Interior Design

Why the Best Wall Art Isn't Art at All

June  1, 2015

There are those things we eat, make, read, and gush over that are just too good to keep to ourselves. Here, we resist the urge to use too many exclamation points and let you in on our latest crushes.

Today: Why you shouldn't limit your wall art to paintings in frames. 

Not Wall Art Amanda Sims Alexis Anthony Rocky Luten
Slumped over antique hangers and strung from lengths of twine, your throws can act as wall art while you're not using them.

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Like any good pack rat, I seem to attract useless things and buy them with a certain abandon: old, mysterious oddities with a story I'll probably never know, broken lights and murky bottles and plates I wouldn't eat off of, and anything tiny. Ornaments. Old books I do not intend to read. Maps and beads on strings and wee journals with pages too small to write on. They're like little friends! What, you prefer people?

I've always been this way, refusing to let go of even the least memorable knick knacks, and learning to display them has been more for the sake of storage than a way to decorate. Think vertically, a salesperson at Bed Bath & Beyond once told me while I fretted over where to keep "things" in my college dorm room—and it was excellent advice. In a past, more suburban life, this meant bookshelves, closet shelves, bathroom counters, bedside tables, and bins galore. In a dorm room, it meant avoiding the issue entirely and leaving things at home.

In the present, wherein three sides of my bed touch three sides of my room—but it's my room where I want all my "things"—it means walls. 

Not Wall Art Amanda Sims Alexis Anthony Rocky Luten
Julia Child famously hung her kitchen tools from a peg board; mixing some useful with curious antique ones makes for decor worth talking about.

With the usual suspects of a dusty toolbox—hammer, nails, good twine, and sticky things—most any collectibles (and I sling that term loosely, meaning any small-ish object you own without a home) can become wall art (critics and art theorists be damned). Even if you're not facing a storage conundrum, hanging your odds and ends is an excellent way to add curb appeal and texture to any wall. Plates are a fine place to start if you're new to the idea: Use removable hanging adhesives to tack up wooden chargers or splatterware lids, and spring-loaded plate hangers to suspend weightier ceramic types.

Once you start believing in the power of wall art that isn't art, the options multiply. A twist of hanging wire around the limb of a large serving spoon (or any kitchen tool without a hole for a hook) can be looped to make a hanger. Tack an ornament up beside a few paintings and add depth by dragging a floor lamp over to act as part of the arrangement. Hang a wire basket by mounting c-shaped cup hooks and letting it cling to the wall—a cozy home for tools, blankets, candles, plants, or books. Or simply lean empty frames against the base boards, leaving them just the way they fall to fill that space beside the sofa. 

Finally, use cords. My mom and I hung a large mirror once by stringing a rusty chain over a high up pipe and hoisting the piece to eye level—though I recommend guaranteeing it can bear weight before doing so. In the same vein, a loop of twine hooked simply on a sturdy high nail will turn anything on an old hanger into art. 

Not Wall Art Amanda Sims Alexis Anthony Rocky Luten
Wall space by the floor is fair game, too, and doesn't require any hammer and nail acrobatics at all.

The love of pretty old things is a bug that's contagious here at Food52: We plate food for photography on delicate antique props and have watched our brilliant Art Director Alexis turn a bowl of clothespins into an inspiring coffee table conversation piece. But no matter your style—neutral and minimal, jovial and unexpected, warm and weathered—the art of looking up (and leaving things there) will leave your tabletops less cluttered, your mind a little clearer, and your home a little more you. Hammer away.

Photos by Rocky Luten

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Written by: Amanda Sims

Professional trespasser.


HRH June 2, 2015
I am all over this! need to head to the garage for some hardware...
Kristen M. June 1, 2015
Look out, walls—I'm coming for you.
Shelley M. June 1, 2015
So wooden hangers are seen as 'antique'? God, I'm old.
Jache June 1, 2015
thank you, thank you, thank you! i've been in my apartment almost a year and i've been slowly decorating. i'm on a budget and while i am saving for my dream pieces, i want to be able to upgrade and elevate my space without having to dip in those reserved funds. i do have a lot of space, but i also have a lot of "things" (semi-hoarder :/) so this is such a WONDERFUL idea. it allows me to be as creative as i want and i can change things as often as i want. this is my first lunch break i've taken in a while and this was the first thing i saw. i'm breaking more often! :)
Author Comment
Amanda S. June 4, 2015
Wonderful! Thanks for reading and sharing!
Laura K. August 26, 2015
AS - any idea where the chair from the last image of this post is from? Love. love. xo!
Lauren K. October 18, 2015
Laura, it's vintage—the wood was stripped of its finish to get that lightness (although it means it will stain with use, but everyone at Food52 likes visible wear that comes with time), and then the cushions were reupholstered with a cozy fabric.