A blank canvas can be a scary thing.
Especially when that canvas is two stories tall, like the wall above my sofa in the living room. The question of how to fill it and make a style statement nagged at me. So, we lived with a blank, boring beige wall for more than a year.
But not anymore.
As I shared yesterday during the reveal of my living room, I’m finally declaring the room “done” now that I’ve hung the art and curtains.
Now, about that artwork…
Would you believe the entire grouping of antique botanical prints cost me less than $250, including framing?
Now, in the yard sale, DIY world of $5 dining room tables and 50-cent appliances, $250 might seem steep. But when it comes to artwork and framing, that’s really a bargain. Especially considering that this grouping covers a nearly 6 foot by 5 foot span of wall. A sizable original painting would have cost me thousands of dollars.
So, how did I do it?
Well, I took the suggestion of Rene at Cottage & Vine and checked out the vintage antique botanical prints available for download through the New York Public Library Digital Gallery. There, you’ll find more than 800,000 free and open access images — everything from botanicals, landscapes, animals and wildlife, maps, vintage postcards, advertising images. The best part is that these images are free for personal use (though you can buy professional quality prints from the N.Y. Public Library).
My original plan was to download my favorite images and have them printed poster size at the local FedEx Office (which I still call Kinko’s, BTW. Old habits die hard. I spent many, many hours in Kinko’s in college and even had a friend we called Kinko Boy. But you don’t want to follow that tangent with me, do you?)
However, I ran into a few problems with that plan — namely price and resolution.
You see, some of the images I chose from NYPL were on the small size, and I was worried that they would look pixelated when printed out poster size. In my case, 19.75 inches by 27.5 inches.
I also didn’t like the price tag. Kinko’s — I mean FedEx Office — charges $7.99 a square foot for color poster printing. If my math is right, then each poster would have been about $31 to print. It would have cost me close to $200 to print all six posters.
A lucky Google search provided a solution I’d never considered — Zazzle.
I knew of Zazzle as a place to print cards and other personalized products, but I’d never considered the site for artwork.
Then I found the amazing Botany Boy Zazzle store, a resource with more than 700 digital cleaned antique botanical prints and illustrations that can be printed as posters, calendars. posters, t-shirts and mugs. An email to the store owner confirmed that my chosen illustrations could be rendered at the large size I needed without any image pixelation or distortion. And for just $17 each, thanks to an online coupon I found.
I clicked “Buy” and within a week, my posters were delivered to my door, ready to be framed.
I wasn’t certain what to expect when I opened the tube, but I was blown away by the quality. The posters came on a nice quality glossy stock — and I cheaped out and ordered Zazzle’s basic value poster paper. And the colors were amazing. I highly recommend Zazzle and Botany Boy!
I didn’t waste any time getting them into my large Ikea Ribba frames, which cost me just $19.99 each.
I went with the black frames because they were the only ones available when I bought mine. Now, I see they’re offering a spiffy high gloss gray (swoon), as well as medium brown, aluminum and white.
Now, here’s where I have to be an honest DIYer and ‘fess up to a stupid mistake I made.
My original plan was to use the mats that came with the Ikea frames. So, I should had printed my posters to fit the mat opening of 15.25 by 19.25 inches. But I ordered them the size of the frames by mistake. And I checked three times before placing my order. And I still messed up.
But this turned out to be a happy accident. I like the way the larger botanicals fill the space. So from now on, I’ll pretend that I meant to order the larger, slightly more expensive posters.
While Zazzle worked for me, it’s certainly not the only option for creating inexpensive artwork.
Another great option — even cheaper than mine — are decorative wrapping papers and calendars from companies like Cavallini & Co.
When my original plan for my living room artwork didn’t pan out, I considered framing a half dozen of their botanical, bird and butterfly papers. At just $3.95 a sheet, the price was definitely right.
But I couldn’t find an assortment that I loved for my space. (For smaller artwork needs, Cavallini calendars are a great deal!)
I also considered some other beautiful decorative wrapping papers.
Like this gorgeous fine Japanese paper, just $8 a sheet.
Or this gold marble Lokta paper at $6.50 a sheet from Paper Source.
Or this turquoise and gold Lokta paper that reminds me of wallpaper, an even better bargain at $4.95 per sheet.
For that matter, wallpaper swatches framed would make great inexpensive artwork in a room. Fabric is another option, either remnants or your own designs, printed via a company like Spoonflower, where I got a behind-the-scenes tour when I was helping plan the Southern Bloggers Conference.
What are some of your favorite sources and ideas for inexpensive artwork? Inspire me, please, because I still have lots of walls to fill.
Disclosure: After having such a good purchase experience with Zazzle, I signed up to be an affiliate for them. So, there are affiliate links in this post. But I was a happy customer first, and that’s why I’m recommending them to you. You can read my full disclosure policy here.