TOPIC: Home design and decor

BUYING ART. A SIMPLE GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED

old birds, music score, digital collage, framed print, liza cowan, smallequals.com

 

Cross posted from my blog at smallequal.com

I love when people say “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.” That’s all you need to know. Sure, the more you know about art history, art theory etc. the deeper your appreciation will be, but when you are buying art for your own home, your number one priority is to buy something that you like, something that makes you happy, something that pleases you. 

 

I ran an art gallery for five years, and the worst customer was the art snob. The best customer was the one who stopped in front of a piece of art, caught their breath, and said, “I love this!”  If your heart leaps when you see something, that’s your cue.

 

Other than that…here are some things to consider.

 

Size

You can approach this as finding a piece of work to fit into a particular space. Empty wall above the couch? You can fill it with one large statement piece, or lots of smaller pieces grouped together. Your choice. It’s usually not a good idea to have just one or two small pieces randomly placed in a large space. Each piece should be placed with purpose. This is true of everything you put into your house.

 

Color

Don’t know where to start? You can buy art to match your curtains or fabric on your chair, as long as you love those colors.  I think this is a great idea, but don’t tell art snobs you did this unless you are prepared for a look of condescension. If you don’t love the colors, don’t buy anything else that uses them. Please.

 

I remember decades ago I had a bedspread that I adored. It made me so happy to look at it. When i decided to paint the walls of my bedroom, I matched the predominant color in the spread. It was a deep, deep blue. I never would have thought to color my walls such a deep color but I was ready to experiment and it was wonderful. The people who make fabrics are generally very knowledgeable, and it’s fine to follow their lead.

 

You probably know which colors resonate for you. If not, spend some time looking a the colors in nature, in photos, on fabric, on pinterest, on your clothing, in magazines, and take note of how you are responding. If you feel happy when you look at those colors, those are the ones to go for. If you want to go the extra mile, make a color board. I like to use pinterest, but you could tear out photos in magazines and keep them in a file. See if you keep liking them.

 

Subject matter

Some people love horses. Others love rusty old boats. Some people love to look at pictures of children, or of grandpas. You might love seascapes, or you might love old portraits. Maybe you love old woodcuts, or brand new shiny abstracts. When you are starting an art collection, you might think about collecting based on themes. You probably won’t stick to one theme, but it’s a place to start. You could have several vintage nursery rhyme prints all framed the same and hung in a group for a wonderful and inspiring wall.

Think of collecting art as a treasure hunt, and always be on the lookout for images of poodles, or boats, or rocket ships. You’ll have fun, and probably end up with a fantastic collection that not only resonates for you, but is also engaging for others to look at.

 

Artist

There may be one or two artists whose work you love. Even very famous and pricey artists usually are reproduced on posters, or open edition prints. Newer artists work is often affordable. If you love an artist, think about collecting their work. Go to local art fairs and craft shows. Go to open studios and art walks. Talk to the artists. You could think about buying one piece a year, for instance. There was one local artist whose work I liked a lot. She made very small paintings of chickens. I thought they were charming. I visited her studio every year during a regional art tour and bought one or two paintings per year. They were only about $25 apiece, but after four years, I had a nice little collection.

 

Genre

I had an obsession for paint-by-number paintings for a while. Yes, it was for an exhibition at my gallery, and I bought about 75 paintings over a five  month period on ebay. That was so much fun. And it was the most popular show I ever ran. It practically sold out. But if you love a particular type of work, go for it with gusto. You don’t have to by 75 paintings. You probably shouldn’t unless you plan to sell them. But if you love black and white photos from the 1940’s, go for it. Or you love engravings of flowers. Or children’s book illustrations. Or you love collage, or manhole cover rubbings. Maybe you think kids art is amazing - I know I do! Or paintings on velvet, if that’s your thing. You like pencil drawings, or, well, you get the picture. Think genre.

