Finding strength in numbers

Want to find a home for small works that can't carry a wall by themselves? A bold statement can be made with salon-style groupings — collections of at least five framed works.

The approach creates "something substantial out of a lot of elements that aren't in themselves necessarily substantial," says David Kassel of ILevel, an art installation and design firm in New York City.

The charm of the look is that it seems to have come together on its own, over time. And in many cases it does — as with the additions of yearly family photographs or a slow-growing collection of ornately framed works by old masters. Frames don't match, mats differ, and — most important — frame shapes and sizes vary.

To figure out how to group frames on the wall, make paper templates in the shape of the frames and move them around on the wall until you are happy with how they look. Or try Kassel's more free-form approach.

"I start in the middle and work my way out," he says. "It's like a game of solitaire. You have a composition puzzle to work out." He tries to balance color (and darks and lights) and proportion (a top-heavy composition looks odd), but generally lets the works guide him. "You just feel it," he says.

That free spirit informs the work of Chantal Dussouchaud, a Los Angeles-based French designer who likes to give tradition a witty twist. She suggests creating salon-style groupings with a collection of postcards of a similar theme, framing recipes for the kitchen or favorite cartoons for a child's room.

Another idea: Hang various-size chalkboards, covered with different sayings, salon style on a wall — and leave one blank for guests to write on.

— Christy Hobart

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