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This Mold House redux: A Katrinket for the soul

NolaVie editor Renee Peck wrote This Mold House for The Times-Picayune for four years after Hurricane Katrina. She is reposting a number of her favorite columns in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of the storm. This article originally was published in The Times-Picayune InsideOut section on May 27, 2006.

"So, have you bought any Katrinkets?" my friend Leslie asked me at lunch the other day.

"Katrinkets?"

"You know, anything you bought just to make you feel good after the hurricane. Katrinkets."

Leslie went on to enlighten me about the rise of such post-hurricane lingo.

"If you hear the kids talking about their e-schools, it means the ones they went to last fall when they evacuated," she explained. "Likewise, e-vacs refer to where they spent their evacuation 'vacations.' "

Leave it to Leslie to be hip; I still haven't caught up with teenage pre-e-terms, although I do know that when something "blows," it's not a good thing.

But I digress. We have indeed indulged in a few Katrinkets.

Stewart's new 72-inch -- yes, SEVENTY-TWO-INCH -- big-screen high-definition television certainly counts.

So does the impulse purchase of a hauntingly beautiful Debbie Caffery black-and-white photo of a storm-battered newspaper. I had admired it at a local gallery but dismissed it as way over our budget.

I returned home from work one day last week to find a brown paper-wrapped package sitting on the fireplace hearth.

"Open it," said Stewart, who loves giving spontaneous gifts almost as much as he likes buying BIG-SCREEN TVs.

I did, and discovered the Katrina image I had coveted.

"But what about the couch we're saving for?" I asked.

"Art makes you feel good," Stewart said. "We can live without a couch for awhile."

And that, perhaps, is the true therapeutic value of Katrinkets. A home isn't merely a place to eat or sleep or even watch BIG-SCREEN TVs.

It should make you feel good.

HOW TO HANG PICTURES WITHOUT SQUABBLING

We have virtually no furniture on our first floor, but I have spent hours hanging posters and paintings and photographs. Something about having things on the wall makes our house -- still under construction -- feel more like a home and less like a refugee camp.

We've argued more about what to hang where, and how high, than we ever did about where to put the sofa. Artwork is a lot more personal than a console table, and where you put it is a matter of individual taste. There are, however, some universal rules. Here a few pointers on how to hang pictures.

  • If you're hanging pictures in a grouping, arrange them first on the floor until you get it right.
  • Hang pictures so they form one vertical or one horizontal line.
  • Don't put too much space between pictures, or between pictures and furniture, such as the top of a couch.
  • Hang pictures at eye level -- "average" eye level, not Shaquille O'Neal eye level.
  • Don't stair-step pictures unless they are actually going up a staircase.
  • Pay attention to scale: Don't hang a small picture over a large piece of furniture or vice versa. Four small pictures hung in a square render the effect of one large picture.
  • Give weight to the larger picture in a grouping by putting it nearer the center, with smaller pictures to either side.
  • Don't forget that colors and textures matter in a grouping as much as the similarity of the frames.

A note about hardware: Over the past few months, I've helped decorate several vinyl-wallpapered FEMA trailers and listened to Stewart moan about putting holes in our new (expensive) paperless drywall. So I've researched alternative hanging methods for everything from bulletin boards and wall sconces to Jazzfest posters.

Lots of new hanging products are out there. Peel-and-stick hooks generally work well, although the extra-large size didn't hold Christmas garland on a metal exterior trailer wall for more than a few hours. One key is patience: Let them "set" for a few hours before use.

Pay attention to the number of pounds a particular hanger can hold; manufacturers don't lie about this. If you can't find a stud for mounting a picture hanger, place it in hollow drywall with the new hangers that use multiple nails. Molly bolts also work for heavier items or to add stability. Other new products include bendless nails, kid-safe hangers that keep youngsters from pulling things off the wall, and shielded hangers that contain a peel-off backing so that nails don't crack drywall or plaster. For more, check out www.ooks.com or www.attach-it.com.

 

Renee Peck is editor of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]