Wall art

Often lost in the sea of nails, hooks, hammers, levels (and expletives) is the potential for glory that exists in the hanging of art on one's walls. (Photo by Bill Hogan)

Often lost in the sea of nails, hooks, hammers, levels (and expletives) is the potential for glory that exists in the hanging of art on one's walls.

We're talking about the arrangement and composition -- the "how" of the hanging.

We're talking about thinking outside the frame and having the vision to deem as "art-worthy" a bunch of (inexpensive, store-bought) lily plates and then floating them across a wall, as if they were swimming in a pond at Giverny.

We're talking about turning formal (and dare we say, staid?) porcelain statues into quirky wall art by encasing them in shadow boxes painted a hip shade of blue-green.

We spied some creative hangings in and around Chicago in homes and stores. Have a look. And note that many involve the hanging of objects, not pictures.

Tray chic

The display folks at Jayson Home & Garden (1885 N. Clybourn Ave., ) made "art" for the wall behind the cash register by hanging a group of vintage Turkish trays in a giant corral.

"Any time you take something and you do a group of it and repeat it, it really becomes dynamic and dramatic," says Caroline Scheeler, Jayson's creative director.

This is successful because "you are repeating the shape" of the trays with the circular composition.

Tips: Lay out your arrangement on the floor first, Scheeler says. And measure. Groupings can be tricky. This one required a particularly large expanse of wall. The arrangement covers about 9 feet (in diameter) on a wall that measures 20 feet long and 14 feet hight -- that's because each tray measures about 19 1/2 inches in diameter.

Shadow boxing

What do you do with a collection of Staffordshire figurines that are too "antiquey" for your home and taste, but are of great sentimental value? Geneva-based interior designer Madeline Roth solved a client's dilemma by teasing a quirky side out of these otherwise staid statues.

She enshrined them in austere, but very green, wall boxes and hung them (rather tongue-in-cheekily) in a chic, black powder room.

Roth had the wall boxes custom-made by Geneva Wood Cabinets (630-232-0690; about $100 each) to her size specifications. But both crateandbarrel.com and target.com sell ready-made wall boxes/shadow boxes ($7.99 to $29.99) that could hold an object/figurine depending on its size.

They don't have backs to them. Roth suggests painting the wall that becomes the back of the box in the same color as the box.) Roth painted her custom boxes in Sherwin-Williams Kale Green. Walls are Benjamin Moore Black (eggshell finish), Number 2132-10.

More is more

Chicago art dealer Kate Hendrickson subscribes to the Salon style of hanging art in her vintage Gold Coast condo -- and so does actress Jennie Garth, for that matter, as seen in the February issue of InStyle magazine.

More is more in Salon style. Artwork (of different sizes and framing) covers walls up to the ceiling, almost like wallpaper. Hung this way, pictures become more than their own artfulness. They become part of a graphic pattern of images, frames and white space.

According to Hendrickson, hanging art this way can be traced back to the mid-18th century. But it was in France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (at huge exhibitions or salons of art in which many artists needed to show their stuff and wall space was at a premium) that this dense style of hanging really took off.