My Frame Cluster

April 30, 2012

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

(Warning: spicy language coming soon.) Having recently dipped my toe into the ocean of interior design, I loved a friend’s link, on Facebook, to a site called F**k Your Noguchi Coffee Table. (You can even buy a limited edition print of that sentiment, at The site openly mocks every hot trend in decor, from wall-mounted antlers to Moroccan poufs to chalkboard walls and garlands. I was simultaneously laughing and stealing design ideas.

The “frame cluster” is, apparently, so ubiquitous that it has a whole day devoted to its mocking: Frame Cluster Friday. It is with that in mind that I wrote the following:

In our new house there is a vast expanse of wall in the second-floor hallway; I knew as soon as I saw it that my dream of having a frame cluster of family photos would finally be realized. It was the first decorating project I undertook when we moved it and in my excitement I skipped over all the planning steps — like, if you’re from the Martha Stewart school, tracing all the frames and then taping your traced, paper frames to the wall until you get the perfect layout.

I’m not from that school, so I got a hammer and started bashing nails into the brand new sheetrock as much husband looked on and cringed. Fortunately — although this is not always the case — my enthusiasm paid off: the hallway of photos is now my favorite part of the house. Every single day I look closely at at least a few of the photos; each one is a window into a story or memory from long ago or just recently. Some days I walk down the hall holding Hugh and show him photos of family members who, sadly, he will never meet.

“This is JJ,” I say, pointing to a photo of my mom before she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. She looks so young and happy at my brother’s college graduation; it seems impossible that I can’t pick up the phone and call her right now to see what she’s doing.

“This is Grandma Cecilia,” I say, as I point to an old black-and-white photo of David’s mother when she was a teenager in Ecuador, her hair long and in a side-braid. In another photo, Cecilia looks so happy to be holding my daughter when CJ was a baby. Cecilia was a talented seamstress and we assumed she would be making adorable dresses for CJ for years to come.

David and I both lost our mothers unexpectedly, when they were only in their early sixties, and it’s easy to feel angry and robbed of memories. But I more frequently smile when I walk by the wall of photos. The happy photos of my mom and David’s are constant reminders of all the fun we had before life took unexpected turns.

CJ loves the wall, too — she loves to see herself as a baby and to hear stories (of course, she is six, so her requests are usually along the lines of “Tell me about the time I pooped in the bathtub!”). She also likes to point out Daddo’s evolution from hair to no hair, and my ever-changing hair color: much-too-bright red when I was married, way-too-light blond for years after, and now brown in the most recent photos, taken at my brother’s wedding last summer to the lovely Briana.

Of course, when I look at that recent group wedding photo I cannot help but notice that my husband and I are a collective 35 pounds heavier in the photo than we are now. I think about jokingly telling my brother and sister-in-law that we need to get everyone together again, on the golf course overlooking the ocean way up in Maine, in their same outfits, to just really quickly snap a new photo! But the bride and groom look amazing, and that is what counts.

I could take the photo down and replace it with one where we look great — but where’s the fun in that? These photos are memories of real life — sometimes we’re chubby and sometimes we have bad haircuts! If you want to look at a wall of perfectly coiffed heads, go to the nearest bank or country club and check out the Board of Directors wall.

If, on the other hand, you want to see an authentic 70’s-style photo of my brother and I, clearly sporting home ‘dos and looking seriously rough around the edges, come on over. You can find us in between the black-and-white photo of Lucy, my beloved English bulldog (RIP), and the photo of CJ wearing her Big Sister t-shirt and holding tiny Hugh right after he came home.

“Look at his little chicken legs!” she says every time we look at the photo. Good thing we have that photo — just eight months later, Hugh is sporting some serious chub on those same legs. I must remember to get a photo of that, too.

So it is with gratitude that I say these four words: F**k my frame cluster. And now I must bid you farewell. This terrarium in a vintage cake stand isn’t going to assemble itself.


  • Jane Ward

    Lovely, Lise, just spot on.

  • Meganne

    I don’t care about the haters, I love the frame cluster and yours is enviable! I just saw a “frame cluster” at the Currier Museum of Art, but they called it a “salon style” display. I’m going with that.

  • NewEnglander

    We love our frame cluster in our bedroom. J. Sherwood

  • Jeanette Barlow

    I have frame cluster wall envy when I come to your home.u00a0 I say “Cheers to the frame cluster!”

  • Chap

    Thanks for the laugh-and-cry. And if only I dared pound into the horsehair plasters and lathe walls in our pumpkin orange hallway . . .

  • Lise

    Thanks, friends! Maybe I can parlay this into the niche part-time job I’ve always wanted: I will come to your home and cluster the shit out of your frames!u00a0

  • Dawn

    I love your wall cluster and all of the wonderful memories it holds for you and your family. u00a0 I’m envious!u00a0 I wish I could sit down at my computer, select all of my favorite photos, print and frame them so I can throw them up on my wall all cluster-style … but I’m chicken!u00a0 I know that the end result will not match what’s in my head.u00a0u00a0 You may have just motivated me to give it a try :)

  • Lise

    Do it! Do it! And you are a great photographer so you will have some amazing photos. Speaking of which, I plan to rotate photos in and out every now and then. That way it will be a continuous work in progress. I need to get more photos of David when he was young!

Previous post:

Next post: