One of my favorite things on earth involves creating a home and garden that help us exhale when we walk into it. That happy sigh of "this is my place, this is where I belong, this is what feeds my soul."
And while there are some amazing pieces of art I adore, and a couple of choice pieces that have followed me in all my travels over the years, the ones that I hold closest are the ones where the subject matter reflects people and/or places I love. And while I have mad respect for the "family photo hallways" (heck, we recreated a wall of it back in P-town), I've found a real love in displaying my memories in a more artistic way...which also allows me to be both sustainable and one-of-a-kind, since our budget could really only afford a cheap foam-mounted piece made in China from Ikea, get my drift?
A few key ideas to spur the brainstorming...
Have a simple photo blown up very, very, very large. Flowers and other nature photos are ideal for this one. Above our bed is a photo of a dahlia I took while in France. I never thought much of it until we were selling our first home, when we had to 'depersonalize' it for staging, and my agent asked if I had something simple to replace the personal photos with. I quickly went through my photos, found this dahlia, and it clicked. For a few bucks I had it blown up into a 20x30 print and popped it on the wall. I liked it so much it's actually been in our bedroom both on the farm and now back in the city!
Scan an old black & white photo of a loved one from way back when. A lot of folks think you need to have either the negative or a powerful digital file to enlarge photos for framing, and it's just not true. Sure, it might be a bit grainy when it's blown up to a 20x30, like this one of my great-grandmother that my dad gave me years ago when we were doing genealogy together, but really - does it matter? The photo was taken like a hundred years ago, and it is the first one anyone asks about when they come into our home. Who IS that, they ask, because she looks so darn cool and it takes up half the wall...definitely my favorite. (Note: I got this idea from my favorite restaurant of my first chapter in Seattle, the long-gone Kingfish Cafe that I lived around the corner from at the turn of the millenium, whose owners featured mural-sized photos of their family)
Frame a favorite concert poster! Hang onto a moment not with cheap thumbtacks in the corner like you did in high school, but rather in a simple frame. While not everyone's living room design concepts are of the graphic art variety, it's very cool to display them in a home office, guest bedroom, or - like my husband's beloved Sharon Jones poster brought over when he immigrated from Australia with just a couple suitcases - in the bathroom. It's a great way to protect the piece and definitely a conversation starter.
Gather multiple pictures based on the same theme, and either put them in one frame, or multiple separate frames. In our living room, I have four 16x20s with a Water theme, all color photos I took over the past decade, but printed in black & white on Shutterfly for a few bucks apiece. On our credenza, I have three photos of flowers taken when we were in Giverny, France, that add much-needed color to the room. If there are people in the photo and you're not sure if they 'go' like you'd like them to, play around with the images online in Google Photos or Shutterfly or what-not, experimenting with the exposure, trying it in black & white or sepia, and playing with the brightness, saturation, and other effects. It doesn't have to look like the original image - take this photo (below) of my coffee & journal that I took, then blew out the exposure on digitally. While I don't mess with 95% of my photos, sometimes using digital editing to exaggerate your own work can be kinda fun!
PS - Frames, you're thinking. Check out Goodwill...you'd be amazed at the options there, to keep you extra green AND save a ton.