I finally finished the gallery wall in our living room!
I feel like I’ve been talking about this for a month (because I have).
Since I posted the living room update last week, I’ve decided that while I love the coral couch and could design a gorgeous, traditional room around it, I really had my heart set on a neutral living room with a bold mix of antique and modern. The floral couch made everything much more feminine, and while I love feminine details, I prefer a more masculine, minimal and refined look overall, with less print — it’s just easier on the eyes for me and makes me feel relaxed.
This decision was cemented when Steve and I saw a Le Corbusier (knockoff) couch on Facebook Marketplace, and he liked it so much he drove to Connecticut (a 6 hour round trip!) to pick it up!
Here is the listing photo:
We put it in place of the coral couch and I immediately felt like the room was more “us.”
This all relates to the gallery wall because the neutral mix of pencil sketches, black and white photography, and abstract art feels perfect for this room now — antique with modern in a neutral color palette. I’ll share an update of the whole room soon, but until then, here is the gallery wall!
(That bottom right picture reflected everything in the dark bottom half! Including the kid’s messy books in the unfinished mudroom and me!)
I been collecting pencil sketches when I see them at garage sales and thrift stores for years, so that was my starting point for this wall.
Here are a few displayed in our old house (sorry about the grainy iPhone photo).
When planning this room, I looked at a lot of neutral gallery walls, and I loved the ones that mixed up the types of art. So in addition to the pencil sketches, I decided to use black and white photographs and abstract art.
I tried buying an inexpensive printable piece of abstract art from Etsy, but it ended up looking really flat and cheesy when I put it in a frame. I think part of the appeal of abstract art (for me) is in being able to see the differences in texture. So, I decided to make a few pieces myself! I really like how the bottom two came out. The one on the top left is a little off to me. I had a really good time experimenting with abstract painting, so I’m going to make a few more and see if I come up with something I like better. For now, that one is just fine, and I love the other two!
How I Did It
Step One: Put all the art you want to use together.
When I had gathered most of the vintage pieces, I laid them against the couch with a bunch of empty frames I had also gathered from thrift stores and snapped a photo. This helped me to visualize which frames needed to be painted (and what colors), and what kind of art I wanted to put in each frame.
You can see the abstract that I decided against at the top, and two matching watercolors on each side that looked off with all the black and white. Almost all of the frames here are from thrift stores — I painted a few of them to keep the frame color palette to wood, black, white, gray and gold.
Step Two: Gather more art to fill the spaces/ paint frames.
Then I went hunting for more art to fill the larger frames. I decided to use photos from places we have visited together, cropped and in black and white to look a little more abstract. I made the abstracts with Graham in the basement — with flat black latex paint on white posterboard, and then cut them to size. The flower sketch is from Etsy, and the column sketch was something I found on Pinterest.
Step Three: Lay all the art out in the space to determine the placement.
After I had filled the large frames, I laid all the art on the living room floor, placing the largest pieces first, to determine the order. I knew I wanted the whole gallery wall to be just wider than the couch, starting just above the back of the couch and going up to the ceiling, leaving ample room for the crown molding we are planning to install.
The first layout was awkward, but I liked that the large photos were spaced out well. Leia was worried that I was standing on a chair.
This was still not as balanced as I wanted — both the frame sizes and colors had to be spaced out better.
This was almost there, but still felt thin on the left side.
This was the final order, but I decided to switch the abstract piece at the top (although now I kind of like that one better, hmm), paint the white frame at the top gold, switch out the metallic boat picture at the top for a photo, and paint the small gold frame on the right black.
Step Four: Fix any remaining issues, and then start hanging, beginning at eye level, or another reference point.
Then, it was just a matter of hanging it, starting at the couch and working our way up. I wanted each corner piece to line up with each other, while the middle pieces could float away from the edges symmetrically, so I tried to eyeball that with each piece as I went. As I moved up to the second and third rows, I hung the larger pieces first and then the smaller, to make sure the placement was correct.
I love how it came out! It took a lot of planning and trips back and forth to the photo shop, but it was a relatively easy project to actually execute.
If you made it this far, what do you think?