On a recent trip to my parent’s home on Cape Cod, my guy quietly joked upon touring the house, ‘so, when you move to the ocean, do they hand you a basket of seashells, a nautical map, and a painting of an old-timey boat as a welcome gift?’ My reaction of course was to wheel around and say ‘HEY! Those shells were my Grandmothers! That tasteful painting is a clipper ship someone who may (or may not) have been distantly related to us sailed on! THAT MAP YOU JUST USED TO SEE WHERE WE ARE is, well...useful.
But, he was right. While I love all those pieces for their history, there is something so regionally ubiquitous about ‘seaside decor.’ The same applies of course to mountain-house art, a South-West-feel, French Provincial, etc. It makes sense as these homes are so often an escape to another world, and there is something romantic (not to mention community minded) about sourcing art that feels local and storied to create a space that feels at once yours and reflective of its setting. That said, there tends to be a locale-pervasive look that, if not reigned in, can get a little out of hand.
So how do you tap into the regional vibe without going off the rails? I call it Variety with a Through Line. Which is to say: variation in medium, texture, and scale and a through line in style.
Those pieces you love, with all that history, can tend to feel a little dated, but that doesn’t mean they get relegated to the attic. Instead, think about how they are displayed. Do they need to be re-framed and matted for a more modern look? Are there display trays that could lend more dynamic backdrop to your curio pieces? The more you mix it up with owned and new pieces, the less homogenous it feels, and the more you the space becomes.
So how do we put it into practice? Context. Perhaps not every little girl’s dream is to own a cottage by the sea, but I was a Miss Rumphius kid (if you haven’t read it, do, it’s wonderful) and I’ve been quietly decorating and re-decorating my imaginary one-day space from what is likely too young an age for real estate aspirations. Armed with my Variety with a Through Line mantra, here’s what I’m thinking now, as I reach the age where aspirations slowly approach reality.
1: Janet Jennings. Like staring at the sea or sky with your eyes blurred, Jenning’s abstract landscapes are at once emotional and soothing with just the right touch of saturation.
2: Serge Hamad. The Temporal Perception series from this French-Algerian photographer is bright, graphic, visually engaging, and really fun. A vertran wartime photographer and documentarian, in this series, he works to capture moments that radiate calm enjoyment. The balance is just right.
3: Jonathan Nesteruk. Based in Brooklyn (like us!) Nesteruk’s series from Coney Island is a beautiful study of one of New York’s favorite playgrounds. A natural portraitist, his work captures the timeless (and season-less) attraction to the famed boardwalk.
5: Beth Dacy. Nostalgia at its stylized best. The light in Dacy’s work emulates that high-relief shadow so reminicent of those lazy late summer afternoons. Plus her brushwork is bananas good.