Let’s get personal: From bedding to cushions to furniture, use your photographs to decorate your home

Look beyond Instagram, and your photographs can become an amazing array of items for the home

It’s a case of the artier the better when it comes to commissioning home wares from photographs. I got inspired with snaps of everything from foggy urban evenings to a country lane in spring; and I even ordered up a fresh print to prove that life can indeed be a bed of roses.

Here are some ideas on how you can create your own bespoke homewares.

The artwork

Sometimes in contemporary art galleries, you could be forgiven for thinking that photos become art when printed at enormous size and mounted on something metal. You wouldn’t always be far wrong. At Dublin-based PictureBloc, Jake Berton can print as large as 100cm x 150cm, mounted on to dibond, an aluminium composite. PictureBloc also mount photographs behind acrylic panels, which do look glossy and good. But if it’s the gallery vibe you’re going for, acrylic is not only more expensive, but also tends to be the favoured finish for inspirational corporate images, or those photos people like to get of their babies in black and white, often wearing interesting bows.

I experimented with a decidedly arty snap, taken with a regular smartphone on a late evening walk near a building site. Berton and his team can tweak your images if they need cleaning up, and will advise how big they will print without losing resolution. Prices start at €35 plus VAT for a small one to sit on your mantelpiece, up to €224 plus VAT. Want larger still? They can arrange up to 300cm x150cm. Now that’s truly gallery-worthy. picturebloc.com


Design tip: Look beyond the obvious, and if size matters, don’t worry too much about blur. Some of the artiest images are a little bit foggy. PictureBloc can email you a test image so you can see what yours will look like when supersized.

The cushion

I do seem to like going for walks in gritty places. One evening last year, while heading down a back lane towards the Liffey, I loved the look of a thicket of cranes, lit up against the stormy sky. The problem with photographs like this is you never know quite what to do with them. You’re hardly going to stop a conversation to say: “Hey, do you want to see my pictures of cranes?”

That’s where cushions come in.

Vistaprint’s cushions come complete with filling and are available in three sizes, from €26.99. You can choose to have your image on one side only, or front and back, which adds to the cost. Design is easy – upload your photo and then drag it into their template to get a sense of how it will look. Take care to make sure it goes all the way out to the edges (“bleed” in design terms). On our first go-around we’d chosen some nice trees, but the next step, which shows a mock-up on an imaginary sofa, looked pretty ghastly, so we opted for the cranes, and went for the largest size for maximum comfort (at a cost of €64). We are highly delighted with the result. vistaprint.ie

Design tip: photographic pieces work best as accents. Too many, and your livingroom or bedroom suddenly becomes a shouting match between all those brilliant things you’ve made.

The bedding

Google “bed of roses” and zone in on floral bed linen. Or you can make your own, as I did, by photographing a pink rose on a white background, blurring it slightly (there’s an app for that) and then logging on to Bags of Love, where you can order pretty much anything from deckchairs to wallpaper, and curtains to quilts.

Oddly enough, most of their online examples suggest you make your bedding out of loved ones or pets, but ignore that, and find a very easy design template that lets you choose your sheet size, and set a repeating pattern if that’s what you’re after. As I’d always wanted to sleep on a bed of roses, a bottom sheet was chosen. Prices are quoted from €49, but for a king-size sheet, and added postage, the total cost was €170. Note that larger sheets will have a seam somewhere. bagsoflove.ie

Design tip: I did have the idea that when I’m old and living in the care home, it might be nice to sleep on bed sheets made up of former lovers; but for now I’m happier with a nice floral design.

The carpet

Actually not a carpet, but a tufted tapestry. Either way, Joan Nagle and her team at Connemara Carpets make real works of art. Back in the 1970s and ‘80s, they were creating wall hangings for the likes of Louis le Brocquy, and these days they do limited-edition pieces with artists including Sarah Walker, Samuel Walsh, Alannah Robins and Sasha Sykes.

I sent them a photo of a pink sky taken one spring evening when out with the dog. In a four-stage process, Nagle returned a section of the image, reduced to its composite shapes and colours. Once approved, she and her team then hand-tuft a test segment, which they send together with a printout of what the whole piece will look like. The result is lushly gorgeous.

Prices start at about €2,500 per square metre, and will depend on the colours and complexity. On average, a full hand-tufted tapestry will take about 12 weeks, and Nagle notes that they can also work from ideas as well as photographs.

“In an era of mass production, we know we’re doing something special here,” says Nagle, who adds that they are always happy to arrange visits to their Connemara studios. connemaracarpets.ie

Design tip: pick an image that will look good when pared back to more abstract colours and shapes. Squint a bit as you look at your chosen photograph to give you an idea, or run it through a filter on your phone or computer. Nagle and the team are happy to look at a range of images, and help you select the most suitable.

The chair

Don’t be confused by the name; Silk Bureau do much more than silk. Based in the UK, they’re the go-to fabric printers for art students and designers everywhere. Their minimum order is just one metre, and with prices starting at approximately €20+VAT per metre, it’s not going to break the bank. Silk Bureau’s Sharon Reynolds suggests that doing the seat for a small chair will take about a metre, but you should get full measurements from your upholsterer first. Her team can advise on fabric, based on your needs including durability and washability.

“Our customers do cushions, throws, lampshades, framed fabric prints, we’ve even done a parachute,” Reynolds says.

When it comes to finding the furniture for the material, Alison Ospina of Green Wood Chairs offers gorgeous bespoke chairs. Based in West Cork, Ospina often collaborates with designers, such as with this Four Seasons chair, made with one of Anne Kiely’s delicious silk screen prints. A bespoke footstool by Ospina will cost from €475, while an armchair starts at €750, not including the cost of the cloth, if you’re providing your own. Expect it to take between one and three months from commission to delivery. silkbureau.co.uk, greenwoodchairs.com

Design tip: Before getting your fabric printed, agree the type of fabric with the maker or upholsterer, and confirm the total amount needed. Repeating patterns generally mean less wastage, unless they involve symmetry or other tricky positioning. This is very important in order that you don’t lose part of the photo, or design, in the upholstering process.

The blanket

Having fallen in love with a lush painting of a summer garden by Co Cork-based artist Poppy Hunt, I decided that it might possibly make the most wonderful blanket. Again, Vistaprint’s design template was used – ignoring the design suggestions of adorable children, cute dogs and cuddly newborns. The iPhone snap easily printed full size without blurring, which was surprising, as the online template’s warning that the resolution might prove too low had been cheerfully ignored (I don’t recommend taking this risk).

In fact, all the printing was done from phone Jpegs at about 4mb in resolution. If that’s too technical for you, most design and print websites have handy help desks to advise. Blankets start at €57.60, but such a rich painting deserved an upgrade, and by the time all the bells and whistles were added, the king-size version came to €159. The blanket shown was delivered within 10 days, and is printed on one side with a white fleecy backing. The print side has a sheen to it, which was unexpected, but it is toasty warm. vistaprint.ie, poppyhunt.com

Design tip: If you are using the image of an artwork, make sure you get the artist’s permission first. Even if you own the artwork, you still should, as it’s only polite. More abstract designs tend to work best, as too much detail will hold the eye and drown out everything else in the room.

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