The Art of Hanging Art

Regardless of our individual tastes in art, it seems a fairly universal practice to adorn our walls with our favorites pieces.

The notion of displaying art in ones home certainly dates back to the days of cave-dwellers scratching and painting images of horses,

Regardless of our individual tastes in art, it seems a fairly universal practice to adorn our walls with our favorites pieces.

The notion of displaying art in ones home certainly dates back to the days of cave-dwellers scratching and painting images of horses, humans, and various abstracts to “decorate” their abodes.

Given the permanence of these particular art installments, I can only imagine the internal debate that ensued among the dwellers: “Honey, do you think the horses would look good over by the rock collection, or maybe they’d be a nice complement to the reindeer by the front door?” These were clearly big decisions in the household, as they are today, and thus introduces the “second level” of in-home art, namely where (and, in more modern times, just exactly how) to place it.

This got me curious as to the history of hanging portable art, such as framed paintings. But when I Googled the “history of wall hangings,” the top result was the history of hanging as a death penalty in the UK in the 18th century. Not exactly on point, but maybe not entirely without an analogous reference.

You see, there are a lot of opinions when it comes to hanging art, and I feel certain that some “experts” would deem certain approaches to hanging art akin to the death penalty for the poor, unfortunate piece of art itself, rendering its fate utterly catastrophic.

To this point, I read one article that definitively states that 57” from the floor is the perfect center point for all hung art when it comes to optimum viewing. At a modest 5’10” myself, I might agree, but then those taller or shorter than I may have wildly differing opinions on this matter.

Then there’s the matter of composition. Some would argue that pieces must be displayed on their own to be viewed, studied, and contemplated singularly, while others practice the art of grouping various pieces together in a cluster or stylized arrangement. Certainly, the triptych demonstrates that this latter approach has both appeal and purpose.

Yet, behind all these important opinions and decisions there lies the fundamental component of the logistics of hanging art, and I’ve come to believe that there are simply two types of wall-hangers: those that measure, and those that do not.

I’m a measurer, you see, and outside of my occasional dyslexia getting in the way of some critical calculations, I feel I’m pretty adept at what I consider to be “proper” art hanging. My toolbox for hanging art is complete with the all-important tape measure, various-length levels, a pencil (with eraser), a pen, a proper hammer, a stud-finder, and, of course, a wide variety of weight-rated hooks and nails.

Through the years, I’ve written seemingly-complex mathematical equations on the paper backing of many an artwork, resulting in the identification of the absolute, undeniable, singular point in the universe where the nail and it’s partnered hanger shall be affixed to the wall. Frankly, it’s quite rewarding when this concerted and focused effort comes to fruition as the piece of art sits “perfectly” in its new place of repose.

Others (reckless as they may be) are reported to have “an eye” for where art is best placed, and, with nary a tape measure in sight, are able to affirmatively state “precisely” where the nail and hanger shall be placed.

My wife, Carrie, falls in this latter category, and you might imagine my shock and amazement at the sight of her with a thick-heeled shoe in one hand, and a random nail in the other, taking aim at placing a piece of art in “just the right spot!”

I’m skeptical of this approach, of course, but then again it seems all too ironic to suggest that a scientific method be applied to an otherwise wholly-artistic endeavor. Beauty, after all, is – perhaps – in the eye of the hammer (or shoe) holder.

Regardless of the means, it’s quite a rewarding effort in the final analysis when the art and the walls and the furniture and the lighting and the space all come together in just the right way. It’s really an extension of the art itself, like fitting in the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle to complete and reveal the comprehensive “picture” that the original artist had in mind.

And, that’s truly all well and fine, until (such as in our home) it’s time to move the furniture, change the paint color, relocate a lamp, or bow to the whims of newly-creative thinking, when the process – whatever its style or composition – begins once again…

Thanksgiving Stuff-ing

It’s that special time of year again.

Time to take stock of your blessings, to express gratitude for the people in your life, and to give your stuff away…

It’s that special time of year again.

Time to take stock of your blessings, to express gratitude for the people in your life, and to give your stuff away…

Yep, that’s right…we’re kicking off a new Thanks for Giving your Stuff Away holiday tradition!

Stuff. Many of us have plenty of it, and often more than we need. Heck, in some cases, we have more stuff than we thought or remembered we have.

The reality is that a quick trip to the far reaches of a closet, a drawer, the attic or the garage often results in a walk down memory lane as long-forgotten items sit in a state of perpetual inactivity.

Sometimes you “find” just the right thing at just that right time, and that lucky item is lifted out of its hibernation to its rightful role of creating joy and beauty in your home. Other items, however, might not be so fortunate, and their sentence of repose is once again extended, this time perhaps even until your next move.

Clothes, books, art, wedding gifts, and tchotchke are often in this mix, but so are tools, pantry food, supplies and other items that might have a more immediate and apparent value to others.

One man’s storage is another man’s staple, so why not consider releasing your unused stuff to a higher purpose?

There’s a great liberation in moving stuff forward…like a lifted burden. And, if it helps seal the deal, consider it a “pre-moving” process, since each item will need to be moved along at some point anyway.

Imagine the simultaneous relief and joy you’ll experience as you turn your potential liability into someone else’s potential asset. Karma is bound to be on your side, and the Thanksgiving spirit will be stronger than ever!

So, if the notion moves you, and you’re inclined to help kick off this new holiday tradition, reach out to your favorite thrift store or donation outlet today to find out more about how, where, and when they can help you achieve your plans to achieve your best dish of Thanksgiving Stuff-ing you’ve ever had!


Sugar(free) Magnolia

I’m not from the South, but I got here as quickly as I could.  

And, the South has been really good to me. My list of blessings would take up a year’s worth of blog posts, so just suffice it to say I know that I’m one lucky man, and I’m grateful for all the South has brought into my life.

Well, almost everything…

The reality is that living in the South doesn’t truly make me a “southerner,” so my allegiance toward certain things “southern” has therefore, in my mind, allowed a high level of subjectivity and flexibility…and I’ve recently identified a line I’m struggling to cross. 

There’s a Magnolia tree that stands some 50’ tall, towering over the front of our home and casting a formidable shadow across a wide section of our yard. 

When we first moved in, I had fashioned an initial sense of admiration for its inherent beauty, its substantial frame, and its “southern charm.” But that was short lived, as I quickly came to realize that it had me sized up even before we finished unpacking. 

You see, I’m one of those guys that likes a manicured yard. I’m not necessarily OCD, but then again most are not self-confessed, so maybe I am. The fact is: a clean, picked-up, edged, mown, trimmed, mulched and vibrantly-green yard makes me happy. And the Magnolia simply has other plans…

In short, this American beauty is more akin to a friend of the devil that’s set about to create a ripple in my otherwise sunshine daydream landscape plan. 

If you’ve had a Magnolia, you know whereof I speak, and this otherwise-heralded species is simply relentless. The volume and consistency of its production of “yard-trash” (as I tend to think of it) is impressive, but it’s really the SIZE of its various output that made me quickly realize I’d been unwittingly and most-unpreparedly thrust into an all out war of epic proportions.

The leaves are its apparent front line of attack. They are massive, leathery, slick, and devilishly aerodynamic. Just when you think the leaf-blower has the upper hand, the strategic curvature of each leaf allows it to stubbornly imbed (or invert) itself in such a way that even a tropical-storm force wind would struggle to whisk it far away from its mother-ship. 

So, for this particular aspect of the battle, I summoned my inner-Mad-Max, and developed a Medieval-like leaf-skewer out of an old mop handle and an assortment of previously-unrelated parts from the neighborhood Lowe’s. Quite ingenious, or so I thought, and it was clear that I was well on my way to victory. 

Ah, but next came the branches, and this I truly didn’t see coming. Quite honestly, when you look up at the tree, it leaves you flabbergasted as to where these branches could have possibly parted way. It’s as if the tree itself produces this unbroken chain of branches not at all for growth, but simply as a matter of strategic and psychological warfare.  

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not easily out-worked, so aside from my astonishment of just how these branches actually appear, I was well-equipped with a strong work-ethic to roll up my sleeves and get to work on the daily pick-up of the mystery branches 

Lastly – and it’s simply my ignorance along with perhaps a healthy dose of naïveté that had me imagining I had established the upper hand in this hard-fought battle – came the seed-pods. It’s no surprise at all that these hearty, heavy, and prickly ammunition take on the uncanny appearance (and shape) of hand-grenades. They practically shake the house as they strike the roof in their apparent attack from above, and their size, composition, and numbers make it an impossibly-long (and seemingly never-ending) chore to affect their removal.

Against this final line of attack, I have no real power or strategy, and I realize, of course, that the victor in this war has long since been scripted and declared. Generations of property owners before me have most assuredly (and likely more swiftly) acknowledged their defeat in this impractical and illogical pursuit. The problem with me is that my nature runs just as deep as the Magnolia’s, and I’m simply too stubborn to quit.

As such, we both keep truckin’, the war ensues, and the Magnolia and I are, perhaps, working diligently (if not passionately) to earn each other’s respect, which is – most certainly – the southern thing to do.

The end.

Sheet(rock) Happens!

It happened on a Tuesday.  Before Closing.  And no one breathed a word about it to me until weeks AFTER Closing.

Real estate, of course, is all about the properties, but then again it’s equally about the people…and, frankly, that’s what makes the business particularly interesting and compelling.  

So, when PEOPLE set out and “break” the rules while on PROPERTY, it gets REALLY interesting.

Such was the story of my dear clients Priscilla and Pete, who are among the nicest and most industrious clients I know.  High energy, can-do-attitude, glass is always half-full kinda people. 

The house they were buying was vacant in preparation for closing, and the seller was long gone.  It was “after hours” on a Tuesday afternoon, and it seemed like a perfectly harmless thing to do.

Why bother ME to gain proper access at such a late hour and for such a simple task, they thought.  They knew the sliding glass door lock wasn’t working anyway, and they would only be a minute or two as they just wanted to check one last time on how their furniture was going to fit in the guest bedroom.  In and out in a flash.  No harm, no foul, right?!

It’s still perfectly unclear to me how the quick furniture measurement mission turned into a full-fledged attic exploration, but that was where an innocent visit turned into a covert operation. 

If you’ve spent any time in attics, you know the value of plywood panelling when it comes to navigating the “floor.” In the absence of plywood, however, you’re left with a precarious tight-rope-style pathway through and around the already-tight space, which is often poorly lit.  

Thus was the pitfall of Pete, who made that pivotal false move that landed him halfway between the attic and the bedroom, encased in broken sheetrock and torn insulation…much to the shock and surprise to Priscilla, who was otherwise patiently awaiting his arrival out of the attic in the more traditional fashion (i.e., the way he got up there in the first place).

Not missing a beat, Pete muscled his way back up the hole, and set about on a plan to make his misgivings disappear before anyone even knew what had happened.  

Several back to back visits to affect a proper and thorough sheetrock repair ensued across the next 48 hours, resulting in a final finish and appearance that only Pete and Priscilla could discern as being different from the pre-episode condition.  

When the dust had settled after closing, and Priscilla and Pete had mustered the gumption to fess up to their misadventure, we all had a hearty laugh as I admired their ability to self-correct in such an inconspicuous manner.  

In the spirit of “all’s well that ends well,” my only disappointment with the whole situation was that they didn’t call me in the first place, as I would have enjoyed the lasting image of the lower half of Pete dangling from the ceiling.  That would have been the icing on the cake of this rare chapter in my growing book of experience. 

The end.

Collector’s Piece… Of Junk?

Yeah, I said it.  

Well, it wasn’t exactly me, and it’s not exactly junk. 

Here’s the thing: Times have changed, and what was once held as a collector’s piece of antique furniture might not have the same value it used to. 

