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How To Create An Interesting Display


The paintings on the wall in our feature living room are an eclectic mix to say the least. What I found most interesting is how they were arranged for display. While it may seem that they were thrown up there willy-nilly there is actually a method to the madness.

First, the neutral, taupe wall colour (which mimics the taupe stripes in the sofa) lends itself nicely to the bright paintings and cheerful upholstery. This earthy tone makes the artwork pop while providing a neutral base for the entire room. The colours in the modern paintings work well with the furniture and accessories. If one chose to use yellow paint on the walls the paintings would not appear as vivid as they do with a neutral background.


There are several interesting displays in this living room. First, of course, is the grouping of paintings. The use of colour and scale is quite eye catching and the paintings are hung quite low for maximum impact. The largest one is almost touching the sofa. This is one aspect of hanging artwork that will create instant drama; hang the items lower on the wall.

While the paintings are of varying sizes they work well together. The space between each painting is relatively the same and this is an important rule in creating successful groupings. If you find that your wall display just isn’t cutting it you might want to rehang the items to ensure even spacing between them.

The vintage 1970s photograph in the middle is somewhat of a surprise but one that still works. The lesson here is to throw in a surprise or two in whatever display you’re creating. The item could be anything from a round wall clock to a colourful textile. I’d probably lean toward a more three-dimensional item like a sailboat on a shelf or a weathered barn board sign.


The tabletop display on the side table continues the colour scheme of blue and yellow with its blue globe and bright-yellow ceramic dish. These might not be the type of items you’d necessarily find attractive but probably have sentimental value to the homeowner. The lesson here is to display what you love. Photos of great vacations, items from nature (bird nests, seashells, driftwood), your children’s artwork or treasured antiques are all things that will put a smile on your face when displayed in your home. It’s not just about how the room looks but also about how it makes you feel.


Whether you want to create a display on a sofa table, piano or buffet the rules are pretty much the same. Use scale, shape, colour, texture and a little whimsy when putting your items together. You have to play around with the arrangement before you’ll find a display that works, so be patient. The arrangement should change periodically to keep your décor fresh. You’ll have more success if you keep like things together. Atop my old upright piano are all of the small candleholders that were once scattered around my home. When placed all together (especially when lit) the collection of varying styles and sizes comes together in one harmonious display.


To keep open bookshelves, entertainment units etc. visually interesting you need to break up the display of books with accessories. Use varying colours, shapes and finishes for maximum impact. For example, at the end of the top shelf you may place something like a red ceramic vase; on the next shelf down place a family photograph more toward the opposite side of the shelf in between some of the books. Place some books on their side (as book ends) to break up the monotony. Houseplants that drape, like ivy or ferns, can provide texture and soft touches to a bookshelf display as well. Above all, pull the books (or CDs, DVDs) toward the front of the cabinet so that the spines are near the front edge of the shelf and not all pushed toward the back. This will unify the overall look and make reading the spines a little easier.


Items like CDs are not especially attractive when stacked out in the open so consider using decorative boxes to store them. This will keep them at the ready but out of sight. I found that photo storage boxes work well and are pretty enough to be out on display on a tabletop or on a bookshelf. They also have lids and are fairly sturdy which keeps the CDs protected and dust free. If you find storage boxes on sale that may not match your décor you can cover them with fabric or wallpaper so that they’ll co-ordinate with your room.

If you really don’t know where to begin it’s a good idea to study displays in magazine photos or on the Internet. The more interesting displays that you come across the more ideas you can bring home for your space.

– Connie Oliver is an interior

designer from Winnipeg



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