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Time to Liven Up
the Living Room
By Miss Melody McClain

Have you ever visited the home of an acquaintance that you thought was somewhat cool and changed your opinion of him/her simply because of your impression of his or her living space?

I'm not talking dirty bathrooms or crimes against the kitchen, although those will most certainly influence any romantic sentiments I may have for a potential suitor. (Mothers, please gently remind your sons to clean up after themselves, thank you.)

I'm talking about the casual acquaintance you met here or there, who has forlornly white walls, with no pictures, posters or even eviction notices to gussy up the space. You find yourself saying, wow, you've lived here for three years. How minimalist!

Small artistic touches are a nice way to make your space more inhabitable, and they need not be expensive. From objets trouvés (found objects) to flea market specials, anyone can add a little personality to an otherwise bland space.

Because I'm slightly poor, I've filled my apartment with treasures created in art classes. This is beneficial for two reasons: the class helps me actively meet new people and then I can put the results of the class in a place that needs an artistic touch.

A number of organizations offer art classes across the city, at varying prices. My favorite is the Art House, located at W 25th and Denison. With a day-to-day mission of offering art education to children at nearby Denison Elementary, this nonprofit also offers adult classes a couple nights a week.

Most are priced under $100 for a four to seven-week course of study with a local artist. Classes are also available at the Cleveland Institute of Art, and various private studios.

I've also taken many pilgrimages to Pittsburgh's IKEA. You can find all kinds of really fun decorative touches that don't cost an arm and a leg. Unfortunately, there is the remote possibility that you'll go with a friend, who will do a Single White Female decorating scheme (i.e., she'll use everything you buy in exactly the same way).

My grandmother and a group of distant relatives play a game I'll call Pass the Picture. There are a number of rather large paintings that have been passed around over the years, from family member to family member. When someone grows tired of the art in his or her home, it is offered to others in the family.

The accepting host or hostess gets a new, often monstrous piece of possibly significant family history. Be careful, when playing this game. It is poor etiquette to return any art to the person who gave it to you, even after 20 years.

Lastly, if you're really desperate for cool original art, but lack time and have lots of money, buy some original artwork. Cleveland is home to many nearly starving artists, whose works will definitely help you personalize your living quarters.

If you don't know any artists in town, check out some gallery openings. Not only will you have the chance to meet local artists, you'll also be able to see a variety of styles and techniques.

If you have any questions about how to gussy up your living space, feel free to ask.

Ask Miss Melody E-mail her here.

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