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Living with What You Love: Decorating with Family Photos, Cherished Heirlooms, and Collectibles Hardcover – April 20, 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

MONICA RICH KOSANN is a nationally recognized fine-art portrait photographer, who has worked with many prestigious families and celebrities, as well as a designer of jewelry and home accessories.  Her work has been profiled extensively in national print, such as Town & Country and Elle Décor, and television media, including NBC’s Today Show and Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style. Her collections are sold in fine jewelry stores and gift shops nationwide, as well as at Barneys, Neiman Marcus, and her own shop within Bergdorf Goodman.  Visit her web site at www.thefineartoffamily.com. 

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


please remember this
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.
—T. S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton,” four quartets
No matter where you live or how big your home is, your photographs, heirlooms, and collectibles are part of your life. They help to convey your heritage, your family history, and at the same time, they are very much part of your present and future life. Today, in your own home, you are engaged in the act and the art of creating memories for yourself, your family, your relatives, and everyone who visits your home. How can you do that most effectively and creatively?
There are, indeed, some strategies. You’re making an artistic statement when you bring these objects out into the open and show them off. They may be beautiful on their own, but they are also evocative. They suggest memories and generate emotions. Of course, you can always bring out an heirloom, dust it off, and find some place for it. But in this book, I’d like to give you some tips on doing more than that. What will make that object look good in your environment? How can you give these possessions a meaningful place, or create a collection that has a whole new meaning?
Some people seem to avoid bringing out heirlooms for fear that they turn a home into an historical museum or a gallery. It doesn’t have to be that way. Create a space that you want to live in. You can bring memories alive, and create a sense of family history, in ways that express your passions and reflect your tastes. No need for mustiness and cobwebs. Family heirlooms deserve respect, of course, but the key is to integrate them into your everyday life. And, as I’ve pointed out, any object that has been imprinted in some way with the touch of your personality or the mark of your ownership becomes, in itself, an heirloom for future generations.
In the pages ahead, while I’m showing how family photos can be framed and hung, I’ll also provide many other ideas about the ways you can use family furniture, memorabilia,souvenirs from trips and vacations, and the other tangible reminders of who you are, where you came from, and what your experiences have been. I’ll invite you to peer into kitchens, bedrooms, studies, and libraries where many families have surrounded themselves and their household members with evocative antiques, flea-market finds, art, and memorabilia. You’ll see how some people have started collections that grew and grew, while others have been inspired to launch careers, take up new pursuits, and seek out fresh contacts in pursuit of their enthusiasms. I hope this will prove to be for you—as it has been for me—a journey of discovery.
But for all the inspiring examples in this book, I urge you to follow your own instincts and do it your way. Just as no family is quite like mine or yours, there’s really no such thing as a recipe for the way you express yourself in the domain of your own home. The space you occupy deserves to be filled with its own images, echoes, and signings. Your home is like no other. Why not fill it with reminders, at every turn, that this is so?
Mixing the Old and the New
Throughout our house, my husband and I have photographs of our parents, grandparents, children, and more distant relatives that are completely mixed in with photos that are much more recent. The point is to remind all of us that family is family, no matter which generation. When photos are intermingled this way, it helps bring up conversations about cultural history, reminding kids (especially) that they share a family life with parents, great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents. To further the sense of timelessness and continuity, I often put recent photographs in antique frames or, conversely, get brand-new frames for photos that are yellowed with age.
As I look around, I see that our home does indeed have a personal stamp on it. The
whole range of objects—from my children’s art projects to porcelain pieces, old cameras, vintage boxes and cases, photographs, and numerous other items—have their own places in my studio, where I spend so much of my time. These are the personal touches and statements that remind me of one home that is not like any other. In fact, some of my ancestors I know best only through their images. With some of these ancestors I find myself looking for clues to who they were, with little to go on except their garb, their posture, and their surroundings. For example, I have a picture of my mother’s father, Josef, who died when my mother was three or four years old. In the age-tinged photograph, I see a young Austrian gentleman in old Vienna standing alongside his classic Badge motorcycle. He wears a rakish cap with a narrow, black brim, his goggles perched on top like the eyes of a frog. What a sight! Vest, tie, jodhpurs, the whole bit—he’s obviously posed, a cigarette in hand, looking prepared to break some land-speed record and, after that, take on the world. And instead? Instead, he is the father my mother lost, the grandfather I would never know, the hint of the shadow of a clue to my own beginnings. And this portrait is all I have!
In every home, I think, there need to be places where family photographs, heirlooms, and collectibles can be displayed. The first step is to find some of these items where they’re stored or hidden away in different areas around your home. The next step is to bring them out of hiding and to begin to consider the spaces where they can go in your home. Let’s begin with the photographs.
Where Are You Hiding Your Kodak Moments?
When Kodak introduced the first easy-to-use, handheld box camera in 1888, the advertising slogan was “You Press the Button, We Do the Rest.” Like most advertising taglines, this was a gross exaggeration. Yes, the box camera was easy to use, and it caught on. Families at home or on vacation started to carry it everywhere, snapping photographs of Aunt Sally and Uncle Jim in front of their first Model-T, or Sister Susie and Cousin Jane in the garden. For family occasions there were the obligatory posed photographs, with everyone dressed to the nines and smiling for the camera, standing stiffly until the family’s designated photographer finally pushed the button and said, “Okay, we’re done.”
