If walls could talk...

Well before our daughter left for college last month, she was planning, like many incoming freshman — particularly girls, I have learned —  her room decor. We had already purchased the requisite comforter, sheets, cozy throw, small rug, husband (backrest), and a plethora of coordinating toss pillows … next she had to turn her attention to the dorm wall — a large, boring blank canvas — behind her bed. What could be easily hung up and removed (leaving no visible marks), would brighten up the place, and yet was affordable?

After looking at photos of other college dorms rooms on Instagram and Pinterest, she decided to print out color copies of some of her favorite phrases, destinations, and things (“Nevertheless, she persisted,” Washington, D.C., and an illustration of some cute pairs of sunglasses, respectively). Before she could say, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Mom and Dad,” she was hanging up her art with the removable adhesive squares we had purchased. She even texted me a photo of the final result.

As hoped, the pictures really brightened up the space, and made her feel at home (she has similar “artwork” on her bedroom walls at our house). This is an easy, affordable way to dress up virtually any wall, and it got me thinking about other options, whether for a dorm room or the family room in your own home. If each room in your house has approximately four walls of potential “decorating space,” what can you do to make the most of it?

I decided to look up “wall decor” on Pinterest, and found literally thousands and thousands of ideas, beginning with macrame wall hangings and flower-filled hanging mason jars to giant paper flowers and ubiquitous strings of white lights. Tutorials included, “17 Stunning Wall Decors with Reclaimed Kitchen Utensils,”  “DIY Fabric Wall Art,” and, one my personal favorites, “50 Vintage Farmhouse Wall Decor Ideas,” to name just a few. I honestly don’t know how people decorated before the advent of the internet.

Recently, I ran into the Michael’s near our house to see what wall decor they were offering. Since it’s August, they were well into the Halloween season, of course, but I also found many early autumn options, including chalkboard signs, farmer’s markets signs, strings of light-up paper clips (with which to hang photos and artwork), framed glass panels that were painted with sayings such as, “Happy pumpkin spice season!,” a wooden cow, also touting a painted saying, decorative wreaths, galvanized metal wall ledges, seasonal wall hangers, and various clocks, among others (if you visit the Michael’s website and click on the Wall Decor & Mirrors tab, there are 21 pages, with 24 items per page — you do the math!).

Stores like TJ Maxx, Pier 1, and the Christmas Tree Shops are also good sources for affordable wall decor, but consider visiting local independent retailers and antiques dealers, as well. Severed Ties Antiques in New Canaan, for instance, featured beautiful framed botanicals and a framed 13-star American flag on its website recently … I don’t know the price, but these would make for remarkable pieces of art for the wall. And Browne & Co., a Darien retailer, carries wall decor including gold leaf bamboo, natural wood, and knotted seagrass mirrors, fern prints enclosed in acrylic, and photography by Phil Nelson Photography.

Websites like Wayfair and Ballard Designs also offer a comprehensive selection of wall art, including metal compasses, hanging planters, ceramic birds, textural art exit signs, woven hanging baskets, candle sconces, decorative cutting boards and shutters, giant safety pins, and even European pizza paddles … I could go on for days, literally. Practically anything can be repurposed as wall decor.

“Think outside the box when you’re trying to determine the perfect piece for the space. I love to hang wall art so that it mimics the shape of what is underneath it,” says Karli Smith, interior redesign specialist and owner of Trumbull-based Creative Homestylers (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Creative-Homestylers/326842070668632). “I also like finding coordinating pairs of pictures, like the chandeliers, and stagger them next to each other.”

Smith feels that one of the biggest mistakes people make is not hanging their artwork at the right height. “You want the bottom of the art to be 6 to 10 inches above the piece that’s anchoring it,” she says.

Smith likes to decorating mantles and large shelves because accessories can be overlapped and layered to achieve great depth and dimension. “You can also re-decorate easily without needing to patch any holes,” she says.

Jennifer Coleman, owner of JKC Designs in Ridgefield, says that when choosing wall décor, it’s important to consider the size of the wall and the scale of the art or décor you are selecting. “I always like to incorporate things that have meaning to my clients when selecting their art,” she says. “It can be something that reminds them of a trip or vacation, landscapes familiar from their childhoods or weekends away. Favorite colors, animals or flowers. utilizes wall art that is larger in scale and graphic format to dress up an otherwise plain wall.”

As I look around my house, from the living room to the kitchen to the bedroom, I see the many framed prints we have collected over the years, a painting given to us by a wonderful local artist and friend when she came for a dinner party, a few rustic, beribboned wreaths, the kitchen bulletin board I covered with my favorite black and white polka dot wrapping paper, and the blue and white dishes from both my grandmother and my husband’s mother, that we hung on the dining room wall. We didn’t pay much for this wall decor (although I’m pretty sure the painting is actually quite valuable, as I know the prices she gets for her works these days), but I love being surrounded by such beauty. Now I’m think that a few giant safety pins or European pizza paddles would make the place even better.