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Decorating with Classic Silhouettes

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If you’re like me, you’ve been tempted into having a silhouette made when visiting Disneyland.  There is something so charming about popping into the little store on Main Street and watching an artist quickly and perfectly clip out my kids’ silhouettes. I would get them framed, proudly bring them home, and then….nothing.  It took me the longest time to get around to displaying them because they can be tricky to incorporate into the decor without having them seem out-of-place!

Decorating with Silhouettes - Tidbits&Twine
Silhouette vignette with a vintage shoe form and my grandfather’s books. And of course, the pictures are leaning!

 

So how can you display your silhouettes so that they fit with the surrounding decor?

 

The great thing about the classic black and white silhouettes is that they are striking given their contrasting colors and simplistic design.  Their versatility also allows them to work well in many different design styles, from traditional, to modern to shabby chic.  The tricky part is that since they are so eye catching, they tend to steal the show (the decor show, that is), and unless that’s your intention, you’ll need to do a bit of work to incorporate them as part of an overall design.

If you want your silhouette to be the focal point, then the design is much easier since they tend to stand out on their own.

Silhouette Focal  Point

 

If, on the other hand, you want your silhouettes to work as just a part of a design, you’ll need do some planning.

Tips & Tidbits for Decorating with Classic Silhouettes

1. If you have just a small sliver of wall, silhouettes used on their own make a big impact in a little space.

by The Old Painted Cottage
by The Old Painted Cottage

 

2. If you have more than one silhouette, always group them together for greater impact.

Silhouette Grouping - Ballard Designs
by Ballard Designs

 

3. When using silhouettes as part of a wall gallery, either use ALL silhouettes…

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…OR ensure that the other pictures also incorporate black as part of their coloring so that the silhouettes blend with the other pictures in the grouping.

Silhouette Wall Art
In this photo, notice how the silhouette on the right is balanced by the black frame on the left.

 

4.  Avoid using silhouettes to flank a large focal point, as the two will compete with one another.

 

5. Silhouettes are beautiful when used as part of a vignette, but again, be sure to incorporate the color black somewhere else in the vignette so that the silhouettes are a cohesive part of the grouping.

original_Marian-Parsons-silhouette-beauty-horizontal_s4x3_lg
Notice the black console and addition of black covered books to help the silhouettes blend with their surroundings. By Mustard Seed Interiors

 

6. You can always make your own silhouette if you don’t already have one.  Here’s a great tutorial on HGTV.com from Mustard Seed Interiors:  How to Make a Framed Child’s Silhouette.

 

7. If you’re not up to making your own, another alternative is to have one made for you.  Check out these beautiful hand painted custom silhouettes from Made for Jake on Etsy!

Hand painted silhouette by Made for Jake
Hand painted silhouette by Made for Jake

 

 

 

Silhouette Trivia

I recently learned an interesting bit of history about silhouettes.  The great expense of having a full color likeness commissioned typically restricted the availability to the wealthy and kept the ordinary person for having a likeness of their loved ones made; therefore, these shade portraits became popular with the masses as a cheaper alternative to full color portraits.  In England, they were referred to as “Profile Shades” or “Shadows” but French coined the term à la Silhouette as a derogatory reference to Louis XV’s former French Minister of Finance, Etienne de Silhouette, who was considered a cheapskate.

You can read more about the history of silhouettes at Silhouettes by Cindi.

 

Although classic silhouettes are black and white, remember that there are no rules!  Create silhouettes in any color to match your decor for a more modern take on this classic design.  And don’t forget that handprints make great keepsake silhouettes, too!

 

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One Comment

  1. The Internet has everything. My daughter just came back from Disney Orlando and what did she bring me–a silhouette of my granddaughter. My first impression was–WHAT am I going to do with that! I graciously accepted it and pondered what to do with it. Today, I decided to Google it and your site was the first one that I came across and BEHOLD, I found a more than acceptable solution. I have very few surfaces on which to place anything. Most of the pictures I used to have on display are now in a storage container. I have a huge black and gold round mirror over my bedroom dresser with wall space to the right and left. I am going to hang the silhouette on the wall to the right. Now, I wish I had my daughter’s silhouette taken about 40+ years ago to go along with it, so that it would look very similar to one of your examples. I have no idea what happened to that silhouette. I remember it, but it must have gotten lost or thrown out along the way. I am very glad that I ran across your site. If I hadn’t, the silhouette would have found a place in the storage box along with the pictures.

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