Can we stop for a moment and talk about how jealous I have been of Sage’s beautiful gallery wall? It’s not so much that I wanted her gallery wall to be mine, but that I was feeling very inadequate and not-blogger that I had been living in this house for two years without completing one of my own. I think Sage probably hung hers within the first 5 hours of moving in, because she is a real blogger.
But feelings of personal deficiency aside, let’s back up for a moment and visit my living room as it was when Brad and I bought it – think dull, dark, beige, green, and creepy.
Our renovation with new floors, windows, and trim, and our painting and decorating, brought us pretty far, but there were still several major things that needed to be done in the room. Take this picture which used to be in my house tour…
… and let me point out to you the random holes in the walls where I need duct covers, the dinky light put in during construction that still needs to be replaced, and the random pieces of brown paper taking up residence amid the actual artwork on my wall.
Okay, so those first two things are still issues, but let’s focus on what this post and this blog are really about: the awesomely awesome things I do to make my house prettier.
The hold-up with the gallery wall was a good one – right in the middle of planning and hanging my original layout, Brad gave me a super awesome Solstice gift: “Head of a Crocodile” by Reinder Oldenburger.
Brad is a really good and thoughtful gift-giver, and he has turned into a remarkable one since he learned how to access my pinterest boards to scope out what I am pinning. I had pinned several paintings by Reinder Oldenburger, and Brad looked him up and picked this one out for me. I LOVE IT. I love the colors, the shapes, the contrast, and most of all his funny nose (the crocodile’s, not Brad’s).
He (Brad) had planned it to go in my office/dressing room (where the colors would look great with the teal paint) but I really wanted a painting this awesome to go where it would be seen by anyone who visits our house. So I put the whole gallery wall question on hold while I got the canvas stretched and framed.
Most of our frames are silver, and I like that consistency because it means I’ll be able to move pieces around more easily in the future. But for this painting I wanted to do something a little special, and so I chose a floating frame that is silver on the front but black on the inner and outer edge for a little more definition. They installed it so it came out a little farther than the canvass, so some of the inner black edge would show.
Once it was done, we tweaked the original gallery wall layout to feature it prominently. I considered several layout options, including some with smaller items mixed in, but eventually decided on a casual layout using mainly large items.
Sage’s gallery wall uses many small pieces of artwork, and I do love that look. In fact, if you’ll tolerate some poor-quality-cell-phone-photos-from-the-past, I can show you the layouts I used in my old apartment. In the living room I anchored a lot of small pictures with a few medium sized items in the center, and then broke up the pattern with a few hanging items.
In my bedroom, I just used a lot of small items, but brought in some unusual shapes to stop it from feeling too boxy.
Man, that photo quality is unconscionable. But suffice it to say that I do love the look of lots of small pieces forming one large gallery wall – or, as I called them back then before I had discovered blogs and decorating magazines and learned that there are real terms for such things, “picture blobs.”
However, given all the crazy bright colors and details already in my living room, and the colorful artwork, I decided that a spread of large artworks would be best. This layout had a few great selling points. For one, Brad didn’t need to move many of the paintings that had already been hung, saving him work and our wall more holes. Also, it “incorporated” our eyesore-of-a-thermostat, helping it blend in and look intentional. Here it is!
I am still mulling whether this is perfect for the long-term, but it is great for now. I think I love it, but it is less symmetrical than I usually go for so it may take some getting used to.
What I know that I love is that I get to incorporate many meaningful pieces into the display. I’ve already gone on-and-on about the crocodile painting, so let me say a few words about the others.
On top is a print that Brad and I randomly bought at the SoWa Market in Boston a few years ago. We were wandering and shopping with my friend Tasha, and just kept coming across fun old prints that we liked. We got this one, which is all in Russian, for something like $15, and I got it framed about a year ago when I was framing a bunch of other pieces. If only I had known about Sage’s DIY mat cutting trick back then! This will move off this wall when we find another print or painting that we really love, but for now it is doing a pretty good job filling this space.
On the right, you can see the amazing Dali lithograph (Vanishing Face) that Brad’s parents are lending us from their home. What a beautiful thing to see every day. I just adore the lines of it and how much fun there is hiding in this image! And of course the bright, primary colors are exactly the tones we’re using so much of in our house.
The top print is from Brad’s grandmother. She has an impressive collection of Japanese screen prints, which we always admire when we visit her for Christmas. They range from nature-based scenes to totally abstract shapes and patterns. I find them fascinating. She has been kind enough to gift us two, and this image of gold and purple birds is one of them. I wish we could have hung the other one in this layout, too – it is big and red and beautiful – but space didn’t allow it (it is slated for the hallway, instead).
Below that is Rosa Luxemburg. My parents met in college, and after they graduated they headed off to work as community organizers in Chicago, living in crummy apartments with a big German Shepherd named Beast, eating peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and pasta with butter and Parmesan cheese for dinner. They didn’t spend a lot of money or time on interior decorating, but they did buy this poster and have it inexpensively framed under some sort of shrink-wrap plastic. Rosa Luxemburg was a Polish socialist of Jewish descent. She co-founded the Spartacus League, which became the Communist Party of Germany, and was eventually captured and killed, becoming a martyr. My parents gave it to me when I got my first apartment during college, and I’ve had it up ever since. My mom and I took it to be re-framed last year.
Finally, to the left is a Lichtenstein print that I got from a museum gift shop (I think it was the Museum of Modern Art in New York) when Brad and I had been dating for only a year or so. You may not be able to read it, but she’s saying “I don’t care! I’d rather sink than call Brad for help!” I think it is hilarious, although Brad doesn’t agree.
Forgive this odd angle and strange lighting, but this is the only way to show how the colors in the gallery wall pick up the rest of the house — particularly the deep gold tone that we chose to paint our doors. I love that the reds pick up my chair and our dining room rug and the yellows pick up our doors. Maybe all this insanity is actually starting to make sense.
Or not. This room still has a long way to go, but right now it’s a really happy, cozy, colorful place to be – so that’s something. When picking our couch and rug, I reconciled myself to those sensible, staple pieces by telling myself that the art alone would make this room fun. I think it does!