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Family memorabilia add character

(ran HS edition)

When you decorate, your own home accessories can serve as one of the key ways to establish a personality and character in your living space.

One good way to create a highly personal style is to incorporate items that represent milestones in your life, and collections, whether of teapots, snow domes, old silver baby cups, vintage watering cans or whatever you like to collect, can add character to your home's interior.

Here are ideas:

+ Family photographs, children's artwork and special printed pieces:

A good starting point to add nostalgia to your decor is to group framed family photographs in similar or matching frames on a tabletop, clustered on a shelf or mantel or arranged in a special spot on the wall. These photographs can serve as a visual family tree.

Wedding photographs, school pictures, graduation shots, vacation pictures, family gatherings and vintage photos of your grandparents and great-grandparents add a wonderful touch to any room.

To avoid a haphazard look, try to find photographs that are approximately the same size or have the photographs matted and framed so that the finished pieces are complementary or similar in color or mats.

Children's artwork can be a sweet one-of-a-kind design statement. These pieces can be matted or framed professionally to create an important look, attached to your refrigerator in your kitchen with colorful magnets for a homey look or graphically displayed on bookcase shelves or mantels for a modern look.

Special printed pieces such as birth announcements, wedding invitations, commencement programs, diplomas, birth certificates, christening certificates or school play brochures can be framed imaginatively and displayed as artwork.

A framed wedding invitation, your formal wedding portrait and a guest book from your special day makes a vignette with impact when displayed on a bedside table or on a console table in your foyer or hallway.

One friend even has hung framed front pages from local newspapers on the day his parents were married and the day he was born. These nostalgic art pieces are wonderfully graphic touches in his kitchen.

+ Family heirlooms, favorite childhood toys and special gifts:

Your grandmother's punch bowl, your great aunt's baby blanket, your childhood teddy bear, even your dad's set of golf clubs add charming accents to your home. Use these objects in unexpected ways for a fresh, appealing decorative touch.

If the object is watertight, use it as a vase or planter. Be certain to take care not to scratch or damage your beloved piece by padding the bottom with some paper toweling, cotton wadding or florist's clay.

If the object is not watertight, such as a basket, old toy truck or other similar items, place the plant or flowers in a watertight container (such as an old glass jar, aluminum can or plastic container) to place inside your heirloom.

Try to think of new uses for your treasures, whether as a potpourri container, soap dish, nut bowl, centerpiece for your dining room table or simply as a decorative object when placed on a shelf, mantel or tabletop.

Don't forget the space under your tables or in the corners of your room.

+ Collections:

Collections create a graphic and personal focal point in your interiors. Try clustering your collections on shelves, tabletops, bookcases, mantels or windows for the greatest impact.

Take care to make certain that your collection is properly anchored and that the pieces do not touch one another, which can cause breakage or damage. Remember, it's impossible to replace rare or one-of-a-kind pieces.

For a more streamlined look, scatter your collections throughout your home and display two or three pieces together in a symmetrical or graphic manner.

Three small baskets placed in a straight line on a shelf creates a more tailored look, while 10 or more suspended from a hook in your kitchen creates a cozier look.

Whether it's a baby blanket used as a throw on your sofa, your baseball mitt tossed casually on a coffee table in your family room, your grandmother's teapot taking center stage as a vase on a console table in your foyer or your daughter's teddy bear sitting on a chair in your guest room, favorite objects add character, personality, and sometimes a touch of whimsy to our homes. Don't overlook them when creating your own special style.

Chris Casson Madden, host of the Home & Garden Television cable show Interiors by Design, is also author of 12 books, including the newly released Chris Madden's Guide to Personalizing Your Home, available in bookstores.