gallery wall

Gallery wall courage in nine mostly painless steps

My husband doesn't have many requests when it comes to our home decor. He mostly trusts my judgement (after a year of power struggle when we were first married because men and change and ugh). His one request has been to include more family photos into our home. I struggle with this. Mainly because our house is on the small side and I don't want to clutter it up with picture frames on shelves. Also because I am constantly fighting my own urge to clutter it up with thrifted objects. I do want our house to feel cozy and homey with photos capturing the fun moments of our lives but I always wrestle with balancing that with pretty. Alas, the gallery wall.

I love a photo gallery wall but it's an overwhelming process that I push to the bottom of my list because it takes some time and patience. After tiring of our uninspiring hallway, however, I decided it would be the perfect spot to give it a try. Here's my step by step to photo gallery wall success. 

1. Purchase the frames. It may seem counterintuitive to start here but if anything motivates me (and probably you) it's shopping and Target. They have so many pretty frames right now so I went on a little black Friday spree (buy 1 get 1 free). 

Match or don't match – there are no rules. I do love the look of matching frames (like this wall) especially when all lined up – I just think it's too sophisticated for me ;) Our home is eclectic so while that probably would have helped to polish our space, I wanted it to be more fun and in character. I bought a variety of sizes and styles. Brass, white, black, wood, marble, etc. 

2. Select your photos. For the purposes of our gallery, I wanted to stick with photos only and include everyone in our immediate family. I started with a few photos that I knew I wanted to use (the big one of Henry hangin' on our bed zoned out watching Thomas and the other large one of Mike and I on your average Tuesday  - see below). With those two in mind, I tried to select mostly candids as my theme but it gets tricky when you only have posed shots of some people. I'll share how I still made this work in step 3. 

3. Edit your photos. If you're printing new ones, there are a lot of free sites for editing. Since I wanted my photos to feel more candid, I added a filter to some and changed the lighting to others (brightness and highlights help a LOT). It helped to soften them a little so they look more natural. I like PicMonkey for this but also just use my phone photo editor and then airdrop them to my computer. For me, it's fast and easy and that wins every time. PS - I am aware this can be done directly in Photos on my computer but I'll admit I haven't tried it. 

4. Purchase your photos. I printed most of mine at Walgreens for about $35 and they were ready the same day. Walgreens will print up to a 24 x 36 poster if you're feeling crazy or have a giant house.

5. Place photos in frames and arrange/layout on the floor. If you don't have an eye for this, search gallery wall layout on Pinterest for tons of ideas. I just sort of go with my gut here. Spacing is not too close or too far (about 2-3 inches apart). Your highest picture should be centered at 57 or so inches from the floor so keep that in mind when arranging. This is the average human eye height and also so your photos don't seem as though they're floating too high on the wall, separated from other decor in the room or space. 

6. Take a photo of the layout as a reference for when you go to hang your frames.

7. Measure and use your level. Do yourself a favor and take the time for this or suffer a frustrating round of whack-a-mole on your wall. You can cut craft paper templates to the sizes of your frames, measure off where the nail holes should be and tape to the wall as a guide. Most larger frames come with these templates so don't throw them out. Smaller frames can usually be eyeballed. Again, highest at 57 inches centered (meaning the top will be higher than this) and work around according to your layout. 

8. Hang and adjust, if needed. If you're off a little here and there, don't sweat it. Move your nail over a smidge and spackle if you need to. If your paint is light enough you won't even need to touch it up. The spackle alone will hide most nail holes. 

9. Admire.

I really do love how this turned out (and so does Mike!). The only thing I am sad about is that I procrastinated for so long. This spot has brought a warmth to our home that I really didn't expect. Our sad hallway is now a fun tribute to family and the times we've spent together. And the best part is there's room for more! 

Designing a playroom to coexist with a family room

If you saw my post a few weeks back, I finally shared our living room situation with the world. What you didn't see was the chaos next door – Henry's play area. It accompanies the adult space in our living room and knowing that would be the case, I set out to make it as pretty and organized as possible. I'm aware this post will probably make me look like a crazy perfectionist mom but know that it usually doesn't look this way. I do let my child play and make messes but who wants to see pictures of that, right ;)?

It's obviously far less challenging to organize and tidy when you have only one kiddo. And there could definitely be more toys. My friend Kelly sold me on the idea of rotating toys and I LOVE it. Old toys are new again every few weeks or so. It's especially useful for small spaces like ours and less stuff to "dump" which is basically what Henry's play is right now. Pick it up, shove it in his shopping cart, push the shopping cart, dump the shopping cart. Rinse and repeat. It's adorably messy. 

As for the design of this spot, it's pretty minimal and even a bit Nordic mostly because Ikea. I'm not above a plastic kitchen (ok maybe a little) but if given the choice, you're darn right I'm going to get the prettier one...even if it takes me all afternoon to assemble. That, the table and chairs, cubby shelf and the white frames are all Ikea. 

The wall art is a mix of stuff from our old condo and Henry's masterpieces. I see real talent in those scribbles and like the idea of changing it out as his art evolves.

The flush mount is a favorite of mine. When we moved in it was a dated spotlight and a little abrasive. I found this guy at CB2 and Mike installed it for me. I added an Edison bulb because it's pretty and softer on the eyes.