Let me back up a little…by some 20-40 years…so you can see my perspective. 

My wife Carrie and I bought our first home together in 1994. We had no furniture to speak of, other than some select pieces from IKEA, a futon (from my first apartment in DC), two beds, and the usual incidental items. We certainly didn’t own anything “fine” at that time. 

Growing up, I had the privilege of visiting my grandparent’s house in Huntington, West Virginia at least once a year. My three favorite things about each visit were: 1) The present (usually a toy to keep us boys occupied during the visit) dutifully awaiting our arrival on the den’s fireplace hearth; 2) The heavy cream sitting aside freshly cut strawberries AND the Kellogg’s variety pack of cereals (yes, including the sugary ones we never seemed to garner back home) at the breakfast table; and, 3) The truly fine antiques which my grandparents thoughtfully sought out, collected, and positioned just so throughout their formal, Colonial, three-story brick home. 

The bow-front chest, the breakfront, the desk with hidden storage pockets, the sleigh beds, the handsome chests of drawers…all the way down to the oriental rugs, the crystal, and the silver service…everywhere I looked it went on and on, each piece pristinely maintained, polished, and displayed to its full intended extent.  

Fastforward back to circa 1994-95 when the passing of my grandparents initiated the discussion as to the disposition of many of those fine pieces awaiting the next chapter of their fate as they say in a storage facility in West Virginia. 

Having been born and raised in Virginia and Alabama, Carrie had an admiring eye early on for all things traditional and pretty in a home. You can imagine her amazement and delight as the photos of the pieces in West Virginia arrived for our viewing and possible selection. At this point, regardless of which (or how many) items we might have the privilege of inheriting, I suddenly felt confident that our marriage was all the more secure under the newly-possible mantra: We stay together for the sake of the…antiques.

We were honored to receive some very special pieces, and we truly love each and every one of them. Through various moves over our 24 years of marriage, we have always had fun placing them with a certain level of excitement and reverence. After all, we are simply their current caretakers, doing our best to honor them as they bring joy and beauty into our home. They were (and still are), after all, bonafide collector’s pieces, having been hand-selected by my grandparents so many decades ago.

It seems, however, that outside our four walls, at least in the Lowcountry of SC, they don’t hold the same inherent market value they once did. One man’s treasure is another man’s….you know the drill.

The latest furniture market trends in our area show a flood of similar inventory as baby boomers focus on downsizing out of the homes where they also proudly displayed antiques from France and England set upon hand-woven rugs from the Orient. 

Their adult-children, who may have coveted such pieces some twenty years ago now have a house-full of furniture themselves, rendering the once clear and dreamy option of gifting those family heirlooms up the family tree into a disappointing and sometimes heart-wrenching dead end. 
And so, as that reality sinks in, the next chapter for many such pieces becomes the way of (gasp!) consignment stores, thrift stores, and in many cases the unthinkable auction house (PS: Don’t think Sotheby’s…think inland-Georgia, every Thursday night, with such fine pieces sitting aside anything and everything else that the auctioneer can sell for pennies on the dollar).  
So be it, they are just things after all, and life must move on.  

As for us, our love affair continues regardless of any change in their objective value. We’ve never imagined selling any of them to realize “market value” anyway, and so, to us, they remain wholly and completely priceless in every way.  

Maybe some day the girls will want them, or maybe they won’t. Maybe the market will turn around in 20 years, or maybe it won’t. It doesn’t much matter, for to us they are absolute treasures, and we offer our thanks, appreciation, and gratitude to Russell and Edith for these special gifts with the hope that our use and enjoyment of them honors the passion they employed when they first brought them into our family’s collective home.

Night Crawlers

This is a story based on our experiences of getting our little ones to sleep… neither of them slept through the night for 13 months, and so sleep was a precious commodity in our house for about 3 years.

With pacies and bottles and blankies at feet,
The challenging task is long since complete
Of getting our daughter to stay in her bed,
A process that’s much harder done than is said.

