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From deadpan ancestors to smiling selfies: The right way to decorate your home

Multiple wall furnishings can be displayed without having it appear like clutter. Special to Forum News Service1 / 4
Invisible shelves can be a tidy way to display photos and momentos. Special to Forum News Service2 / 4
Cleverly arranged prints can create a dynamic display. Special to Forum News Service3 / 4
A simple way to add cohesiveness to a photo display is selecting frames that are all the same color. Photo courtesy of Designing Women 2 / Special to Forum News Service4 / 4

Many people have hundreds of pictures cluttering their cellphones. According to the photo website 1000memories, "Every two minutes today, we snap as many photos as the whole of humanity took in the 1800s."

Even though many of these photos won't ever be printed, some will end up framed and displayed on our walls. So how do you use photos to decorate your home without making your walls look as cluttered as the camera roll on your iPhone?

Designers say there are a few key things to think about.

Height

According to interior designers, one of the biggest mistakes people make when hanging photos (or any wall art) is hanging the frames too high.

"When you think about it, the majority of your time is spent sitting down," says Linda Birmingham of Designing Women 2 in Fargo.

Hang photos nearer to where you'll actually see them.

"We even look at open space between a table and chair and try to tuck a little piece of art in there. The client wasn't too sure about it at first, but told us later she loved it," Birmingham says.

When it comes to decorating, the room should be a series of peaks and valleys — with photos and other decor at varying heights.

"Having ups and downs in the room will give it a nice flow," Birmingham says.

For photos lining the wall of the staircase, make sure the frames climb the wall along with the steps, rather than hang in a straight line.

Color

One of the simplest ways to add cohesiveness in photo decorating is having all of the frames the same color. Different shapes can add interest but having a singular color ties the look together. Birmingham also says turning all of your color photos black and white can create a clean, modern look.

Honor the past

It might be easiest to use photos of present day, yet choosing a few old photos to intersperse with modern shots adds visual interest.

Not only is it fun to look at the clothing great, great grandparents wore when they first came to America, their deadpan expressions provide a stark contrast to the goofy, smiling selfies in the adjacent picture frames.

To up the vintage factor, place the photo in an antique frame found at a thrift store (or a faux antique frame).

Utilize technology

While we want to give a nod to the past, don't forget to utilize modern-day technology. Your favorite baby photo doesn't need to remain in a 4- by 6-inch frame. Enlarge it, add some effects and have it printed on a canvas.

Countless apps will help you experiment with your designs. PicsArt Photo Studio, a photo editing app, has been downloaded more than 300 million times. It allows users to turn photos into quirky, pop art designs.

The app Mixtiles allows users to place photos on 8 x 8-inch wall tiles that are perfect for setting up a grid-like photo wall. Each comes with four removable glue dots to attach the tile to the wall. The company promises the dots can be removed and reattached at least two dozen times.

Design

Most designers agree that it's OK to have a few photos here and there, but it's more pleasing to the eye to bring most of your photos together in a featured area, like one wall of your living room, a hallway space or climbing the stairway. Designers suggest planning exactly where you'd like to hang your photos before picking up the hammer.

"I've told people to consider picking out a main, larger photo for the center space of the wall and work around it," Birmingham says. "You might want to trace your frames on freezer paper and experiment with different patterns using the paper."

Another design option is to use shelving to display photos alongside other favorite items like lamps, vases or vintage books. Create a theme shelf of pictures of your family at the beach with a small seashell or a jar of sand alongside the frame.

By planning ahead and remembering some simple tips, photos can leave the clutter of the cellphone and become an inexpensive and pleasing way to add personality to your wall decor.

Tracy Briggs

‘The Great Indoors’ with Tracy Briggs appears every Thursday in The Forum. For more information go to her blog at thegreatindoors.areavoices.com.

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