As I recall the walls of my childhood home, a simple row home in Philadelphia owned by a first generation Italian family with limited means to decorate, I see only the large obligatory parlor mirror over the sofa and one brightly colored watercolor of gladioli dated 1940 by my Aunt Helen, a self-taught artist, that to this day I display in an honored place.
In college, when first exposed to the world of art, I vowed one day to become a collector to the extent that I could afford. And, when as a newcomer to New York City, visiting the home of a cultured gentleman, I was impressed to find that all the walls of his home were covered from floor to ceiling with paintings, prints and other objets d’art, much like an art gallery. Those two experiences created in me a lifelong obsession to have my home’s walls serve as the canvass for a rich visual experience where I could view, ponder and lose myself into other worlds of artistic expression.
Actually, you don’t have to be as obsessive as I to accomplish, and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg…just a trip to a store like Home Goods or T. J. Maxx. I am amazed at the art these stores can offer for very little money. Go there and splurge on collections of stretched canvasses that don’t require frames to look great in wall groupings. Such stores didn’t exist when I was young and collecting art in antiques shops and, yes, junk shops.
When I lived in my first small house, I achieved the gallery effect by collecting within a few short years. When I moved to a large colonial home in the country with 14 rooms, it took many years to appoint each room like a gallery. My problem within the past month, however, has been paring down my collection to an 1800 sq. ft. condo with a living room/dining room combination, office/den, and two bedrooms. In this case, my wife and I had to be very selective about which paintings and prints we selected – only our most favored pieces would come with us – and we agreed that, living in smaller space, we didn’t want to close ourselves in by filling every inch of wall space with art. We wanted to leave more open wall space between groups of wall art, thereby making the groupings – their sizes and arrangements – more considered.
Also, the groupings themselves needed to be well hung, literally, because for the first time in many years I was dealing with hollow, plasterboard walls. My heavier frames had to be secured in the plasterboard with anchors which expand with pressure when screws are screwed into them or have “toggles” which release on the inside of the wall once pushed. I must confess I hate that chore as somewhat tedious and, this time around, I prevailed upon my friend and expert painter Joe Pascarelli, who doubles as my handyman when needed for such tasks.
For the lighter paintings and prints, I don’t bother with the anchors but use small nails. Rather than nailing them straight in horizontally, however, I nail them in at a 45 degree angle so that the weight of the piece is less likely to pull the nail from the wall.
In my groupings, I like to create harmony and balance, either through content or the type of frames. In my dining area, for instance, the entire wall is dedicated to landscapes, while my living room features portraiture of the 1700s and 1800s. I just love all those eyes staring back at me. Sometimes I just sit on my sofa, looking into the eyes of those women, men and children, wondering why their descendants didn’t hold on to their portraits, cherishing them as family heirlooms, but very glad that I was able to adopt them, welcoming them as family members.
When I arrange these paintings into groups, I first lay the frames out on the floor directly in front of the wall on which they are to be placed and arrange and re-arrange them until I have a pleasing pattern. Then I take a digital photo which I follow as I hammer them up, one by one. After I hang them, I “eyeball” them straight (some people are fanatics and use a leveler) and once I have them perfect, I roll some masking tape into a tube and stick it behind one corner of the frame to make sure that vibrations or dusting doesn’t dislodge its horizontal pitch.
I’m nearing the end of creating my new art gallery at home, ready to welcome guests to come look and learn more about me by considering how I choose to enrich my living environment.
By the way, if you want my friend Joe Pascarelli’s help in hanging art or any other chores around the house that require skilled assistance, you can call him directly at 914-330-3889.
Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com), specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. His real estate site is: www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com and his blog is: www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of Bill Primavera and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.