Mad About . . .

Where do you buy your art?

7th July 2020
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I realised the other day that this is a question I am asked a lot. Along with being asked to promote various poster shops and art galleries and designs. And, to be honest, it’s not something I tend to do because what you hang on your walls is so personal isn’t it?

bisque tetro radiator volcanic image by madaboutthehouse

I mean budget can often dictate that we buy our sofas in broadly the same places and when one person discovers a good source of lamps we all go rushing over to see, but when it comes to what you choose to hang on, or lean against, your walls it’s a chance to really do something different.

Although, not everyone does. Instagram has certainly meant that we see a lot of the same prints from the same places and while there’s nothing wrong with that if you truly like the work on offer I thought I would share some ideas of ways to find things to hang on your walls that might be a little different from everyone else’s.

gallery wall at madaboutthehouse: balloon by sivan sternbach (gifted)

gallery wall at madaboutthehouse: balloon by sivan sternbach (gifted)

So yes we do have a gallery wall of pictures of the boys taken in front of the same statue outside the same restaurant that we go to every year. I don’t show it here because it’s their privacy but visitors to the house either friends, colleagues or those coming for location shoots will have seen it on the landing outside my office. It starts when they are two and four and will hopefully continue this year as they are 19 and 17 and if that isn’t the perfect reason to make them come on holiday with us for at least one week every year I don’t know what is.

But family photos aside the joy, for me, of a gallery wall is that it can be a vertical diary of a family. We have envelopes of maps, postcards and museum tickets from various trips to America (way back before the boys were born), we have tickets from gigs we went to and olive oil splattered menus from favourite restaurants and memorable meals. All these things can be framed and hung on the wall to create massive, living gallery wall which will jog happy memories every time you walk past.

faux fern from rockett st george at kws madabouthehouse.com

One of my favourites is a tiny drawing on the corner of restaurant table mat when The Mad Husband asked my then 14yo what was the music playing in the background. Back came a swift Venn Diagram (based on his father’s musical tastes): if it’s a solo artist it’s Bob Dylan and if it’s a band it’s The Beatles. Mounted and framed, that never fails to bring back memories of a beautiful summer evening. For the record it was David Bowie.

The pictures in the top photograph are all magazine covers, sourced initially from an antiques market in Italy and subsequently on Italian eBay. The only rule being that we must have visited the place in question before it is allowed to hang on the wall. There is currently one exception: Lake Como (bought because we liked it and before we made the rule. It’s our 20th wedding anniversary this year… I remain hopeful.)

Covid poster limited edition by Annie Atkins

Covid poster limited edition by Annie Atkins

Elsewhere on our walls we have photographs we (well all right he) have taken, pictures by the boys – both at nursery and for GCSE, as well as one by his grandfather and one or two that we have bought from galleries over the years to create a modest collection.

The point being that none of it is expensive, much of it free – apart from the framing and every single piece brings back a memory or means something to us.

More recently, during the lockdown of the last 100 days I have acquired two more pieces. One of which is waiting to be framed and the other the Stay Home plate by Laetitia Rouget of Shoopy Studio, is below.

Stay Home plate by Laetitia Rouget of Shoopy Studio

Stay Home plate by Laetitia Rouget of Shoopy Studio

So don’t throw away the cinema ticket from your first date, keep some of the avalanche of children’s drawings and print out your phone snaps. They will all look beautiful on the walls of your house telling the story of the people that live there and that, ultimately is what it’s all about. Your home should be your personal art gallery. Do share examples of what you have hanging on your walls. We might all like new ideas.


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  • Shop If You Can – Perfect Home Digest 14th July 2020 at 3:42 pm

    […] she has some really interesting pictures that you won’t have seen elsewhere and if you read this post from last week you’ll know why I like […]

  • CJ 13th July 2020 at 3:51 pm

    Love this! I’m actually thinking about buying some new art to hang over the couch in the living room.

  • Anna 10th July 2020 at 2:26 pm

    What ever you hang on your walls I would say that a top quality frame will make even a flour bag look amazing.
    It is worth paying a professional to make your frames for you.

  • Helen England 9th July 2020 at 10:52 am

    I completely agree with you, I think hardly any of the art in my house was bought. In my living room I have a huge, amazing embroidered pheasant, done by a friend of my parents from a photo my Dad took and I’m sat WFH in the dining room looking at a collection of black and white pictures of Paris that I took which are in assorted frames painted black by my fair hand.

  • Ellen Reed 8th July 2020 at 4:21 pm

    Oh thank you for encouraging “personalized walls”. It is so hopeful to walk into another’s home (Pre-COVID) and see who they are by the items they cherish. Store bought means just that.

  • Liz Reid 8th July 2020 at 2:15 pm

    We’ve got a real mix of things too – I think everything looks better framed, from son’s primary school drawings to postcards to ceramic tiles. The fridge is the exception to the framing rule – covered in peeling, blu tacked drawings and doodles.

    I also frame all the bits and pieces I pick up on walks – urchins, shells, sea glass, delicate bird skulls – you name it, and I will have displayed it in an old printer’s tray. They have brought back fond memories of beach combing while stuck indoors during lockdown. Very enjoyable to make and when I sell the occasional one on Etsy, then I use this in my defence when my family say I’m becoming a Channel 5 hoarder!

    Most recent addition to the walls has been botanical cyanotype prints – a lockdown project that was going so well till the rain came on for Glasgow summer!

