A Clean Chicago Gallery Wall...and a Baby

I recently went to visit my sister and her husband and eight month old baby in Chicago. Okay, I really went to see Baby C. Just look at that face. She's a pumpkin, boogies and all. How could anyone resist this sweet little munchkin? 

Who needs sleep when these cheeks need staring at and pinching?

Who needs sleep when these cheeks need staring at and pinching?

Alright, I'm going to stop there because I could write stories for you all day about her and now I have your attention. I know you are heartbroken, but we must get back to the point! Before my visit, I asked my sister if she wanted help with projects around the house, now that she is a full time mommy with a full time job. She manages her household with her husband, and is pretty much up all night with Baby C, because baby is a night-owl-partier and hates sleep. At least hates sleeping at night. My sister and her husband are basically superheroes. I have no idea how they are still functioning.

She mentioned she felt like one wall in the living room just wasn’t coming together, and she couldn’t figure out how to make it more streamlined. She’s been feeling a need to de-clutter and make the house more organized. This wall had a mix of art, photos and well-loved books, movies, objects and such. It mostly just felt like a mess to her. We weren’t going to be purchasing anything new to change things up…I wanted to use what she already had lying around (since she has an amazing, well-traveled and unique collection of art she’s picked up or made herself). Oh P.S., check out some of her hand made art on Etsy. Yeah, she’s pretty talented and makes time for selling her creations in addition to her other superhero powers.

Her large eclectic looking gallery wall was composed of too small frames. Everything was a bit uneven, as well, so I needed to create even lines for the eye to easily follow.

BEFORE

The shutters behind the television needed to stay put, since moving them would have left large holes in the walls. They rent, and we didn’t want to add more work in terms of filling in wall holes when they eventually move. I wanted to level out the shutters at the top, but decided I would work with it! Sometimes that’s how the best design comes together.

The shutters behind the television needed to stay put, since moving them would have left large holes in the walls. They rent, and we didn’t want to add more work in terms of filling in wall holes when they eventually move. I wanted to level out the shutters at the top, but decided I would work with it! Sometimes that’s how the best design comes together.

Can I just interject that I think my sister is an amazingly creative person, and this post is in no way meant to diminish her talent or eye? When you're a busy person, and you have a ginormous wall to decorate, and you have a new baby and husband, and you haven't slept in months, it can be daunting. Props to her for getting something UP ON THE WALL. That alone is a challenge, and for all of you out there suffering from this same or similar dilemma, just taking a first step deserves congratulations. And if you haven't decorated anything, you still rock. Way to go, you! Okay, back to the project...

Her living room wall is HUGE and I’m seriously jealous about that, by the way. My tiny NYC apartment doesn't even come close. Which means I have art stacked on the floor everywhere. Anyway, this wall needed large art of about the same size and shape. I chose to keep two of the pieces that were already up, and replace the rest with a cool handmade piece (her work) and another piece they picked up on their last visit to see me. As you can see in the photo below, I organized the “lighter” looking pieces to sit at the top of the wall. The “heavier” items went toward the bottom, to achieve a more natural, streamlined look. Heavy things usually fall to the bottom of the pile, right? Our eyes and brains expect this concept of nature and are in a more relaxed state when things are arranged in such a way. 

AFTER

I also took down the photos pinned to the shutters. SUCH a cute idea, I LOVED it sis! But in this case, taking them down really cleaned up the look.

I also took down the photos pinned to the shutters. SUCH a cute idea, I LOVED it sis! But in this case, taking them down really cleaned up the look.

I stuck with white as the common color to tie every piece together. My sister has very colorful walls and objects in the house, so we needed to balance this by using a neutral. Plus, making white the underlying color is a modern and clean touch. All of the pieces have other colors in them, but they don’t dominate so much that they distract. They add interest, like the bear print tacked on the shutters. That piece, in color and placement, keeps the wall interesting and is in line with my sister’s fun style. I didn’t want to make the wall too “stuffy”, because that just isn’t her! I probably love that part of the wall best, and it is the least streamlined part of the whole wall.

Now, design is all about the details. You might have noticed in the after photo that I had tackled the bookshelf. Eventually, my sister is going to paint that thing white, but for now, I needed to make sure it was neat and clean looking to tie it all together. Sometimes, you don’t need to remove or add anything to make a vignette look better. Sometimes, all you need to do is rearrange the objects a bit. Take a look at the bookshelf in this before photo, and then check out the after photo below it.

BEFORE

See how each shelf's objects are a bit non-cohesive?

See how each shelf's objects are a bit non-cohesive?

AFTER

Ta-da! I only removed TWO small books from the shelves, but it looks like I cleared away half of what was there. It's all about rearranging!

Ta-da! I only removed TWO small books from the shelves, but it looks like I cleared away half of what was there. It's all about rearranging!

Here you can see I straightened everything on the shelves to be parallel to the lines of the bookcase itself. I toned down the look of displaying movies by incorporating them into the book collection on the bottom shelf. My sister’s husband loves these particular movies and wanted to keep them out for all to see, rather than hiding them in the television cabinet. Which I totally would have done otherwise! Design challenges like this one are awesome and I love them; they force me to be more creative and find new solutions to common dilemmas, instead of using the same tricks all the time. That can get pretty boring. So, thanks for the challenge, awesome brother-in-law! I love that you get to enjoy seeing your movies out in the open!

Another thing to remember is use the rule of three’s. That’s what I stuck with here while arranging the bookcase. Most everything was already arranged using that rule, but I just condensed and balanced out some of the items to clean it up. Something to think about with books...chunking books together makes one object. Did you notice how the books on the top shelf visually appear as one object, rather than lots of individual books? You can also chunk other objects together (similar objects), to visually create one object. Remember to balance them out (don’t put a teeny tiny object next to a huge object, the small one will visually disappear). I also like to pair objects that have different textures or colors next to each other for more depth and a layered, collected look.

Streamlining your home doesn't necessarily require going out to buy all new things. Just keep it simple and arrange your objects in a neat fashion. Place like things together to create "one item", and arrange art that has similar qualities together. If you feel the need to get rid of some of your belongings, go for it! One thing is for sure, busy families can ABSOLUTELY have a streamlined home with just a bit of rearranging.

Next time I'll show you how to easily hang your art. It's doable, I promise. It does require a little time, and some thought, but it doesn't require you to be a rocket scientist. In the meantime, take a look at these clean gallery walls to get your ideas together for next week's tutorial!

Thanks for reading! Have a fabulous week!

xo Carole