The rug is from West Elm. I bought this for Henry's nursery but it was scratchy and not very baby friendly so it's been rotated around other spaces in our home until it finally found it's forever spot here... forever being six to eight months until I get a bug to redo this space again. It's a real sickness, guys.


I have been toying with the idea for wallpaper on that far wall but I'm holding out for something that's just right. Not too childlike, not too adult. I do like the minimal look but I want the room to feel a bit warmer.

So there you have it, a play area with a little bit of style, a whole lot of fun and that feels cohesive with our adult space. Mostly, this room is our Thomas watching area with the occasional KUWTK when no one else is looking but most importantly, it's our place to hang out and be a family and that's what home is all about ;) 

A bright and serene office update

When you're a city dweller, it's pretty common for your home office to double as a guest room while also accommodating all of the other stuff you're not quite sure what to do with. That was the state of affairs for my writer/photographer/all things creative client, Diana. Not the best 'before' photos but you get the idea. She needed a place to think freely and feel inspired that would also be welcoming to friends and family and a little monkey I happen to know...Diana is my mother-in-law and that monkey is, of course, Henry ;)

One of the most challenging parts of updating a space for a client is to do so while still honoring their personal style. I know Diana fairly well at this point so I know she loves pattern and deep, rich colors. I used a rug of hers as the starting point that also served as sort of check in piece for me. Any ideas that came to mind had to be cohesive with that piece to know that I was still on track with her look and not just my own. Here's the mood board I put together for her that I shared on the blog a while back. To my delight, she was on board with most of my ideas and we moved forward quickly. 

The first order of business was the wall color. To brighten the space, my initial thought was Honeymilk by Valspar but it didn't quite work with the lighting and was too similar to the trim. ALWAYS test your paint, people! We tried out a few and settled on Edgecomb Gray by Benjamin Moore (I love the color so much, I'm using it in our bedroom...eventually). It's a creamy light gray with very subtle brown undertones. Really bright and clean feeling and so, so pretty. 

Diana had expressed feeling a little overwhelmed by all of the pattern in her home so I swapped the futon cover for a solid one and found some new, fun pillows – one print, one striped. She still loves pattern, just doesn't want it everywhere. I can relate. I removed the torchier lamp and updated it with this wood toned geometric guy from Target...I'm really digging that little corner. 

    Floor lamp - Target ;  Bird pillow - Pottery Barn ; Tassel pillow - West Elm (discontinued); Futon cover - Right-On Futon; Frames - Ikea 


Floor lamp - Target; Bird pillow - Pottery Barn; Tassel pillow - West Elm (discontinued); Futon cover - Right-On Futon; Frames - Ikea 

The gallery wall was next. Diana had a lot of family photos to display but as it happens over time, frames can begin to look dated and don't always mix well with one another. I purchased varying shapes and sizes of black frames from Ikea for a more cohesive look and got to hanging. (Here's a tip for gallery walls: Arrange your frames on the floor first until you like what you see, snap a photo of the arrangement to reference while you're hanging.)

Diana's desk was a little worse for wear but otherwise a solid piece that was still very workable. I'd been following Megmade, a furniture refinishing shop in Chicago, for some time and was excited to finally get a chance to work with them. Diana and I popped in and chose a nice gray lacquer (Amherst Gray by Benjamin Moore) for the base and she kept with the same dark wood finish for the top. I found new brass hardware from Schoolhouse Electric and voila, a few weeks later, a new desk. That. Is. Gorgeous. 

Although her desk chair is not the most attractive, it's crazy comfortable. Knowing that this is an actual working office, I resisted the urge to trade it out for something pretty (and less cozy) and just threw a sheepskin over it to dress it up. 

The before photo doesn't do justice to the ledge shelves on the wall but they were too big for the space. I removed them and chose a tall bookshelf for stuff that was beginning to accumulate on and around her desk. To help her stay organized, I grabbed some pretty boxes from Ikea for mail and general miscellany and we kept her wicker file box and mail sorter, too. Mike will make fun of me because I'm into wicker lately but I really do love the softness and texture it can bring to a room...when done well. 

In the case of the shelf, I kept with her mismatched frames. If you don't go crazy with too many, I think it can work. And they also helped to keep the space more Diana and less 'decorator'. 

Pulling it all together (as rugs do) was that beautiful kilim. It was passed down from her mother who had impeccable taste in rugs and was just a super fun piece to work with. Using things of meaning for clients is my favorite part. I've mentioned this in every post (because it's true!) that it's sentimental pieces that make a house feel like home. 

So, there you have it. An updated office/guest room that we did for just over a grand. All in all, the space feels much more easy breezy which is exactly what I was going for. It's the perfect place to get creative, meditate on your day or throw down a pack 'n play and take a nice long afternoon nap :)


A writer's haven in the making

Henry and I are on a little road trip to Michigan this week to visit friends and family (I'm loving the freedom of this gig already ;) Here's an office/guest room mood board I'm working on for a friend of mine. Deets and before and afters at a later date but I want to give you something pretty to look at this week. 

We're going from LOTS of pattern and darkish walls and trying to hit a bright and cozy note. It also needs to be inviting enough to write a good book. This rug is similar to hers which is a great piece to work from. The futon, desk and her office chair are staying (with some updates) and she has tons of art and family photos that we need to hang in a more cohesive way. Here's what I sent her last night. I think it's a pretty good start, don't you?