published Saturday, July 21st, 2012

ABCs of decor

Letters of the alphabet add a personal touch to decorating.
Letters of the alphabet add a personal touch to decorating.
Photo by Allison Love.

DECORATING IDEAS

Make gift tags: Punch out the perforated letters of inexpensive alphabet stencils and mount on craft or white hang tags with a glue stick. Add jute and tie on a gift package. Turn the actual stencil into a letter hang tag by gluing scrapbook paper as a background.

Label spaces: Use individual letters, preferably the same size, to spell out words for spaces in your home. Examples: "jars" on top of kitchen cabinets; "map" in a child's bedroom; or "I do" for a bridal luncheon.

Dress the table: Add a letter to a long envelope and fill with silverware for a personalized place setting. (The Clay Pot does custom prints for dinner parties, rehearsal dinners or wedding receptions.) Use the initial of the honoree, the couple, or have the initial of each guest printed on the envelope.

Source: Joe Jumper, The Clay Pot

Decorating comes down to the letter with a recently revised trendy home design.

Letters of the alphabet, whether they are one's initials or spelling out words to hang on a wall or display on a shelf, add a personal touch to decorating.

"Ever since the famous 'M' from the 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show,' letters have been used as accents to express style, but the ways of using and reusing letters have changed in many ways," said Joe Jumper, owner of The Clay Pot, a floral and design business on Hanover Street in Riverview.

"Today the emphasis is using letters in creative and quirky ways to add a personal element to design, decorating, signage, artwork, parties, weddings and special events," said Jumper. "With just a little imagination, letters can be an important and fun way to express yourself."

Jumper offers a wide selection of lettered items in his store, including letters made from wood, metal, plastic and glass, and personalized votives. Votives created by Chattanoogan Michael Sparkman using Jumper's photographs are popular with customers.

"These personalized photo votives make fun personalized vases, or are perfect for a dorm room desk to hold pencils, pens, etc.," he said.

One of Jumper's most recent letter designs features vintage wooden thread spools purchased at the Nashville Flea Market.

"Using a square wooden box, I formed each letter in the alphabet and photographed it from above. With the new square format on Facebook profile photos, I decided to share my handiwork," Jumper said. "I posted the photos of the spool letters on 'The Clay Pot' Facebook page to share with everyone. I posted a color and black & white version of each letter. The letters can be found in the photo album on The Clay Pot Facebook page called 'It's Hip to be Square.' "

Jumper also uses the square wooden boxes to display a single letter surrounded by mood moss.

Tina Harrison, owner of Blue Skies, a gift and decorating boutique on Frazier Avenue, said letters were a big hit at the recent Atlanta Market.

"We have seen lots of decorative letters," Harrison said, reporting from Atlanta. "Currently at Blue Skies, we have just one style. We would have another -- bright red three dimensional metal ones, but they are so popular they have been backordered from the vendor for about four months."

The style sold at Blue Skies features a letter hand-stenciled on an 8-inch reclaimed wood tile painted in colorful patterns.

Harrison said she uses the tiles in her own home to spell "studio" on the door of her art studio. "I love letters as decorative elements. I like them used singly as an interesting visual element or to spell out a meaningful word. Three dimensional letters are by nature so sculptural. I love their shapes."

Some letters are more popular than others, she said.

"There is actually an acronym for the most popular letters -- John D. Smack," she said, noting that each letter of the fictional name sells quickly.

Paul and Michelle Kuffery, who recently opened their eclectic shop The Green Door Trading Co., an "affordable" vintage and handcrafts store on Georgia Avenue, said their handmade letters using comic books have been hugely popular.

"People appreciate them because they are capturing moments from their favorite comic book heroes," Paul Kuffery said. "We were excited that people love them as much as we do. It is a way to give comics a new life. It showcases the detail that goes into every frame."

The three-dimensional papier-maché letters are wrapped in vintage comics.

"We can do letters with any storybook character, as well as painted," he said. "We have done many style. Letters are a fun way to decorate, and we love to embrace the individuality of each person's style."

The Kuffreys welcome custom orders. "We do our best to create the perfect piece for you featuring your favorite characters, whether they be superheroes or not."

Several gift shops around Chattanooga, including Colony 13 at Northgate Mall, sell photographs, mostly black and white, of letters seen on local landmark buildings or in signage, and letters formed by things in nature.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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