It's official. We're "those" people. You know, the ones who leave their Christmas decorations up for months into the new year. I'm shaking my head in embarrassment. Thankfully we had last Friday's neighborhood party on the books, which forced us to tackle those nagging and often overlooked issues -- like decorations of Christmas past still adorning the walls well into April.

The decorations I'm referring to were the beautifully made calligraphy Christmas carol verses, created by our friend Sarah Bohl

We hung these unique works of art  for the Alexandria Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend last year, when we were lucky enough to have our humble abode featured on the home tour. And although we managed to take down the live tree back in January, the four frames remained as is, wishing guests tidings of comfort and joy...well after Santa had come and gone.

It's not that I haven't given these frames any thought. In fact, it's quite the contrary. I've debated long and hard over what makes a suitable, year-round replacement, and came up with two finalists. The first -- obtain city maps of four of our favorite vacation destinations (London, Gothenburg, Napa Valley, and Budapest). This concept proved harder than expected. While the visitors bureau in Gothenburg, Sweden was happy to mail me a map, I had a harder time sourcing nice looking samples of the other cities that seemed frame worthy. Sure I could scour eBay, look for a vintage atlas, or source other viable locations so all maps visually seemed to be a "set," but the harder the concept, the less appealing it became.

The second option I had come up with was to frame four of our favorite vacation photos. And since these frames are in the sun porch/kitchen area, I wanted to put a twist on it and frame photos of food and drink, quite apropos for this portion of our home. 

This isn't a tall order in the least, given our love of exploring local cuisine and culture whenever we're abroad. Whether we happen to be dining in off-the-beaten-path cafes, strolling the aisles of local grocery stores, or seeing and sampling goods from vendors at renowned food markets, we can't get enough of both the great tastes and often stunning visuals.

One example of our adventures came last fall when we roamed the aisles of the Great Market Hall in Budapest, Hungary.

Or last summer, when we ate doughnuts at London's Borough Market.

Or in Fall 2011, when we sipped hot apple cider from a stand in Copenhagen's Tivoli Garden. Unfortunately the cider tasted like feet, but we're still grateful for the experience! 

Last week I spent time combing through our Flickr sets, trying to narrow our selection to the top four. It was fun to look back on our treasured vacation memories while working to complete the artwork update. 

My goal in searching was to find examples of foodie scenes that represent places that we visited and enjoyed, but done in a way that was up close and personal with the food, rather than centered on the location where we found the food. In other words, we were trying to find the best poser hipster-esque food photos we'd taken on our various journeys.

If we were true hipsters we would have taken this photo of Cafe DuMonde beignets ironically.

After a bit of searching, I settled on four photos that we both really liked and felt fulfilled our goal of this little project:

  • Pastries and cappuccino in Vienna, Austria

  • A cheese vendor in London, England

  • A produce counter in Budapest, Hungary

  • Pretzels and cold mugs of Pilsner Urquell (the local beer of choice) in Prague, Czech Republic

These photos all had that look we were shooting for, but the orientation was landscape on two of the photos. I resolved this by cropping them using the aspect ratio of the two portrait photos. This reduced the resolution a bit, but it wasn't too severe and still maintained good quality. 

After the orientation was set, we had to resolve a little issue with the colors. The colors of the photos varied a bit much from photo to photo and would look out of place all hung on the wall near one another. Given the rise in popularity of photo filters (thank you Instagram) it seems that every photo editing program out there has some level of effect that allows you to modify/age/hipstify your photos in a variety of ways. 

I started to play around with the photos in Flickr using their Aviary service and available filters. After going through the various filters I ended up settling on one call San Cameron, which washes out the photo a bit to make the colors appear a bit more muted. The end result of these photos gave us the look we were after.

Take a look at the end result of the photos from above.

After finishing up the photo editing, we placed an order online with our local Walgreens. Thanks to a great coupon, we picked up four 8x10s for a mere $10.06, 40% off the normal price. I picked them up the next day, and was well on my way to a completed project.

In the hustle and bustle getting ready for our guests, we may or may not have "saved" this project until 15 or so minutes prior to our guests arriving. But there's nothing like working best under pressure, so I got to work on this simple switch out. 

I started by removing the frames from the wall, and opening up the backs. 

I then carefully peeled back the scotch tape, holding the Christmas carol artwork in place. These Christmas pieces are very special to me, so I really wanted to be sure I protected them as much as possible.

With the frames free and clear I secured the enlarged photos in place with some small pieces of tape.

Finally, I neatly tucked the seasonal art behind the matte for safekeeping. This way I know right where I've stored it, and it's in a safe, flat, protected space where I'll be able to easily retrieve them in the future.

In less than ten minutes, I had a new set of framed, personal artwork.

We popped them on the wall before the first guests arrived and had ourselves a special and themed set of vacation mementos celebrating some of our favorite experiences.

There are a few things that I really love about this choice in artwork. 

  • I love that the photo effects mute the colors, so they work well with the gray frames, and blend seamlessly into the neutral color palette we established for our kitchen and sun porch. 
  • I love that this project cost only ten dollars.
  • I love the fact that it commemorates some of our favorite vacation memories. 
  • And finally, I love that I walk past these frames several times a day, and can appreciate these photos on a daily basis, rather than keeping them out of sight in a Flickr set or photo album. 

If you're looking for a great way to accessorize with something special and personal, this is a fun way to incorporate your own personal touch in a non traditional way. We didn't need to include our smiling faces waving from some random tourist destinations, instead we focused on the things we remember from our own experiences, and we chose photos that had meaning to us, but applied more generically to the setting. In the end, we're totally thrilled with the results.