But now that at least a half hour has past,
We’re proud that our efforts are certain to last.
The time-buffer’s gone, we’ve nothing to fear
We mutually agree that the coast must be clear.

So into her bedroom the two of us sneak
One sweet sleeping baby – two parents’ proud peek.
Then all of a sudden, a jerk and a shrill
At which we instinctively both stand quite still.

Does she see us? Just how could we know,
Both of us blind amid the night-light’s dim glow?
If so, it’s clear to her Mom and to me
That the night grows much longer for all of us three.

With us in mid-step, one more stir, one more peep…
Our fear has come true – she’s no longer asleep.
And once that she knows that we’re walking about,
It’s for certain that she will break out in a shout.

Quick, hit the deck! We both drop to the floor…
Our cover is blown if we move an inch more!
This mission’s been upgraded – now a true covert-op.
We’re locked in position ‘til she comes to a stop.

Peering (and giggling) through each other’s eyes
We savor the moment and treasure soft sighs.
The goal of our efforts is perfectly clear –
To establish sweet silence as all that we hear.

I in my night shirt and Mom in her gown
Stay perfectly still ‘til she’s all settled down.
And then like two cats – sly, stealthy and sleek –
Off toward the door we cleverly creep.

Shhh…not a sound…we’ve come much too far –
No knocking or squeaking as the door’s pulled ajar.
Then out to the hall with her door now shut tight
We tip-toe away to ensure a good night.

Survivors, creators, we do what it takes
To protect and preserve our respites and breaks.
While having a baby is simply the best,
A close second is therefore a well-deserved rest.

The End


Don’t worry:  Google doesn’t recognize the word either…

In fact, when you try to Google the word “unjoyment,” it’s an immediate battle between Google and your auto-correct to see which is faster at changing it to the word “enjoyment.”   

I quite like that, and it seems that technology is one step ahead of psychology when it comes to our innate drive in life to seek happiness and joy.  After all, life is short, so it should be enjoyed to the highest level possible, right?!

That said, we all have things in our life and in our surroundings that we “un-joy,” many of which are found right around our home. They exist on different levels, of course, and each offers up a varying degree of annoyance or unhappiness, be it through the conscious or the subconscious. 

It could be something minor – even technical – like a light bulb that is out in a recessed light, way high on the ceiling, just perfectly out of reach enough to require the involved task of buying the proper size replacement bulb, fetching the ladder, and doing your best to avoid a trip to the ER.  The unjoyment comes from having the task hang over your head, as well as perhaps the diminished lighting in that spot of your home.  The enjoyment comes from adopting a do-it-now attitude to tackle the chore straight away… or, perhaps even better, from picking up the phone and hiring a handyman to do it for you! 🙂

Or, in my case, it could be a cat who insists that 3:00 a.m. is a fine time to want for a meal that he cannot serve up himself. Thus ensues a most insidious bedside engagement involving whiskers against my face, or, if required by my non-responsiveness, a devious attempt to topple the pricey bedside lamp onto the floor.  In this case, the unjoyment was somewhat easily solved by a change-up in how (and who) we allow access to the bedroom overnight.  How joyful our sleep is once again!

Unjoyment came in a different package for a friend of mine, and I suspect this may be a little more common.  It seems that a late-night infomercial gave way to the impulsive purchase of a certain “get fit fast” device that has since occupied a prominent corner of his bedroom.  There it sits, collecting dust and clothes and (worst of all) reminders of all the workouts that haven’t-been.  The psychology of personal fitness is challenging enough without the constant, in-his-face, unspoken chiding offered up by the device that promised so much, yet has delivered so little.  I suggested he should eliminate the unjoyment of its presence, donate the device to someone who is actually going to use it, and begin a much more enjoyable regimen of daily walks to pursue a more realistic and sustainable approach to a fit lifestyle. 

So, what’s unjoyable in your home?

Walk around the house – inside and out.  Open closets and drawers, meander through the basement, attic and garage. Whatever it is, it’s there, screaming for attention, and all you have to do is put up your antennae, turn up the volume, listen to the message of unjoyment, and set a plan of action to eliminate it.

