Art Versus Decor

Print made for a private booth at Dressler’s Restaurant in Charlotte

One of the household projects Kathy & I have been dabbling with over the last year or so is some decorating.  We’ve been in our condo for just over 7 years, and other than buying new furniture and hanging some things on the walls it’s been pretty much the way it was when we moved in.  We just never got around to “finishing” it – traveling is way more fun!  But now that we’ve been spending more time here, spending less money on travel and are generally tired of looking at the same stuff, we’re trying to change things up a bit.

Print made for a hallway at Dressler’s Restaurant in Charlotte

When we downsized from our old house, we had a lot more prints hung there than we needed for our new place.  There were several that had been admired by friends and family, so I was happy to give some of them new homes.  Others I removed from the frames, stored the matted prints in an archival box, and they are under the bed.  I sent the frames to Goodwill.  I’ll probably never hang the prints again but I have them and they are out of the way.  I had new prints made for some specific places, but for the most part we just recycled prints that had been hung in our old house.  I haven’t wanted to spend money on prints for prints’ sake without a specific location to hang them.

One of two grids of prints made for a banquet room at Dressler’s Restaurant in Charlotte
One of two grids of prints made for a banquet room at Dressler’s Restaurant in Charlotte

I have never collected prints by other photographers.  I have several prints from photographers that mean a lot to me, and with the exception of one that needs framed, I have them displayed prominently (sadly, I don’t own a Curto 😉 ).  One of our rooms is dedicated to prints of paintings by an artist in St. Martin, and that room doesn’t need a thing.  But there are places in the house that just need decor.  We recently had our bedroom and bathrooms painted.  I have a beautiful grouping of prints on wood that I rehung in our bedroom over the dresser, but the other bedroom and bathroom walls are currently bare and awaiting our inspiration.

Prints made for the dining room of Dressler’s Restaurant in Charlotte

We’ve constantly struggled with the question of what to hang on the walls.  I obviously have a huge selection of photographic material, but (a) we’re both sensitive to the idea of not wanting our house to be a “photography gallery,” (b) there is only so much wall space and (c) deciding on what to print and hang is a huge challenge.  Printing and framing is expensive, and once we’ve put down a few hundred dollars for printing and framing (or for canvas or metal) we’ve always felt like we needed to be willing to live with it for a while.

Prints made for the ladies’ room of Dressler’s Restaurant in Charlotte
Print made for the men’s room at Dressler’s Restaurant in Charlotte

But is that really the case?  I consider a lot of my work to be “artistic” but I don’t consider myself to be an “artist” in the sense that any of my work will ever mean anything beyond a close circle of family & friends and a few “accidental” clients.  If I went to Ikea, brought home a carload of decor, hung it on the wall for a few years and then tossed it in the trash, so what?  But other than the fact that it’s my work and it cost me a bit more than Ikea, what’s the difference if I throw or give it away after I get done with it?  We don’t mind spending (say) $300 on a case of wine or a fancy dinner, so if we spend that same money on a few things to hang on the wall, I don’t see anything wrong with considering them to be “consumables.”  Better to give them away to an appreciative recipient of course, but we don’t have to live with them forever.

Print made for the bar at Dressler’s Restaurant in Charlotte

So the question I’m struggling with is this: If we consider replacing artwork to be no different than buying a new bedspread or draperies or having a chair reupholstered, so what?  As long as we’re good with the money, no one cares but us.  Yes, I would always try to find a new home for old pieces with someone who appreciates them.  But that appreciation is more likely to be because they came from me rather than them being an artifact with some kind of collectible value.  It feels a little weird to think of it that way, but I think it is OK.

Print made for the bar at Dressler’s Restaurant in Charlotte

10 thoughts on “Art Versus Decor”

  1. Interesting subject. I have never hung much of my work at home nor sold much of it. I was impressed how much you have already in businesses. Impressive and good work! Sounds like you two are getting right into the work of redecorating. This small condo limits me severely in what I can hang on walls. I have a couple of paintings in my bedroom and eight photos of mine in the livingroom. I would like to frame and hang some of my more current images, replacing the ones in the livingroom and the paintings in the bedroom. But that requires money that needs to be spent on mocha lattes and the new Fujifilm 70-300m lens.

    I have no answer to your question but will be interested in what you settle on. I really like these black and white architecture images!!!

    1. The backstory of the restaurant photos is that we are long-time customers of that particular restaurant and the others owned by the same family. We’ve gotten to know the owner and his wife quite well, and when they redecorated the wife called me to work with her on choosing prints. But still…pretty cool gig and I was paid in dinners! 🙂 And the photos look great in the space.

      I have had a few other sales, but as I mentioned they have been more “accidental,” stemming from fortunate search engine results more than my efforts at marketing. But still…pretty cool!

      That new lens is pretty tempting! I have the 55-200 and it suits most of my needs, but the idea of an “affordable” 450mm equivalent is pretty tempting. Realistically I might go for the 27, since I’ve been enjoying primes a lot these days and the two “holes” in my lineup would be the 27 and the 90. I was hoping that the X-E4 could be a backup for my X-T4 but the former uses a different battery. Not a deal breaker but something to think about. Plus, I have no real need for another camera body right now. Maybe tomorrow. 😉

  2. We have accumulated a lot of prints over the years and, like you, we are not interested in getting more prints. For the last 10 years, I have had one photo book (10″ x 10″) printed each year at the end of the year. Each book contains 40 photos from the past year that we liked the best. It satisfies my desire to see a physical print and they hardly take up any space. It’s interesting that many folks coming over to the house (remember those days?) want to take a look at those books.

    1. I like the book idea and have been procrastinating on starting that project for a while. The annual book is a great idea, especially in light of the fact that all of my photos are living on a hard drive, with no good way to share them with company other than sitting down at the computer.

  3. First time caller here. I find your architecture work exceptional! Really love how they work together. I bought a Canon photo printer a bit over a year ago and I’m now up to my knees in prints. I store them, some get framed, some are just experiments on a variety of papers. I just feel that a photo’s not finished until a print is produced. I like the idea of un-framing and storing as we’ll be moving soon and I really don’t want to deal with special packaging for frames so I may do what you did and donate the frames.
    I’ve been amiss in not reading your blog before this; not sure why as I’ve seen you comment on Monte’s. I’ve got you on my RSS feed now so please keep up the excellent work.

    1. Hi Joe, and thanks for calling in! 🙂

      I agree with you on the printing. I don’t print nearly enough but do enjoy the challenge of making a good print. Years ago I bought a Canon iPF5100, but it got to the point where the care and feeding was too much. After replacing print heads at $400 each (it had two) and ink cartridges at $80 each (it had 12!) I decided that I was done putting money into it. The next time a print head needed replaced I paid to have it hauled away and bought a Canon Pixma Pro-100. It’s only 13×19, the ink is more expensive per drop but it works great. Most of my printing now ends up on canvas or metal, so I just use the printer for proofing.

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