As anyone who dreams of Elle Decor on an IKEA budget knows, filling a space with art isn’t exactly easy on the wallet. So when I saw how much of the decor at our new Fifth Avenue store was D.I.Y. (and good D.I.Y. at that), I harassed our store decorator Ruth for her tricks of the trade (then proceeded to spill her secrets on our blog…).
Ruth’s philosophy, it turns out, is more Marcel Duchamp than arts and crafts (sorry, put the pipe cleaners away)
—repurposing everyday objects as works of art. Here’s her process in a nutshell…
Step one: Scour flea markets, vintage stores, eBay, your parents’ attic, etc., for everyday objects that look like
they could moonlight as works of art.
How can you tell? Look for “pieces with sculptural silhouettes, eye-catching textures and/or colors with a story behind them,” says Ruth. Among her finds for Fifth Avenue were vintage chalkboards, jettisoned letterpress letters and industrial gears, an old-school glass beaker set and stray pieces of driftwood—even a stack of National Geographics from 1959 made the cut, thanks to those iconic yellow spines.
Step two: It’s all about presentation—if you treat it like art, it’ll look like art
(it’s The Secret meets Architectural Digest, if you will).
A good rule of thumb is that everything looks better in a frame—think old letters, your childhood stamp collection—or under a bell jar. Alternatively, try arranging found objects of different shapes and sizes into little still lifes, like Ruth did with an odd assortment of wooden finials (ornamental accents you might find at the top of a bedpost). And always go for the unexpected. Case in point: The Fifth Avenue store displays paintings facing the wall because Ruth fell in love with the color and patina of the backs of the frames. And we’ve already shown you her huge textural mural of vintage gloves.
Basically, it’s all about seeing things with a new eye. And if you’re like me and would like that eye to belong to Ruth, check out the
Fifth Avenue store for some more inspiration.
(post by Alexandra Andrews)
Receiving almost as much attention as the clothes, the art at the gallery-esque Fifth Avenue store has a presence that’s undeniable. Ruth, our prop and window dresser extraordinaire, reveals the artists and just how many gloves there are. “The wall of art…is a mix of vintage and new, known artists from galleries and unknown artists unearthed in antique stores and flea markets.”
Women’s Cashwrap (clockwise from left)
- “This painting was bought in an antique store [artist unknown]. I’m crazy about this piece. It reminds me of an architectural floor plan.”
- Photograph by Patricia McDonough.
- Abstract painting on paper by Deborah Dancy. “We love this artist so much, we bought about a dozen pieces of her work.”
- Photograph of girl in car by Cig Harvey.
“This is my favorite piece in the whole store. It grabs your attention—it’s mysterious and arresting.”
- Red drawing of nude by Jean Negulesco.
- Vintage 1950s fashion photograph (artist unknown).
- Paper collage by Duncan Hannah. We almost bought out the entire collection of these collages from the ’70s and ’80s.
- Masking tape piece by Jon Ros.
- Black charcoal drawing (artist unknown, bought at a flea market).
- Art poster. “I love the graphics and color combination.”
Men’s floor stairway (clockwise from left)
- Vintage art poster from the Leo Castelli gallery.
“This is from a great collection of exhibition posters we found that date from the ’70s and ’80s.”
- Collage by Cecil Touchon.
- Photograph by Marc Yankus.
- Vintage Le Corbusier poster, sourced at an antiques show.
- Vintage film poster of “Blow Up,” from the personal collection of Frank Muytjens.
- Black and white pen and ink drawing. “Glenn and I were at the Brimfield Flea Market and he found this incredible collection of sketchbooks from one artist. This is one of them and so is the pen and ink portrait on the left wall.”
- Richard Serra poster from the Leo Castelli gallery.
- Abstract painting (artist unknown).
- Uncut dust jacket covers with drawing of Leo Castelli by Andy Warhol.
- Collage by Duncan Hannah.
- Blue abstract painting (artist unknown).
- Brickwork drawing from an antique store in San Francisco.
- Photographs by Mickey Smith.
(post by Ruth Parsons, Glenn Tuma and Alexandra Andrews, photo credit: Hannah Thomson for J.Crew)