 

Price

You know your own price range. Generally art is not cheap, but it doesn’t have to be super expensive to be good. Original, unique pieces will probably be more expensive. Hand made prints, like silkscreens, lithographs, woodcut prints, monoprints, etc can be more expensive, but not necessarily. Some artists like making their work very accessible, which often means affordable. Others do not. It takes a lot of time, practice, and labor to make art. Artists often spend decades learning their craft, and should be paid well, but it’s up to you, the buyer, to be mindful of your own budget.

 

That’s it.

LOVE. Buy what you love! If your heart leaps, that’s the cue.

And keep these things in mind:

  1. SIZE
  2. COLOR
  3. SUBJECT
  4. ARTIST
  5. GENRE
  6. PRICE

 

Let me know what you think.

 

PS: Be sure to check out all the art I have for sale at smallequls.com  my shop. 

 

PPS: sign up for my mailing list. You may get a fun email someday.


Cowan home decor DIY tips in Nest issue of SevenDaysVermont

 The editor of Vermont's premiere weekly newspaper, SevenDaysVt, follows me on Pinterest, and decided that a feature about my DIY home tips would be of interest to the paper's readers. This is from their quarterly special insert on homes, Nest. 

Regular readers of this blog will find some of these images familiar. I've posted them here on the blog, as well as on Pinterest and Flickr.

Liza Cowan Home DIY tips, decorating on a budget, coordinating patterns, wooden crates for home decor, make curtains with binder clips
Home Eclectic Home, Liza Cowan DIY home decor tips


Read the online version here.

 

 


HOME: Making curtains the easy way

 I love curtains.  I'm lazy and frugal, and I don't have a sewing machine. And I like to change my curtains seasonally. I've never let any of these things stop me. 

In the winter, I like to feel cozy and warm. In the summer, I like my curtains to be light and breezy. 

Orange dupioni silk curtains. pug in window. painting by liza cowan. photo ©liza cowan 2015

Making curtains is easy, though, at least for me. My method: 

Find fabric you love. I shop around in local stores and online. There's always something gorgeous on sale. 

Measure the inside height of your window. My method takes twice the length of the window. Fabric usually should be wider than the window for gathering, or the same width for a tailored modern look. 

Place a tension rod inside the window frame.

Drape fabric over rod until the bottoms meet. 

Use two tiny binder clips or small safety pins at the very top sides, just under the rod. Sometimes you will find you need to use tiny safety pins along the side. 

That's it. And you haven't cut much fabric, so you can use it for other projects when you change your curtains. 

If you hate a ragged bottom edge (I don't) you can make a hem using liquid fabric. Super easy to do. 

Pink Seersucker Curtains Liza cowan photo

I love to use clothing fabric for curtains. For summer, I'm using seersucker in my living room. 

 

Blue seersucker curtains. Painting on mirror by Liza Picasso aka Liza Cowan. Photo ©Liza Cowan 2015

I found this very cheerful plaid fabric for my daughter's room. It's from Waverly. Found on sale, of course. 

Summer plaid curtains. Photo ©Liza Cowan 2015

 You can do it, too! Now you know how. 

Easy no-sew curtains as seen on seesaw

 


Home projects: wooden crate wall, and pink seersucker curtains.

Screened in porch, white curtains, wicker chair, tin dollhouse, wooden crates, may 2015. photo ©Liza Cowan

The screened porch was a deal maker for me when I bought my house. At first, my plan was to build a half-wall around the room, but then I had the brainstorm of modular wall building with wooden boxes. The old owner had left a small cache in the barn, and I had my own collections, so I decided to stack them at one end, and to use some as a small "wall" on the outer deck. That's all I need. And in the Winter, they will go back to the barn because the porch fills with snow. 

My other grand idea was to put in white curtains for beauty, shade, and privacy. I had basic white curtains and tension rods on hand from an earlier project, so that was easy. A cheap and quick project, also removable for the winter months. 

