Styling a vintage home can be a tricky business! Aside from the constant threat of moth infestation and dodgy stains on your upholstery – clutter can be a real problem. How many times have you bemoaned your lack of space only to squeeze in one more ‘must-have’ coffee pot, lampshade or chair?
But if you do find yourself running out of space, there’s always the option to go vertical. By my (slightly suspect) calculations the average UK home has around 100 square metres of wall space begging to be filled. Yet people tend to be a little timid about displaying their art and satisfy themselves with the odd print dotted about here and there. Here at the Picture Emporium we find a sparsely populated wall vaguely depressing, and tend to favour the maximalist approach of cramming in as much in as humanly possible without social services getting involved.
You may already have your favourite vintage artists that you are collecting (Tretchikoff? Lynch? Vernon Ward?) but try to mix and match. Hunt around in boot fairs and sales for quirky pencil drawings, sepia photographs, vintage adverts and posters. The covers of old music scores in reclaimed frames make for colourful and inexpensive decoration.
And it’s not all about pictures. Unusual clocks, mirrors, masks and plates are all legitimate wall-candy. In her book Wonder Walls, vintage expert, Sarah Bagner (aka Supermarket Sarah) showcases walls from around the world featuring everything from buttons, to dresses and even dried lobsters. http://www.supermarketsarah.com
Be creative with the hangers themselves. Some pictures and mirrors come equipped with beautiful old chains that are well worth displaying; or you could experiment with pretty (yet sturdy) ribbon and string. Bull dog clips are an effective, inexpensive way to hang unframed pictures.
Now you have amassed your collection it’s time to get hanging. One option is to go for an all-out eclectic arrangement in which framed butterflies jostle for space with portraits of 19th Century vicars. But grouping similar objects can be an equally effective way of presenting your collections. A bevy of bevelled mirrors can look stunning on a bathroom wall. Vintage greetings cards look great displayed in wire postcard holders or you could experiment by clustering a selection of Edwardian photographic portraits (try a theme – men with moustaches for example!).
It’s tempting to plough straight in with the hammer but take your time and arrange the pictures on the floor first to make sure you are happy with your look. I like to go with what feels right but if you are a stickler for the rules, there’s quite a useful tutorial on how to align your pictures in an aesthetically pleasing way here: http://www.thinctanc.co.uk/design/hanging_pictures.html
Drawing around the pictures in brown paper and sticking them on your wall will help you recreate the look accurately.
I generally try to group my pictures fairly low on a wall as this puts them at eye-level (although in practice I usually end up covering every square inch in any case). Go for unusual places – an overhang on the stairs, the thin strip between a door and wall or above a picture rail.
This isn’t a DIY guide but there is obviously a danger of bashing your thumbs and electrocuting yourself, so make sure you use the correct tools and check for wiring with voltage detectors (follow this link for more practical tips: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/mar/01/diy.homes7) Happy hanging!