Q: We found some great old family portraits when we were cleaning out my great aunt's attic and garage. I don't know who they are and don't care but would love to hang them in our living room. This would have to happen over my wife's protests because everything else is pretty contemporary. Any thoughts?
A: I think you should already be reaching for the hammer and picture hangers: nothing adds more personality to a room than personal artworks, especially family portraits.
The trick is to blend them in with the overall decor of a room. "Nothing should be noticed," to quote Bunny Mellon (she, with her husband Paul Mellon, enriched all our lives with extraordinary bequests to art museums around the country).
Mellon meant that everything should work together in a room. The whole is always greater than the sum of its parts in decorating, too. The room we show here offers a good example. It's in the Chicago home of architect/designer Suzanne Lovell (we borrowed the photo from her handsome new book, "Artistic Interiors"). In keeping with the carefully balanced furniture arrangement in her living room, Lovell has hung two l9th-century portraits of family members so they flank a large piece of contemporary art.
The portraits' gold frames complement the golden glow of the larger piece (a tar! painting by the contemporary artist Greg Stone), and echo the gold in the leopard print used in combination with longhaired cowhide on the art deco-style armchairs.
The portraits balance the room arrangement, just as the sofa's chaise is balanced by the large, low coffee table. Note how the dark backgrounds of the painting are offset by the dark upholstery and end tables. Achieving such balance is a dance best done by eyeballing, at which Lovell is a seasoned pro. But don't let that keep your newfound family members out of your home. There's nothing wrong with trial-and-error decorating. Helpful hint: Put a square of masking tape on the wall before you drive in the picture hanger. It keeps the plaster from shattering, so you can rearrange things without too much collateral damage.
Q: Where do new designs and patterns come from?
A: Forget the stork: SURTEX brings them.
If you haven't heard of SURTEX, that's because it's a trade fair, a market that's open to the trade only -- the manufacturers, retailers and other sources that come to the show to buy or license original design ideas and patterns to use on new products.
They're coming some 6,000 strong from all over the globe to New York this week, where the 26th annual edition of the show will feature about 300 exhibitors, artists and agents. They have the art and patterns you'll be living with in 2013 and 2014, on everything from fabrics and bedding to greeting cards, table- and giftware, apparel, stationery, toys, and books.
It's a global market with sales estimated at $150 billion, and who knew? Now you do.
Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Manhattan style" and six other books on interior design. To find out more about Rose Bennett Gilbert and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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