Have you done any sort of similar decorating in your home? Perhaps using themed vacation photos from your favorite experiences? Did you go all hipster the way we did and apply some level of photo filters? I'd love to hear what you've been up to.

Comments 20

Comments

Amy
4/24/2013 at 2:21 PM
That's a great idea! Thanks for sharing :)
Alex
4/26/2013
Glad you like it!
4/24/2013 at 2:33 PM
I've had a heck of a time finding maps that I like well enough to use as art, so I've always just gone with vacation photos. Now if only the Command Center strips would actually keep my frames up (we've lost three since moving in).
Alex
4/26/2013
We had the same issue with the maps. I think part of the reason is how picky I am. I want them all to look like antique pirate treasure maps, and those are hard to come by.

Also feel your pain on the Command Strips. We don't use them to hang frames anymore. Back when we hung one frame with them, we used two strips and kept our eye on them. One would start to give way before the other, so we just kept swapping them before they'd both fall.
4/24/2013 at 2:55 PM
What a fantastic idea! Very creative and they look great! We make a point to purchase a map from every place we visit. After years of collecting them, I recently got them all framed and hung.
Alex
4/26/2013
We saw your maps back in January and LOVE how they turned out in your hallway. I love the Golden Gate plans! We also have a large Civil War era map of DC (where Alexandria is still within DC) hanging in our upstairs hallway. Reminds me a little of your maps.

*If anyone wants to check it out, here's the post from Kate's blog. house185.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/all-mapped-out/
Heather
4/24/2013 at 3:50 PM
Love this! I've wanted to do some art with maps also and found it to be more challenging than expected. I'm inspired by your food art though; I also have many food pictures from around the world and love being reminded of those memories.
Alex
4/26/2013
I was surprised by how hard it was to find good maps. I guess it makes sense in the more obscure areas. Also, I tend to go overboard and find antique maps that are like $500 or more, and there's no way we could justify something like that, especially in the space and frames we had chosen. The food was the perfect solution.
Karin K
4/24/2013 at 7:26 PM
Brilliant! You guys take great pictures.

Today my Mom and I continued our annual tradition: the Virginia Beach Home and Garden tour. Basically it is a day of getting inside the homes of some very well-heeled people, and as per usual, there were some great homes, and some, well, not so much. One home was so full of ridiculous tchotchkes and terrible art that it gave me a headache. But it was also the house that had the one thing that stood out above all others - they apparently love going to Broadway plays in New York, and they framed a TON of playbills from their MANY trips - so many, in fact, that they filled three huge frames, collage-style. It was a fantastic way to remember all the great plays they saw, and it looked really good! Too bad the rest of the house literally drowned them out - I might not have noticed them if my Mom hadn't had to stop and rest right beneath them. If I had a blog, I would have spent an entire post on that house of horrors - except for the playbills.

This is a great addition to your room!
Alex
4/26/2013
Old Town just had their annual Garden Tour of Homes a few days ago too. I think it's all part of the Virginia Garden Week thing. We ended up not going because only 1/2 of the houses were garden tours only (not inside), and the other 1/2 we had already been inside.

Your reaction to that house (not including the playbills, which sounds good) was Wendy's biggest fear when we had our house open over Christmas. Too funny! She kept saying "We need to put that somewhere else so people don't think we're tacky hoarders!"
4/24/2013 at 10:24 PM
Awwww, I'm so honored that my Christmas songs made it to April! :) Loving the new photos, though!
Alex
4/26/2013
It actually made me just a little sad to take them down, and by that I means sad in a lazy person sort of way. Oh well, they'll be up again in no time! :-)
RosalieMelissa
4/24/2013 at 10:53 PM
You did a great job getting those pictures to match color-wise! They look fantastic.
Alex
4/26/2013
Thanks! One thing on our long list of todo (or at least to-learn) topics is to work on Lightroom skills. But with how great and easy so many of the filter and online apps are becoming, it keeps falling to the bottom of our list. I love the end result Wendy came up with.
Kristi
4/25/2013 at 10:01 AM
Love the photo selections! If Walgreen's quality ever starts to bother you, I recommend Mpix. I've been through a lot of online vendors and love them.
Alex
4/26/2013
This was the first time we used Walgreens, and they turned out pretty good, but we'll surely keep Mpix in mind, thanks for the suggestion. We used to use a different place, but the store recently closed so we just chose Walgreens based on proximity and the fact we waited until the last minute and had to grab them the next day.
4/25/2013 at 1:14 PM
I love the new art! I bet every time you look at them it reminds you of those trips, which is awesome :-) I'm definitely going to make an effort to take more focused "detail" shots of food on future travels b/c our kitchen is seriously lacking art and this is a really cool idea.

P.S. A tip about finding old maps, university libraries sometimes have scanned digital copies of cool old city maps. Making maps is my job (literally) so I love map art :-)
Alex
4/26/2013
More food shots sounds like a good plan, just make sure you don't end up on this tumblr. pohtpof.tumblr.com/ :-)

Great tip on the universities/libraries. We got our dining room's Sanborn map from our local Alexandria library.
4/29/2013 at 2:43 PM
You did a good job of choosing a theme and adjusting the photos to compliment each other. I think this is why I have hung so few of my pictures. It is hard to come up with photos that look good together. What I do instead is make an album for each trip with Shutterfly. I do not necesarrily see my pictures every day, but at least they are more easily accessible than on my computer.
Sarah
4/30/2013 at 7:09 PM
Hipstify = best word ever
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