truly you art. To make do-it-yourself pieces wall-ready, back them with colorful cloth or acid-free mat board inside frames—this will help avoid that college-dorm-room look. And don’t forget about your own personal photo album—try grouping sunsets from around the world, or beaches, or even images of you with certain groups of friends and relatives in particular areas.

Plan Purposefully
For a polished feel, try framing art destined for the same wall with similar frames and mat styles. Once they’re framed, try hanging pieces in neat rows and columns, or, for a more laid-back look, just scatter them artfully around a large central piece or two. Feeling indecisive? Go with the happy medium: a not-quite-perfect, but still symmetrical, grid. Whichever you choose, planning is essential before you whip out the hammer and nails—even the artfully scattered look takes some trial and error. How to plan? Trace your frames on pieces of bright paper and tape them on the wall in various positions, says the DIY Network.

Use Frames to Spice Things Up
Thoughtfully framing photos and artwork not only ties pieces together neatly but can give a whole new feel to a room—whether it’s decadent or eccentric. Frame and art shops often have frames on sale—so show up and nab a bunch of whatever type is marked off. You can easily paint or stencil wooden ones to your liking, or grab a variety of metallic ones to lend organized diversity to a wall. Try ornate-looking gold to lend some luxury to a bought-online poster, and experiment with frames of different sizes, shapes, and colors until you find a look that suits the room you’re displaying art in.

… or Not
There’s also the option of forgoing frames altogether. This works especially well with paintings or photos mounted on wood and canvas; it gives art displays a very casual feel and really makes the images pop, according to Apartment Therapy. On my last few vacations, I’ve picked up some inexpensive oil paintings by local street vendors and now have them hanging naked on my off-white walls.

Get into Shadowboxes
These deeper boxes hold more than the average rectangular border can, enabling you to really capture, say, that Italian vacation you long to relive every day. One box could fit a photograph of a spectacular sunset, along with the cork from the most delicious bottle of vino you enjoyed, ticket stubs from the Colosseum, and the business card of your favorite gelato joint. Simply arrange your chosen items on a piece of mat board and secure them with hot glue or another adhesive before slipping them into the frame.

Think Beyond Nails
Why limit yourself to a hammer and nails? Try hanging postcards or photographs (or even children’s artwork) using pretty metallic clips and string or wire. This technique can give your home the feel of an art studio, and can be combined with paper lights strung up around the room for variety and mood lighting. Another nail-free idea is to splash an area of the wall with magnetic paint, which creates a functional surface for displaying art. Try covering a neat rectangle with this paint, then topping it with a layer of any color paint you choose, recommends Mag Paint Europe.

Clearly, a lack of money is no excuse for continuing to deny my walls the decorations they deserve. Now, if only I could get around the whole time factor …

 

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