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Kids' work can make artful display

Think outside the icebox when it comes to kid art. Children's first finger paintings and their more elaborate elementary-school drawings once were restricted to refrigerator doors. But interior designers, some of whom are serious art collectors, are changing that old-school practice.

"You're allowing your kids to express themselves, and displaying their work gives them a feeling of co-ownership in the house," says Robert Novogratz, who with wife Cortney heads Sixx Design in New York City and has seven children (including two sets of twins). "It makes the kids feel proud to see it, and the parents think it's cool, too."

To avoid a nursery school look, the couple hang their children's art on the same walls as world-renowned contemporary pieces. Their book Downtown Chic (Rizzoli, $45) shows how they frame and display kid art, including the family's handmade Christmas cards, and mix it in with high-end furnishings and flea market finds.

"People compliment our kids' art as much as they do our famous art," says Novogratz, whose family is part of an upcoming Bravo series. "Art critics and design magazines constantly ask, ‘Who did that?' ''

Their favorite kid-art installation is by their friend Jan Eleni, who shrunk dozens of pieces of their children's art and affixed them to a large piece of white board -- something anyone can do with a scanner or at the copy store.

"People gravitate to this piece more than any of our other art," they write in their book. "Many of our friends who are art aficionados ask us if it was done by a well-known artist -- they are always a little embarrassed when we tell them it's by our kids."

Interior designer Sara Noble of Noble Designs in Olathe, Kan., encourages her clients to display their children's art.

"It personalizes a home and makes it much more unique," she says. "And it also adds great pops of color."

SHOW IT OFF

Try these fresh ideas for enjoying your kids' artwork.

• Hang framed pieces in a stairwell.



• Hang a metal board in a kitchen nook to show off the children's latest projects -- instead of using the refrigerator door.



• Float the artwork on white archival mats under museum-quality glass that is trimmed with natural wood or black-lacquered molding. Or go a more whimsical route with colorful metal frames and mats.



• Buy an acid-free archival box to hold each year's art. You can also throw in mementoes like ticket stubs, birthday candles and special greeting cards. (The boxes run $25-$37 at

www.exposuresonline.com

.)



• Hang wallpaper to draw on. A roll from Land of Nod features hundreds of empty frames to encourage drawing, painting and coloring. It would be fun in a powder room or playroom. The 56-square-foot double roll is fade-resistant and printed with water-based ink. It's $40 a roll at

www.landofnod.com

or 1-800-933-9904.



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