No element of decorating says more about us than the personal photographs we display. Three interior designers share tips and tricks — and also vent their pet peeves — for using personal photos in home decorating. Melissa Rayworth, for the Associated Press
Tell your story
Candid shots, rather than posed portraits, will help visitors to your home understand who you are, says Genevieve Gorder, host and chief designer on HGTV's Genevieve's Holiday Home.
Brian Patrick Flynn, editor of decordemon.com, agrees: "When I fall in love with a photograph, it's 100 percent of the time because there's a personal link to it." His favorite is "a family photo that looks like a moment in time was captured."
If you're having professional photos taken, consider hiring a photographer who will capture family members doing activities they love, rather than posing at a studio. And he's not a fan of everyone dressing alike: "In real life, you don't all wear the same button-down shirt and jeans. So don't do it in a photo."
Public vs. private
"The main thing about personal photos is to remember that they're personal," says Los Angeles-based interior designer Betsy Burnham. Consider which photos are best in private spaces, such as bedrooms or an upstairs hallway, and which belong in rooms where you greet guests, she says.
"Team photos are fun in a kids room, on a bookshelf, to watch how they grew over time," Burnham says. "But those are never the best photos of any of us, nor the most interesting. Let friends look at something that's going to pique their curiosity."
"Oftentimes we're not the best of photographers," Gorder says. "But with all the tools we have, it's really easy to make (poor photos) into something great," she says.
Technology also allows you to create new items out of your favorite photos, including customized coffee-table books from sites like Shutterfly.com.
Flynn sometimes makes photo murals for clients — a single image blown up to nearly wall-size "and printed on the sort of vinyl used to make billboards," he says.
Create a gallery
A collection of photos can be the perfect way to decorate hallways and staircases.
"Make a statement by choosing one big wall for an enormous gallery grouping and mixing up, say, 20 different framed photos from throughout the years, some in really thick, traditional baroque gold frames, some ultra-modern stainless steel, others lacquered bamboo," Flynn says. "Those varying textures and shapes and finishes will tell a story that accentuates those beautiful images."
Keep things close enough together that it's clearly a set, he says. "People sometimes stagger them with huge gaps in between and you don't know if it's a collection or not."
Collections of framed photos also can look great on a side table or piano. Be sure to vary heights, maybe mixing in a vase or other tall objects.