Wall art: Keep it inexpensive and personal

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 31, 2008

By Mercedes M. Cardona
For The Associated Press
NEW YORK ó As one of the designers on the TLC cable channel’s “Trading Spaces,” Goil Amornvivat has to decorate rooms in 48 hours on a $1,000 budget. This often leads him to improvise on finishing touches such as artwork.
At home in New York, he has turned some of his own design sketches into art for his walls. It’s one way to create inexpensive artwork that reflects his interests.
A chef friend, he noted, decorates her walls with pots and pans.
“I think your space is your collection of your stuff and your life, and what better place to put it than on the wall?” he said.
Homeowners without his design skills can also repurpose materials to make wall art that personalizes their home and won’t break their budget. Designers suggest wallpaper, fabrics, even old T-shirts and foliage can be framed and hung.
“If you make your own, you always end up with something you’re proud of,” said Goil, who goes by his first name.
A little imagination, some creative Dumpster diving, and flea market and garage sale shopping can help turn up materials, say the pros.
“Yes, Dumpster dive. Don’t be ashamed,” said Kirsten Kemp Becker, a designer and real estate consultant in Santa Barbara, Calif., and host of TLC’s “Hope For Your Home.” She recommends art school and construction company Dumpsters as good places to find scraps that will make good artwork.
Noting that “art” means different things to different people, Kemp Becker said, “I’ve seen great art from materials like a piece of Plexiglas.”
Frank Fontana, a Chicago-based designer and host of HGTV’s “Design on a Dime,” said Dumpsters near old buildings being torn down are good spots to find vintage architectural details that can look good on a wall.
Or call local architecture firms and ask for 3-D renderings they are planning to throw out, suggests Kemp Becker.
“If you plead your case well enough they are happy to give them away,” she said.
Old things in your own home, too, can be recycled. Fontana said framing old souvenir or concert T-shirts with interesting graphics does double duty: It’s decorative, and preserves memories long after the shirt itself is unwearable.
“I’ve done it with an old pair of blue jeans,” said Fontana. “For a teenager’s room it’s fantastic.”
Wallpaper can be recycled, especially hand-painted or vintage wallpaper that may cost hundreds of dollars per roll. A single roll, or even a piece salvaged from another project, can be turned into art.
Goil likes to use wallpaper border in the middle of a large blank wall to divide it and create visual interest. He also suggests framing smaller pieces of wallpaper and hanging them.
Upholstering pieces of plywood with batting and an attractive fabric can dress up a large wall and also help absorb sound, Goil said.
Even the backyard can be a source of materials. Fontana suggested buying two pieces of Plexiglas from the hardware store and pressing an organic element, such as a beautiful leaf or palm frond, between them.
“That gives you that modern organic vibe that is very popular now,” he said.
He visits nurseries to look for tree trunks and branches that are being thrown out but can be recycled as artwork. “Use it as organic artwork. It really brings a feel to a room,” he said.
He also suggested asking the nursery for a slice of tree trunk, then decoupage some family photos onto it, leaving areas where the rings on the wood will show. Then coat it all with shellack and hang it.
If you’re not handy with a glue gun or staple gun, you can find paintings and posters at flea markets, garage sales, craft fairs and swap meets; even hotel sales can be a source of original artwork.
Local art and photography schools are another source; many hold sales of students’ work. And it’s a good way to support your community, said Fontana.
“We have a photography school nearby and they have sales,” said Kemp Becker. “You can go to a flea market and buy frames and frame them and they look incredible.”
Goil has bought art at student sales sponsored by his alma mater, Yale University. It’s a good source of one-of-a-kind art ó and maybe a future masterpiece, he said. “These are the new waves, or the next big thing.”
Finding or making unconventional artwork, the experts say, just takes some imagination and the nerve to follow your own taste.
On the Net:
http://www.kirstenkemp. com/
http://www.frankfontana. net/