  • Susan 7th July 2020 at 5:02 pm

    I have a wall in my study that has posters and postcards from galleries and exhibitions we’ve visited, along other odd pieces of ephemera that we’ve picked up on our travels overseas. Every time I look at it I’m taken back to that specific place and all the adventures we had there!

  • Claire 7th July 2020 at 3:37 pm

    I’ve just rejigged a gallery wall in my kitchen, bringing together vintage needlework pieces from the sixties, cards I’ve kept because I like them and they remind me of the people who sent them and the occasion they marked, small original pieces, listed edition prints, and a tea towel. It feels very personal to me and I know I won’t see it anywhere else. I’m also a big fan of vintage and limited edition plates.Loving your Annie Atkins and Laetitia Rouget pieces. A lovely way to mark this weird time.

  • Elaine Hindson 7th July 2020 at 3:13 pm

    I just buy what I love, and have been known to base a whole room’s colour scheme on a painting I’ve bought, but usually it’s the other way round, and the wall colour comes first. I painted my kitchen a deep plum colour and had an empty wall to fill. My son was throwing out his BTEC sketchbooks, but was unaware that I’d been through them and ripped out a batique design he’d made of a pair of old trainers, (inspired by Van Gogh’s paintings of old shoes). It’s really vibrant, with a patchwork of mustard, green and deep crimson. I had it framed, and it goes perfectly on that blank wall. I enjoy it every day when I’m working at the breakfast bar.

  • monique cox 7th July 2020 at 1:45 pm

    Years ago I collected vintage Gourmet magazines covers (many from 40s and 50s) for the beautiful art work of the cover and have framed them to have artwork in the kitchen.

  • Elizabeth Buckeridge 7th July 2020 at 1:23 pm

    We have a few rules for our gallery walls too. We have the art framed in black or gold and it all has a memory attached to it. A lot of the art is from Brad’s travels. Family memories. Some I painted or our daughter painted or friends painted. We are lucky to have a lot of artist friends. We live in a town that has a strong artist community with a wet paint auction every year.

  • Longdenlife 7th July 2020 at 12:10 pm

    My house is a mixture of artwork from photos (of the dog), a couple of investment paintings I saved up for, some limited edition prints, framed cards, pictures I may have ‘borrowed’ from my mum, textiles (woven hangings) I have made myself and bought, etchings from vintage fairs, car boot sales, art and craft fairs. I’ve also found graduate shows at art colleges a really good place to look. I work in a school and have even bought a couple of pieces from A level students that really grabbed me.

    I am planning to renovate my very tatty box room/home office/laundry dumping ground, painting the walls in a dark teal or blue then hand all my art in a ‘salon hang’ type style to put everything on show as a lot is propped up against the wall at the moment

  • Claire 7th July 2020 at 9:40 am

    Love this. We have lots of random art that we’ve picked up over the years but I do need to do better at printing picture!

  • Susan Halpe 7th July 2020 at 9:36 am

    What a lovely, lovely post this morning! Of course – in these times of gloom and uncertainty it’s wonderful to have our memories of golden days and happy times up there on our walls where we can see them.


    • Melanie clarke 7th July 2020 at 2:18 pm

      Try @artistsupportpledge artists selling work for under £200 then when reach £1000 sales pledge to buy another artist’s work. Started by @matthewburrows

      • Suze 10th July 2020 at 6:42 pm

        Argh the art support pledge has taken all my money – there was always another beautiful painting… It’s addictive!

  • Art & Hue 7th July 2020 at 9:27 am

    & bespoke pop art prints of beloved family pets of course!

  • Celia 7th July 2020 at 8:02 am

    Like a lot of people, I struggled to find bread flour at the beginning of Covid. After a lot of time waiting in online queues, I finally scored a 25kg bag – it’s nearly finished, just as we are emerging from this crazy time, so I’m seriously wondering if I should get the empty bag framed. Nothing more comforting than homemade bread, the bag served us well!

    • Jilly 8th July 2020 at 2:24 pm

      You should definitely do this 🙂

    • Ellen Reed 8th July 2020 at 4:23 pm

      Excellent idea.

    • Andrea 10th July 2020 at 4:51 am

      I love that idea!

  • Sandra 7th July 2020 at 7:45 am

    I framed (and will hang) a few magazine covers with historic articles that I really enjoyed.

  • Mandy W 7th July 2020 at 7:32 am

    I’m right with you on this – I live in a 3 storey Victorian house and have a massive gallery wall of about 200 pictures and photos up the stairway, following the line of the stairs. It is a photographic record of my family from 1898 ( all different shapes and sizes of frame). Not a particularly original idea but the family pics are interspersed with art work ( framed cards) from my two favourite places: rural Scotland and north Norfolk + prints of Victorian egg collections. It took weeks to do ( laid it out in sections on the floor) but it gives me such happiness every time I go up the stairs ( background paint is F & B Ammonite).

  • Pamela Farnworth 7th July 2020 at 7:25 am

    Hi Kate – Could you tell me the paint colour of the radiator in the first photo please?
    I so enjoy reading your articles, thankyou.

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 7th July 2020 at 10:05 am

      It’s their standard grey from bisque for the teatro radiator (made from recylcled aluminium cans) I think it might be volcano but it’s like downpipe if you wanted to paint your own x

  • Jodie 7th July 2020 at 7:22 am

    Ah we do that too; with the same photos in the same place each year. I’ve not gotten round to printing them though. I have 9 years worth now!
    Right, off to get them printed!

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