Picture this: a smart display of family photos in living room DESIGN LINE

The Baltimore Sun

The area near a console in my living room needs some decoration. The table is 5 feet wide, and the wall it's placed against is 8 feet wide.

Instead of hanging a painting above the console, I'd prefer to place some family photos on it. I've been told, however, that photos of that kind shouldn't be displayed in a living room.

Have you got some suggestions for how to decorate that area?

Don't believe everything you're told about interior design. There's nothing wrong with putting family photos in the living room.

Regardless of whether your setting is contemporary, modern or traditional, I suggest grouping the photos rather than scattering them around the tabletop. Make sure each of them is easily visible, and consider matting and framing them identically, or at least similarly. A few photos arranged in this way with a candlestick lamp on the console would make an attractive setting.

I also recommend giving the wall above the console a treatment like the shelving assemblage shown in the accompanying photo. It's taken from The Nest Home Design Handbook, written by Carley Roney and published by Clarkson Potter.

This how-to guide for would-be nesters shows how a collection of family photographs can be visually enhanced by the addition of a few not-so-precious objects. In this example, the black photo frames match the color of the shelving that is hung on the wall without use of brackets - an important detail in the design.

As you ponder this possibility, please keep these points in mind as well:

* Don't mix black-and-white and color photos.

* It's OK, however, to vary the sizes and shapes of the frames, especially if doing so enables the collection to mesh more easily with other tabletop objects.

* Intersperse the photos with smaller decorative items, but keep the scale proportional.

* If you do hang shelving, stagger the placement of the shelves so they cover much of the wall and create a design of their own.

Rita St. Clair is a Baltimore-based interior designer. Readers with general interior-design questions can e-mail her at the above address.

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