There are many alternatives to expensive paintings for decorating walls. Framed posters present an interesting area of collecting with infinite possibilities. When my husband and I travel we buy illustrated postcards and greeting cards as well as souvenir posters. We often visit art galleries and have purchased posters of an artist’s work we admire when we couldn’t afford an original painting. When professionally matted and framed, they all have great decorating potential.

Quilts
A patchwork or applique quilt is a wonderful substitute for paintings. They can cover an entire wall, becoming the focal point in a room. Or hang a wall quilt in a hallway. A friend hung a crazy quilt on her stairway wall for visual effect and to absorb sound. Early geometric patterns are still being reproduced and revised today. They have a graphic quality that always looks contemporary. Two-color quilts, such as blue or red and white, are often used as room decorations and can look right at home with any style. I have a very old red-and-white quilt that I hang in my all-white living room during the holidays. A red poinsettia plant on the table beneath the quilt completes the picture.

Some people are reluctant to hang quilts on the wall, thinking they are too precious. Quite the reverse is true. Quilts were made to be used and even early antique quilts have been washed hundreds of times. New quilts are reasonably priced and often made of a cotton/poly blend. This makes them even more durable than an old quilt, and the more they’re used, the better they will look.

A wall hanging needn’t be a full-size quilt. There are many small quilt squares no larger than a quilt block that are perfect for small wall areas. The best thing about using quilted wall hangings is the variety of colors available. Almost any Early American quilt pattern can be made in solid or printed fabrics or a combination of both. Since most quilt patterns are based on geometric squares and triangles, this is an easy do-it-yourself project if you’re on a tight budget.

Quilts warm up any area of a room, adding color, texture and a feeling of coziness. If you’re lucky enough to have inherited a quilt or two, don’t pack them away to yellow in a closet or drawer. Quilts add a touch of Americana to any room, and something from your family’s past combined with the new adds character and substance to any decorating scheme.

Paintings and Frames
Original paintings don’t have to break the budget. You may not be able to afford a major work of art, but you can find lesser-known artists whose work you like, and little by little you can begin to acquire their paintings for your home. If you love an artist’s work, begin with small affordable paintings until you can afford a larger piece.

If you have several small paintings but none important enough to stand alone, group them together or hang a large mirror and surround it with the framed artwork.

How something is framed is as important as what is being framed. Some decorators suggest using a uniform system for everything that will hang on one wall regardless of subject. Others, such as Mark Hampton, use different frames for pictures that will hang together to avoid a mass-produced look. Since framing materials come in numerous styles, colors and textures, go to a professional framer who can provide you with a wide selection of moldings and mats and who can advise you on the appropriate treatment for your art.

Hats
In one of the most stylish homes we’ve ever photographed, the walls in the entryway were decorated with a variety of hats. There were straw summer hats sporting scarves or large artificial sunflowers, a child’s horseback-riding hat, and a few baseball caps on large brass hooks that had been carefully spaced in an artful arrangement. Completing the grouping was a small oval mirror in an ornate gold-leaf frame next to a brass wall sconce. Since these items were used by the inhabitants, the display was practical as well as charming.