JUST picture it: Your smiling face plastered on a pillow. A tabletop. Perhaps an entire wall. Thanks to new photographic reproduction technologies, you can now transfer your likeness -- or that of your spouse, child, dog, you name it -- onto nearly every surface of the home, from the welcome mat to the shower curtain.
Want to sleep on your back, sit on your derriere or walk all over yourself -- literally? You're in luck. Manufacturers eager to capitalize on the customization craze can turn out duvet covers, pillows and rugs tailored just to you.
But what better way to combine a personal decorating touch with today's "look at me!" culture? Take the Le brothers -- Conner, 5, and Christopher, 7. They aren't exactly marquee names. But at home -- in hallways, on computer screens, on six years' worth of Christmas coffee mugs -- their grinning faces are front and center. Their latest star turn? A canvas lampshade imprinted with pictures of their peewee football heroics. It's the ultimate reminder of who rules this Aliso Viejo roost.
"It goes in order of my boys, the dogs and then me," says dad Tony Le, a mailman and amateur photographer.
The lamp, a giclee art shade from Lamps Plus, employs the same detailed technique used in reproducing museum-quality artwork and was Le's ninth anniversary gift to his wife this year.
"If we could put pictures of them everywhere we would, but there's only so much wall space," he says. "It's another way to show them off without having to pull out the photo album."
Personalizing products is nothing new. Handbags, cellphones and other staples of life can be dolled up with snapshots from the family road trip. But now the trend is rolling through each room of the home -- and that's not necessarily a good thing, says Grant McCracken, a cultural anthropologist affiliated with Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"This is what happens when as a culture we dwell so much on celebrity," he says. "It's inevitable that we'd begin to celebrate ourselves."
Others say: Lighten up, buddy.
Kleenex hopes to rev sales with its new customizable Kleenex box, a standard tissue container that can be adorned with any photo you choose for $4.99 plus shipping.
Justin Poile thinks much bigger. He's co-owner of Vision Bedding, a year-old company based in Ames, Iowa, that employs a process called dye sublimation to emblazon pillows, bedspreads, blankets and dog beds with snapshot images.
"People are tired of buying the same stuff from the same stores," Poile says. "They want to create their own individual environment whenever they can."
Improved technology has helped.
"Don't even talk to me about silk-screening," he says. "These images are so clear, you can see the reflection of the person shooting the picture in the eyes of the subject."
Poile's own high thread-count cotton bedspread features a splashy shot of the entrepreneur wakeboarding. He plans to star in a sequel: a bedspread with a picture of him cruising around in his '77 Trans Am.
"It brings back cool memories, and then I get to go to bed with a smile," says Poile, who estimates that 50% of his customers give the products as gifts. Later this year, he and partner Eric Rodriguez want to roll out wallpaper and shower curtains.
Sculptura, a 2-year-old company also based in Ames, takes three-dimensional scans of clients' heads and transforms them into computer-carved busts. No more sentimental snapshots decorating the mantel. Now normal nobodies can have their likeness immortalized in 3-D, with a bronze, gold or marble finish.
Meanwhile, mass-market retailers such as CVS drug stores reported a 121% increase in photo gift sales in the last year in the L.A. area.
To answer the growing demand, the company branched out into the home decor business last fall by adding china plates, crystal, pet bowls and jewelry boxes as well as blankets, afghans and pillows.
For some, all this vanity decor makes perfect sense in our age of YouTube, blogging and an emerging national notion that everyone is entitled to 15 minutes of fame -- if not more.
A little ego stroking is part of the appeal, admits Steven Abrams, owner of Wallpaper Maker, an L.A.-based company that makes customized wall coverings (www.thewallpapermaker.com). He's planning to blow up one of his wedding photos to life-size scale and plaster it across a key wall in his 1,100-square-foot Sherman Oaks home.
"It's something fun and different," Abrams says. "It used to be if you wanted custom, you had to order it in huge runs. Now you can buy just a few panels, so why not?"
Quick with an answer is Margaret Russell, editor in chief of Elle Decor and a judge on the Bravo decorating series "Top Design."
"Obviously, your home should be an expression of yourself, and if you want to put your photo on everything, no one's going to stop you," she says.
"But is it in good taste? No. It's just a new phase of the whole culture of narcissism.
"I'm all for celebrating your family, but this is taking it to extremes. There's a huge jump from ancestral portrait to putting your picture on a Kleenex box. And what happens when it's time to throw it out?"
As luck would have it, a spokesman at Kleenex has the answer:
"We've heard that people are reusing the empty cartons as pencil holders or planter containers."
Talk about saving face.