Tin Marx dollhouse from my collections. 

Pink Seersucker Curtains. Lamp by Kileh Friedman. photo © Liza cowan photo

Joanne's Fabrics had seersucker on sale at 50% yesterday so I scooped up 8 yards of pink and white stripe. I love using dressmaking fabric for curtains. My curtain making technique: cut the material to twice the height of the window. Drape over tension rod on inside of window frame. Secure at the top with binder clips or safety pin. If you want to get really fancy, you can hem them. I usually don't, but if I decide to, liquid seam glue works just fine. 

Lamp by Kileh Friedman,  Burlington, VT. Shade from The Lamp Shop, Burlington, VT.


Home Design: Using trays for organizing.

Photo ©Liza Cowan. use a tray or charger  to organize a coffee table.
Tray/charger for organizing coffee table. Photo ©Liza Cowan

 

I like to use trays to help my organize my home. It's a little trick I learned when I was designing and maintaining retail spaces. I found them so useful for display, and they made cleaning so much easier. 

If you don't have some trays or platters already in your home there are so many wonderful options available. Of course, you can go look in resale or junk shops or at yard sales. You never know what treasures you'll find. Stores like Home Goods and Pier One are really useful too, as well as craft supply stores. I'm lucky that we have all of these stores in my small city. But you can buy online too. For better or for worse, it has never been easier to be a consumer. I try to be reasonable, really. I gave away 3/4 of my stuff when I moved last year and I'm trying not to collect more stuff. But I'm in the midst of huge organizing projects, so I do indulge in objects that make the process both easy and beautiful. Trays are part of that process. 

There is now a huge trend for what are called "chargers" which are basically big plates. They are popular now for what is being called "tablescaping."   When I bought the charger above at Pier One, the saleslady told me I should use it for candles on my dining room table. I'm not big on candles; fire makes me nervous,  and I have so many more useful and interesting things to display. Nevertheless, I was amused to find that "tablescaping" is now a thing. I think its an overblown name, but the concept is not so bad.

I use my trays and chargers to keep all the little things that I need in any given spot. Above is the wooden charger I found at Pier One, also very inexpensive. I keep an eye out for sales, of course.  This is my living room, and I had a pile of remotes to wrangle. I found the round paper container at Home Goods, for a song. One other box, also Home Goods, houses emery boards, nail clippers and nail polish. TV watching time is great for an impromptu manicure or nail repair. The final box is hand letterpress from Brookfield, holding their note paper, because I often find I need to make a note

Also vital for me, a box of tissues, these designed for Kleenex by Issac Mizrahi (I bought a dozen, just in case they stop making them) and a bottle of hand lotion. And my eyeglasses, which I tend to lose. But of course it could hold whatever it is that you find you need in your living room. 

The beauty - other than the visual appeal - is that I can whisk the tray right off the table for a game of Sorry or Monopoly with my neighbor's kids, or to make room to serve food for a party. 


Tray platter on dining table desk
Melamine tray on dining room table. Photo ©Liza Cowan

 

My dining room table also serves as my downstairs desk. I like to sit here next to the window for all kinds of projects, including paying bills, and some craft projects. But I also eat here, and the tray is so easy to remove if I need the whole table to serve guests. This melamine tray is from Pier One. Melamine trays are so hot right now, and the new technologies that allow for printing surface design make almost any look possible. This one mimics a worn ceramic. You know I'm all about FAKE!™ so I love this. 

For my table/office I like to keep pens and pencils in a chipped, old cup I painted, back when we still had a paint your own pottery place. I miss that! I have a ceramic dog dish with my ever handy Sugru, and my checkbook in the folder I designed from my FAKE!™ line of paintings, this one a Liza Leger. The checkbook holder was made for me by Flashbags. And another box of note paper from Brookflied. I used to sell Brookfield hand letterpressed note cards in my stores, and I'm happy to have several boxes left over. So pretty. Paper clips are in a little plastic box from Amac, which I also used to sell, and have managed to keep a few for my own use. 

