Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Art of Wall

Ten simple rules to make your home gallery come to life. BY INA AMOR MEJIA

Imagine if this wall were empty. Photo from the book Decorate Workshop: Design and Style your Space in 8 Creative Steps by Holly Becker (via The Curated House). 

A THOUGHTFULLY CURATED WALL of treasured photos and works of art can give a house its character and make it look "finished". But gone are the days of matching frames and formal photographs. The new art wall has taken on a sublime eclecticism. A perfect way of expressing the leanings of a home and the people that live there, just as it is a remembering of moments lived, or the dreams we dream. The new art wall has become a work of art in itself.

Ok, it's just a wall full of pictures and art, big deal. I'll choose what I like, frame them, and hang them on a wall in my house. You could do that, or you could turn this task into something transforming (for you and the wall both), and let this creative effort yield that decorating masterpiece. 

AND! It can also be easy and goofproof thanks to things like 3M.

I once had an empty wall in my living room that looked especially lonely. I decided that I wanted to hang a collection of family photos but not simply all in a row. I thought about the sizes and made a mock-up in Photoshop to see what arrangement looked best. I had the photos framed in black and white and then I put them up.
My living room vignette needs updating, some color, and a plant.

I was happy with this project and it always breaks the ice when friends come to visit. There's a photo of Caroline as an infant looking tiny in our wing tip chair (she's so tall now and she dangles her legs over the side). A photo of Paco, my godson, at my wedding. A photo of Gabby and I looking inebriated at same wedding. A photo of my dad looking like a gangster. A photo of my mom being young and bohemian sipping coconut juice at a beach in one of my favorite university towns. A photo of me and my sister before we became mothers. A spectacular photo of my brother John running along the shores of Lingayen beach, that everybody in my family claims they took (it was I). 

But lately I've been hoping for a change. Also because my husband just woke up one day and decided he wanted to collect art. We're very different he and I. He wasn't much into the arts when we first met so this really is some sort of a coup. So far we've found a large abstract and an oil by two amazing local artists. But what this really means is that the rest of our walls will need to get their game on.

I plan to transfer the family photos to our dining room where they might stand out more against taupe walls. Or maybe hang the photos separately around the house, each part of a larger group. This time, I'll take cues from the art walls shown in this post and be guided by these useful tips.

Find the wall. Start with the wall above the couch in the living room. Or the wall above your bed. Hanging art work above furniture takes advantage of a room's focal point. Is there a niche in the wall? Or how about the wall by the landing on the stairs? A small divider wall. The hallway. Or the wall above your desk. I just feel that it should be a wall that is illuminated by a fair amount of indirect daylight. Even if you'd like to create a moody vignette, you'd want to be able to see it.  
In the home of filmmaker Noemie Saglio. Photo by Nicolas Aristidou for The Socialite Family

See what works with your house and your stuff. Abstract artists often keep this in mind when creating pieces that a designer or homeowner might want. Pick paintings, prints or photographs that work with your look and your furniture. It doesn't necessarily have to be all matchy (and it shouldn't be), but you will need to consider color schemes, styles, and the sizes of the wall, furniture and room. 
The sizes of the art here work with the scale of this room. Their jewel tones stand out against the pale pink wall, pair well with the celadon couch, and give a richness to this chic and feminine space. Photo from the book Decorate Workshop by Holly Becker (via The Curated House).

Use art and photographs that you love. You will be staring at this wall more than you know, so make sure it is filled with photographs that are meaningful, and with art that truly speaks to you. The most interesting arrangements are a combination of different mediums and styles. Like this one...
Photo via Modern Findings.

Use what you have or make your own art. You don't always have to take new pictures or buy art. Look for old family photos that have character, or maybe use some of your artful Instagram photos. Just make sure you don't use the actual old photo but instead, scan it and have it printed in the size you want (on good matte archival paper, not glossy photo paper). Mix those with art you made yourself, or by a friend. An alternative would be to buy affordable prints online. They go for so much less than originals but still look like a million. Check here, here, and here. I mean check out The Old Guitarist by one of my favorite Spanish guys. 
Photo on the left from The Every Girl, photo on the right from Bianca Green.

Consider mounting and framing. Think about how you want to frame your art and photos, if they aren't already. About whether you want simple, modern frames, more ornate ones, or simple block mounts. Keep in mind the style of the room, and what sort of framing and matting, if any, might show off the art best. If you need to buy frames but don't want to spend much, consider buying framed department store art (usually in the home section). What you really want is the frame, so be sure you can easily remove the existing art. Try to mix and match different types of frames to keep things interesting.
Photo on the left via 1Kindesign. Photo on the right from The Design Files

Consider the grouping. Is it going to be a Paris hang or a mosaic hang? Read about how to create both groupings from this informative SFGate article

Mix the media. You don't have to stop at photographs or framed art. You can use objects. I think this would be the perfect place for those objets d'art that everyone in your house is objecting to because they're "useless". But you just can't let go. I know. 
No one objects to that furry thing because it works. Photo from Schoolhouse Electric via Life + Times

Hang them high or low. There's a bit of controversy here. You should be able to see the art and therefore must hang them relatively at eye level. But how do you explain this beauty?
Photo from Elle Decor

Have a dry run. Before you finally decide on your art and the framing, and what the final sizes are, it would be great to create a mock-up of the actual grouping. You can cut the shapes out of paper, and taking into consideration the size of the wall (maybe doing it right in front of the wall), you could arrange the pieces on the floor to see what works. Here's a great tutorial from Emma of A Beautiful Mess.

Finally, relax. I said in the beginning of this post that creating your own art wall is really one of the most goofproof projects you can do yourself. Picture hanging solutions like these mean that you won't have to put holes in the wall, and can easily make painless changes if needed. In his article Art Matters, Jay Johnson quotes interior designer Irwin Weiner who said, "Art is not like a toilet or a bathtub...if it were a toilet, you'd be stuck with it on your wall and it would be hell to change. But it's not, so take a deep breath and start to have some fun with it."

Which is exactly what I intend to do when I get around to working on my new art wall. I'll keep you posted, and thanks for reading. 


  1. What a long post haha! But I could not stop reading! Now I know what to do with all my empty walls! - Kelly from SF

  2. Thanks Kelly! Good luck on your walls and watch out for Part Two of this post :)


Thank you for your kind comments.


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