Columns: My New Best Friend: Frame of Mine

Lessons in the fine art of decorating your walls

Home editor confession #147: My house does not have a major art collection. It does have nice red-oak floors. And a clean-lined Danish modern couch. It also has a Woodard bench and a wooden stereo, a see-through staircase and a clever Italian cuckoo clock. My walls, however, could use a little help.

My excuses for my home’s artlessness are plenty. For example: I am not the sort of person who buys a painting just because it matches her Danish modern couch. And, my family believes Currier & Ives to be Great American Artists. In college, art history was the hardest course; naturally, I avoided it.

Over the past decade, every once in a while, a piece of pop art on Shelley Spector’s website would catch my eye, or I’d spot a serenely gritty urban landscape photograph in—confession of confessions—a cafe. And, I’d buy it. Unframed, usually. Often for less than $200, which, after all, isn’t nothing, so I would carry the brown-paper-wrapped piece home and unfurl it when friends stopped by. For a while. Then I’d neatly place it … in the back of a closet.

When I moved into my renovated house last year, I was fine with the blank walls. Who said you should live in a space before you decorate it? Bunny Williams? Dorothy Draper? Jonathan Adler? No matter. After a few iterations, my furniture found comfortable placement. Unfortunately, having everything in its place made the walls seem barer than ever. I walk in the front door, and there they are: four naked surfaces, their blank stares reminders of that saying about the cobbler’s kids and their pathetic lack of footwear.

I’ve found that when life hits a hard line drive in your direction, the best thing to do isn’t to steady your glove, brace yourself, and channel Pedro Feliz. The best thing to do is to request kindly that Feliz catch it himself. Kevin Derrick is the Pedro Feliz of wall art.

I like Kevin, even though he knows next to nothing about the Phils. Standing at my door in nattily rumpled oxford and chinos, he could be an attorney, a sculptor, or French. He’s not. He’s part of ever-artful design team Bahdeebahdu, co-founded interiors master R.J. Thornburg and luminary sculptor Warren Muller.

Kevin has this dashing and inscrutable way of arching one eyebrow just before he says something marvelous. Like, “You have eclectic taste in art.” Pause. Eyebrow-raise. “That’s a sign of intelligence.” Smart boy! Now, figure out how to make my wanton prints look like Albert Barnes’s!

Kevin spies my one fumbling attempt to adorn my walls: a framed pigment print of “Creamy Fennel Soup,” by late local artist Rebecca Westcott, which I hung on the narrow bump-out between my living and dining rooms. He says it’s all wrong there (in the nicest possible way). First off, it’s too high: “The center of hung art should be five-foot-six, art viewing height,” he explains, matter-of-factly. It’s also too wide: “The piece you put there should be thinner, taller.” He recommends moving it somewhere less expected, like my bedroom, which is, he says, “the one place you must have art.” Oops.