Monday, February 14, 2011

Terry's Formal Art Wall

After what turned out to be a months-long process, I finally got this art wall hung last week, and I'm thrilled to share the results! (I couldn't post the pictures right away because it was a surprise for the homeowner, my mom, and I didn't want her to see photos before she saw the wall in her house.)

My parents' house is big and open and airy, and the wall in question is the second level hallway, overlooking the foyer, which has double-height ceilings. It is a big wall, making it both an opportunity and a challenge as far as a gallery goes, especially since the vantage point for seeing it is sort of awkward: you encounter it as a whole coming up the stairs, but when you are actually IN the hallway you are too close to the wall to see it as a whole. Here's the before (with the final work lying on the floor--oops):

We set the scheme based on a group of 5 etchings, already framed in gold, by early 20th century artists, which were mostly in storage or hung individually elsewhere in the house. The idea was to make a strong impact through a tight arrangement of gold frames, which you would see coming up the stairs, followed by the more intimate experience of seeing these delicate works up close, one by one.

To accomplish this, we gathered a number of other black and white works with delicate lines, but we needed to do some serious frame makeovers.

Check out the line drawing of the Madonna, framed in gold with a green velvet border. And that pair of Chinese etchings in skimpy little nothing frames.

The drawing of the Virgin belonged to my dad's mother, and we did her up right in a graceful frame and gold fillet, and gave the Chinese pieces much more oomph with a heavier gold bamboo frame. To go with the old-world feel of the original pieces, all the new frames got ivory silk mattes.

Finally, we broke up all the works-on-paper with portraits of my grandparents. My mom had wallet-sized photographs, so we needed to have them reproduced. I stumbled upon a place in Stillwater that specializes in antique photographs, and they did a great job with these (though it took FOREVER). You can see the pictures of my grandfather above and my grandmother, below, post reproduction and framing. I am generally a fan of mixing in the personal when doing a gallery wall in your own home, and think these photos were a great addition here.

To get the formal effect we were after, we figured out the best overall layout, which is very symmetrical, and then decided on completely even spacing between the pictures--2 inches all around. This meant that my usual method of hanging a wall wasn't really necessary: we simply had to figure out the overall placement of the arrangement, hang the center picture, then do a lot of math to hang the rest.

For placement, we taped together two sheets of kraft paper in the overall dimension of the arrangement, and used putty to put the whole thing on the wall. (Thankfully, my aunt was helping me, because that was one BIG sheet of paper, and it did NOT want to stay up on the wall!). Once it was set and the middle picture hung, we simply had to calculate the position of each subsequent nail, the details of which are super boring (but also kind of impressive) and took us forever to figure out, so I will not (further) bore you here.

Anyway, I think the results are truly spectacular (too much? Okay, well, it's real pretty), and my mom was sooooo pleasantly surprised when she came home from two weeks in Arizona to find this long-empty wall DONE.

Here's the same vantage point as the before shot:

And here's a closer look. Or two.

The whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts, and I'm loving it.

Have a boring wall? Want to make it beautiful? I'd love to help. Email me at heatherjoypeterson[at]gmail[dot]com for services and rates.


  1. looks great. All we need now is new carpeting! do you have a source for fabulous carpet at fabulous prices? maybe we should visit Seestedts. Remember how much fun that was when you were young? mom

  2. Mom, I forgot to tell you, Eileen and I solved the carpet problem. We think you should ditch the black and go with a warm charcoal grey. It would work up and down the stairs and in all three bedrooms. I've been meaning to see if I can get a sample of one of Martha Stewarts new carpets for Home Depot for you. I'll let you know!


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