In short, remove the static that is unjoyment, and allow for an immediately higher level of enjoyment of your home, your activities, and your life.  

And, if you’re so inclined, post in the “Comments” below to share what it was that you found relief in removing or repurposing or giving away or whatever.   

We all want and need inspiration, and you might just help someone else identify, uncover and remove a significant source of unjoyment in their lives as well.

Here’s to the presence of joy in your home!

Empty Nesters

The laundry’s caught up.  The fridge seems bare.  There’s an unusual hush around the house.  

It all seems a little bit odd, disorienting, and exciting at the same time. 

Yes, I said exciting…  

It may seem callous (or even sacrilegious) in today’s society to suggest that excitement should fill some of the newly-vacated space of an empty nest, but deep down it’s present in every parent’s heart, and we’re far from the exception. 

The girls are 15 months (and one school year) apart, so each step along the way has been akin to a one-two punch.  Just as we’ve wrapped our heads around one hitting a certain milestone, the next thing we know the other has passed it, too.  Yet, our concerted resolve along the way has been to embrace each age, each year, each milestone, neither wishing the years away nor attempting to stop the clock from ticking ever forward.  We’ve always embraced each step, each age, and each moment in their lives with enthusiasm and gratitude.  Such was the case as we conducted back-to-back college drop off’s this year, and nary a tear was shed.

As we packed up supplies and clothes and pillows and shoes and toiletries and whatever else it seemed we could fit into every last nook and corner of the SUV, we reflected on how we’ve spent the last 18 (plus 1) years instilling all the wisdom, values, lessons, and confidence we could muster into these two young ladies, hoping and praying that we did a good enough job to ensure their happiness, safety and good decision making as they begin this pivotal next chapter in their lives.  

And what exciting chapters they are…for all of us!   The “core four,” as we once coined ourselves along the way, are now nicely spread out across the southern US, each of us individually and collectively trying to sort out the current and future state of affairs in our lives.  

How might we fill the obvious void?  What doors might open now that others have shut?  What yin will come with the yang?

Exciting times, indeed, filled with the certainty of new experiences, new friendships, and new responsibilities.  Life blossoms and unfolds, and we have the blessing of togetherness in our hearts –  if not in our house – to share and enjoy the adventures that lie ahead for each of us. 

After the long journey back home from the second of the two drop-off’s, amid the spin of relocation and the stir of uncertainty, a grounding reminder of our connectedness rang out in the techy-est of ways as we nestled back into our nest – just the two of us.

That familiar, customized text ringtone sounded from Mama’s nearby-phone…the ping from beyond that we’d not-so-secretly been waiting for since we hugged goodbye oh so many hours ago.  We’d resisted reaching out ourselves, holding back, letting them find their freedom without the weight of an anchoring, helicoptering parent.  

But our seeds were now sown, and the moment of truth had arrived in the form of a text.  

How much were we missed?   Had homesickness set in this early on?  What sage advice were they seeking as the reality of their separation and independence sank in?

It all was answered for us in a simple, single, brief, but effective text:

“Mama…could you put more money in my account?”

Alas, let the excitement begin!


If we aren’t already acquainted, I am Chip Collins. I’ve been a Lowcountry resident since 1992, and I founded a local boutique real estate company back in 2002.

My wife, Carrie, and I have two college-age daughters, Martha Preston and Sallie, recently rendering us as official empty-nesters, which was the inspiration for my first official post on this blog.

With a Philosophy Major, an English Minor (Denison University ‘91), and 25+ years as a real estate entrepreneur, I have some perspective, reflection, and insight into the various facets of what we each uniquely yet similarly call “home.”

I’ve recently had a growing interest in getting back into creative writing, so my goal herein is to touch on a variety of topics (or musings if you will) as they come to mind, which has served as the kick-start for creating this blog: A Musing Home.

So, here’s hoping you find some entertainment from the blog now and again, and I thank you for your interest and time, as always!