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How to display kids art — without going overboard

Designer Elizabeth Bear used whimsical contact paper as background for her framed artworks.
Elizabeth Bear
Designer Elizabeth Bear used whimsical contact paper as background for her framed artworks.

For years, the artwork created by my daughter and son, now ages 4 and 6, has piled up in boxes in the basement. Recently, though, I realized their projects are too precious and intriguing to be tucked away. But figuring out the best way to display the art was a challenge for me (and many fellow parents) so I sought the advice of a few designers for help.

Designer: ELIZABETH BEAR

“I’ve always loved the Pablo Picasso quote, ‘Every child is an artist,” says Bear.

Children’s art is magical because they don’t have a trained eye telling them how an object is “supposed” to look. On narrow shelves in her office, she has nearly 20 framed pieces of children’s art made by members of her family — including one created by her father as a kid. She cut out each piece of art and, rather than putting mats over the art, which she felt might obscure them, she glued them in front of the mats. Behind the mats, Bear pasted whimsical contact paper to unify the group.

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“Some of the art is centered in the frames, some are off-set, some are in the corners of the mat,” she says. In order for the pieces to have a symmetrical look, Bear opted to use white frames of the same size. @elizabethbeardesigns

Designer Kristine Irving turned the playroom into an art gallery.
Nat Rea
Designer Kristine Irving turned the playroom into an art gallery.

Designer: Kristine Irving

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“The children who live here love to make and create,” says Irving, design principal for Koo de Kir Architectural Interiors. “Their parents wanted the ability to show off and rotate the art frequently.”

In this Boston home, the kids’ playroom is part art gallery. Irving had a ledge installed around the perimeter of the room where art is displayed in simple IKEA frames of various sizes. Irving mounted the art with scotch tape to the backside of the mats that came with the frames.

“The work can be swapped out very easily,” says Irving. “It’s not too perfect-looking.” And that’s the message you want the kids to hear: art should be about having fun and letting their creativity flow freely. Irving also adds that parents should consider installing their children’s artwork in other parts of the home. “It can be a great way to add color and texture to a room for no cost at all.” www.koodekir.com

Designer Alys Stephens Protzman designed this space in a home on Cape Cod.

Dan Cutrona

Designer Alys Stephens Protzman designed this space in a home on Cape Cod.

Designer: Alys Stephens Protzman

Protzman designed this arts-and-crafts area for a home on Cape Cod. A room that connects the house with the garage, this space had been used as a place to store tools.

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“We turned it into a great spot for the kids in the family to work on art projects,” says Protzman.

Plywood floors are painted gray, unpainted shiplap adorns the walls, and furniture is a mish mash of flea-market finds. There’s plenty of space for kids to display their creations. One wall is sheathed with cork.

“The kids can put their own artwork up easily with push pins,” says Protzman.

Inexpensive bins and boxes are stashed on a shelf by the board. Full of art supplies, they also offer space to store artwork when a piece is rotated off to make way for a new creation.

“Kids’ artwork is organic, colorful, and bright. It has such a great affect,” says Protzman. “You just can’t help but smile when you go into the room and see it on display.” www.alysdesign.com

Jaci Conry can be reached at jaci@jaciconry.com