The gorgeous lamp was made by one of my favorite local potters, Kileh Friedman. The round platter in the background was made by another favorite  potter, Pam Black, Paradise Pottery. On it are some examples of bowls I've been making with Crayola play clay. I used to do this all the time with my kids when they were little. Now my young neighbors enjoy coming over for craft time.

Liza cowan photo shinzi katoh tray as organizer for office desk
Tray by Shinzi Katoh for desk supplies. Photo @Liza Cowan


 This is in my studio office. The tray is from Shinzi Katoh, whose adorable products I used to sell at Pine Street Art Works and at Small Equals. I was smart enough to save one for myself. This hold several lucite boxes with pencils, pens, scrap paper and of course, more hand lotion. It too, can be swooped up to clear my table for large projects. 

Happy tray- scaping.!!

 

Organizing with trays seen on see saw

 

 


Brighten Up A Winter Room: reflective objects

Silver pot with paperwhites brighten up a short, dark, winter interior ©liza cowan
Twinkle, twinkle to brighten up the short, dark, winter days. Photo ©Liza Cowan

 

I like to brighten up the short, dark, days of Winter by placing shiny reflective objects around the house. The twinkle of reflected light does wonders to lift the spirit of the room. 

There are lots of great, inexpensive knock offs of silver, mercury glass and mirrored things in circulation right now, so keep an eye out. I found this container at Home Goods, for a song. I'm not sure what's its intended use would be, but I was looking for a shiny silver container for my paperwhites, and this is perfect. And it was cheap!

Happy Solstice. 

 

 


Glass Flower Frog as pencil and pen holder.

Frog pen holder. Glass pen holder. Glass frog.  ©liza cowan
Glass frog as pen holder. Photo ©Liza Cowan

Maybe you already knew this, but I just figured it out. You can use a glass frog as a pen and pencil holder. Glass frogs, in case you are wondering, are made to go in the bottom of vases to hold the stems in position. Some of the older ones a beautiful as objects, which was what drew me to this particular one when I saw it in an antique store. But then I realized it would hold pens, stylishly. 

Have fun. 


DIY: Hang curtains with colorful binder clips

You don't have to spend a fortune to hang curtains. Be the first on your block to bring Office Supply Chic to your home. All you need is push pins or nails to secure small binder clips to the top of your window.  It's best if your fabric is wider than the window. Gather it to make small drapes along the top. Experiment. So easy to change. 

©Liza Cowan using binder clips to hang curtains
Office Supply Chic. Window curtains using binder clips.

Use a second set of binder clips to tie back the curtains. You can drape them, as above, or bunch them, or whatever you like. I've used very sheer white fabric here for summer. But come Winter...I've got some very nice flannel buffalo plaid fabric to use. Wait and see. 

Meanwhile, get binding!


Tabletop cord wrangler DIY

Cord wrangler seesaw.typepad.com ©Liza Cowan
De-clutter your table top with an easy DIY cord wrangler,

 

I couldn't stand all the cords and cables sitting on my table...chargers for my iPhone, tablet, computer and speaker. So I found a nice old cardboard box I had put away, and made it into a cord wrangler. It's an easy DIY to help de-clutter. 

I cut a rectangular hole on the bottom of the end-side, just big enough to insert the surge protector/extension cord. Make sure your box is long enough. 

Then I cut enough holes for three of the cords that I need on the side, the iPhone, the tablet and the computer. Then I cut a hole on the top for the speaker-charger, because I keep the little speaker on top. 

The holes only have to be big enough for the ends to go through, not the plugs. 

Yes, it would have been neater if I'd had a little drill or a good little saw. But I didn't, so I used a scissors and a kitchen knife. Good enough. 

Time to make it: 15 minutes, once I'd found the box.