Artsy Fartsy

Chef Kev will think it's funny that I used the word 'fart' in a title #guyhumour. My mom won't #sorrymom!

Earlier this week I shared with you the updates we did in our living room. For those who missed it you can read about it here - but basically it is our new curtains and panelled wall. 

We used to have art hanging over the couch and behind the dining table. 

But it was taken down when we put up the awesomesauce panelling. 

As juicy as the panelling is, the spot above the sofa still looked a little bare. The couch is such a similar colour that it almost blends into the wall.

In an ideal world I'd also love to update the throw cushions (bring in something more modern with hits of grey) and that lamp is totally the wrong lamp for the space but Rome wasn't built in day and neither was my living room. I'd actually really love a dark charcoal couch there but I digress... We work with what we have right!? And what I have is a small budget.

Okay, so the painting I did of Chace didn't work in this spot any more so he got moved to the basement. Sorry nugget!

Where he went up, four black frames came down. I'm going to reuse three of them here.

I was originally thinking of framing some black and white prints in them but then I had another idea. 

One of my favourite tricks is framing 'art' from what are known as 'mill swatches'. In my industry (Graphic Design) mill swatches are a designers' best friend. Think of them as the paint swatch deck to a painter, the surgical tools to a surgeon (dramatic yes) or Sriracha sauce to anything Chef Kev eats. Hand in hand my friend.  

Mill swatches are booklets put out by the different paper mills showcasing their paper. The swatches show different weights, colours and what sizes the paper is available in. They also contain a bunch of information about how the paper is produced, recycled content of the stock etc. In addition to this, the mill swatches also show examples of different printing processes to show how the paper stock takes ink. As you can imagine, each paper has different qualities and the imagery plays into that. For example, a shiny slick coated stock may be used in producing a car pamphlet (as it makes the car look new, shiny and fancy) so they may showcase imagery of the sort. An uncoated stock with high recycled content may boast imagery of fabrics or something much more tactile and textured. Mill swatches are awesome reference for Graphic Designers.

Sometimes the paper mills also put out what is known as 'printed samples'. Printed samples are design pieces with amazing imagery showcasing multiple lines of the mill's paper and various techniques. These are my faves. The designs and processes used can be breathtaking. And yes, I am 100% a design nerd and totally okay in admitting it. 

And that pic is actually a self portrait that I took of myself stuck in a traffic jam. I guess my nerdness knows no bounds...

Okay, but back to this! 

Here is what mill swatches and printed samples look like.

I've framed images from other mill swatches and printed samples in the past. In our main floor bathroom for example...

I have a set of three up but they are a bit hard to shoot together so here is the other one...

and a I've used printed sample imagery again in a corner of our entry way.

Back to the pile above though, here are the 'series' that caught my eye as possible options.

Tickets. I loved the colour here but didn't really want to cut the picture up in to three sections. I was worried it would lose the feeling that this single image captures.

Pay-per-view binoculars: these are just three but you can see under the middle one that there are a few more poking out.

Black & white to colour imagery: thought this was interesting, especially since black & white was my first instinct...

And this one here full of different rulers and the like.

I was still a bit torn so I propped up each 'set' against the frames sitting on the back of the couch. I did each one like this...

And then I made my choice. Spoiler alert - it's the pay-per-view binocular series! I loved the colours and mood of these pics. I had to go with them.

Then I set about framing them. The frames are quite old but I think I got them from Real Canadian Superstore (about 10 years ago)! 

I have a few framing tricks for you though to make your framed pieces look like a million bucks. Number one is to have your mats custom cut. The word 'custom' can conjure up images of dollar signs but it's actually not expensive at all. If memory serves, these were $7 each and you end up with beautiful thick mats that really highlight whatever you are framing. I like to make them nice and generous. I find the ones that come in the frames are always a bit skimpy and have very thin margins. Ample white space = great showcasing of your subject. I think they look more like gallery pieces this way. I had the foyer and bathroom ones shown earlier custom cut too.

My second tip is to put a piece of tape on the backside top edge of your photo/picture/art print with the sticky side facing up. This way, when you centre your image in the mat opening all you have to do is lightly press down on the top of the opening and your image will get 'tacked' in to place. Then you can flip the mat over and tape your image securely in place to reinforce it. 

After all three were framed I marked the wall using a level and a pencil. Then I turned to my favourite 3M picture hanging strips. I love these things. Easiest way to hang art without ever damaging your wall. Golden. I  used the strips like this on two of the frames but placed them top and bottom middle for the centre frame (as it is on the moulding versus the flat wall as you will see). 

So here is the 'before' again for you...

And the 'after'!

Here are some close ups of the art prints. 

right hand side:



I love how the soft haze in the photos really helps link the cream in the couch to the grey on the wall. And because I used what I had on hand this whole project probably cost me less than how much one of those pay-per-view binoculars charge! The only supply I had to get was some new picture hanging strips because I was out. 

A few more angles for you...

I think it really finishes off the space and helps identify the 'living room' area in this open concept space (the dining table is just to the right of this area).

What about you? Any picture hanging tips or favourite things to frame? Any secret nerd confessions that you are just dying to get out? Please share ;)


  1. Wow those mill swatches are GOLD! Love it! And that panelled wall is way beautiful!


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