Part of the Kodak slogan was, in fact, quite true. If the intrepid family photographer unloaded the film and delivered it to the drugstore or post office, Kodak did its part and returned the prints. In many families the delivery was eagerly anticipated. When the photographs arrived, they were passed around and pored over. The box camera was, indeed, an innovative family-memory device. It captured moments that would never be lost. Kodak had performed a great service.
But in creating this most convenient of familymemory accessories, Kodak—soon followed by other companies—also gave birth to a monster. At first the monster was just a stack of photographs in a binder or two. Before long, the stack grew to occupy boxes. Then drawers. Then whole shelves. All across America, and then the world, family photographs were stacked, stored, boxed, moved, and, as time went on, passed down from generation to generation. And as technology advanced, so did the vast oversupply of family photos until, today, they occupy nooks, crannies, and closet spaces. And with the advent of digital photography, millions of images got stored away in cyberspace. So, now, in addition to foraging through the house for photos we’d like to display, there’s the further challenge of scouring digital archives.
Kodak did indeed fulfill its advertised promise to build the camera, create the film, and handle the processing. But as for “the rest”? Well—that’s all up to us.
In my own photography work I like the shots
that “capture the moment.” The best, to me, is the photo that finds people when their guard is down, when they are expressing themselves or relating to each other or to their environment rather than posing for the camera. But I also want to emphasize, right here, that this is an artistic and personal preference. True, any selection of family photos requires you to make certain choices. But throughout this book, I want to make my message clear: It is more important to choose what you love, whether it’s a photograph that was professionally commissioned or one that you took on a special day.
The same can be said of the heirlooms and collectibles that you bring out of storage and into the light. Some will evoke an instant response, perhaps because they’re associated with a particular person who was important to you, or perhaps because it brings back good memories. Go by your instincts. Even if something looks like it could be, or should be, a “valuable piece,” that’s not the best reason to make it part of your family landscape. To earn that right, it needs to mean something more.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Potter Style; 1 edition (April 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307461327
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307461322
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #987,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When I first came across Monica's work a year ago, I was instantly touched and drawn in by her unique message. She inspired me to look inside my home (the one where I grew up) and, for the first time, see things as more than just objects filling a room. Unbeknownst to me, I've been surrounded by these amazing heirlooms my whole life. Monica helped me discover a new-found appreciation for my parents' past (including all the things they've accumulated over time) and how much it has affected and shaped me. In my own apartment, I find myself looking for ways to hang up special photos that tell the story of my roots. I'm so glad Monica took the time to write down her thoughts and advice about how to embrace our family heritage and passions so I can continue to find ways to tell my one-of-a-kind story. I picked up my very own copy of her new book today, and I have to tell you, it's even better than I thought it would be. I love it! You will not regret buying this book.
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Format: Hardcover
I saw the book today in the bookstore and will place my order right now! This book is inspiring me to take all of my family pictures that have been sitting in boxes for years and frame the special photos that I love. Some will be grouped on tables....and now that I have learned something about framing, the others will be framed and hung in my hallway. Thank you for not only the inspiration but the great tips for decorating with my special photos and other heirlooms. I can't wait to see what other ideas I will find in the book!
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By LJ on April 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I just moved apartments and was looking for innovative ways to personalize my living space -- and this book gave me all the inspiration I needed. Also, I had a hard time putting it down because the photography is so beautiful. It's a must have! I can't wait to start decorating!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I keep hoping one of these kinds of books will offer imaginative, workable ideas on how to live with COLLECTIONS of things--not just the household stuff we have in our lives that we love and want to surround ourselves with. But how to decorate with the accumulation of passionate collectors--dolls, books, clocks, Hepplewhite settees, antique clothing--or help someone who collects all of it-- and make sure the setting doesn't look like a warehouse or an antique shop. My 5 year old granddaughter can come up with the cover of this book--a few photos on a fireplace mantle. Show me an arrangement of a collection of items without the mantle. Very many of us don't have a mantle. Show a collection of items arranged for best possible effect and still not have us trip over the stuff. Reckon it's time for me to write a book. You've heard it all before in this book. Cracks me up how these 'decorators' think they're ideas are new.
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Format: Hardcover
Loved the book. Lovely pictures and great ideas! Who would think to put pictures in front of your books in your library.... Monica has done it again! Lisa
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Format: Hardcover
The ideas presented in this book are terrific--and really inspiring. I've already thought of ten different ways to show off my antique linen collection. The photographs are beautiful! I highly recommend "Living With What You Love" to anyone who misses Domino and all of the other shelter magazines that have sadly disappeared.
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By R.B on April 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I was in the store today and started flipping through it...absolutely beautiful! The photography and decorating tips are great and the book itself is just gorgeous. I cannot wait to give them as gifts for Mothers Day! Highly recommended (:
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Format: Hardcover
I'm a huge fan of Monica's work and have been looking forward to the book for a while. It is just as beautiful and insightful as I thought it would be. You will not be disappointed!
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