I crunched some numbers and realized that it took me 237 weeks since moving in to get art hung on the walls of our master bedroom. Mild case of “hole-in-the-wall-phobia.”
Now, I know that’s totally crazy. I know how to patch and paint and I’ve done it plenty, but in the interest of hanging the art in the right damn space on the first try, it took this long (yup, 4.5 years) to actually make things happen without rushing the process just to check it off the list.
It’s especially nice to finally live in a bedroom that doesn’t feel like my first apartment where I was forbidden from damaging the drywall. And you how daylight reflects off frame glass? It sure makes a room feel more homey (also, impossibly hard to photograph).
Backtrack for a sec before this becomes all about me being weird for not wanting to put nails into my drywall. Part of the reason this took so long was also due to the fact that we really needed new bedroom dressers. The set of IKEA MALM dressers I bought 10+ years ago has now been fully recalled–now to the point where IKEA is begging to come pick them up to spare you the inconvenience of having to rent a truck in order to transport them back to a store–but when you’re outfitting your “forever home” you want to buy “forever dressers” and it’s really hard to commit to “forever dressers” without making some sort of concession for budget/quality/size/finishing details when you’re simultaneously under the pressure of recalled dressers that may or may not tip on your children because you haven’t anchored them to the wall (back to being obsessed about perfect, hole-free drywall). In short, we’ve been waiting it out until the right dresser at the right price point came into line of sight. Fortunately, that opportunity knocked sometime last fall when a decent set of Benson 6-drawer dressers at West Elm caught my eye. They’re no longer available in the light oak color we bought, but the darker walnut option is available here. Originally priced around $1,200/each, they were marked down to $699 + some bonus discounts + 20% west elm card bonus cash back (+ an exorbitant amount for shipping and setup) and the set of 2 new dressers cost about $1,700 from store-to-door. Pricing-wise, they were a good bargain considering that the units I had really been coveting were about 4x more expensive–completely unjustifiable to my spending senses (but I still love you, DWR). The West Elm dressers were also the perfect size and scale for the wall I had been scheming for in our room, and the lighter veneer wood finish was ideal, too. It’s hard to find light wood pieces that are modern but not just white.
I took a few “before” photos for a good laugh, knowing that it would be crazy to look back on this wall someday and recalling that we lived with it looking like this for 4+ years.
I openly admit that I have a love/hate relationship with West Elm furniture. I had some reluctance about buying dressers there because we’re less than thrilled with our Tillary Sectional, but it doesn’t end there. Our mod upholstered bed frame is literally about to collapse on the floor because a leg is 2-seconds from breaking off (they sent a backup part but angled legs on any furniture get a thumbs-down from me now), and I always thought the drawers in store felt like they had cheap sliders… but all that said, I took a risk and these ones aren’t too bad. They close nicely and slide smoothly, and the leather handles do feel nice and higher end than other products at the same price point.
The real perk of getting new dressers was finally being able to finish that end of the bedroom with some artwork. Our collection is a nice mix of prints that we’ve been gifted (or gifted each other), small originals that we’ve purchased, and a whole bunch of random treasures we’ve collected or inherited. It still took me months to decide which pieces would be hung above the dressers on the wall to make the space feel more finished, but I considered:
- Scale and color: Wanted the collection to feel bonded by color palette, and it just so happened that most of our frames are black, so that helped too.
- Importance: A little bit of this, a little bit of that. The final selects for our wall all have a little sentimental value, yet still flow well together.
- Orientation: To gallery wall, or not to gallery wall? I wanted some organization more than a puzzled assortment on the wall, and bottom-aligning the frames seemed like a good direction. It’s still a gallery wall, but just a little bit more refined and minimalized.
I sat around and brewed about the options for months, planning that I would have them selected and hung on New Years Day if all my ducks aligned.
Didn’t quite make my deadline–I’ll almost always choose a lazy day with friends over a self-imposed deadline–but I got it done in the goal week and boy, did that ever deserve a high-five.
Hanging artwork to be bottom-aligned is so much like installing any type of gallery wall that it hardly feels like it needs much explanation, but what I did was:
- Lined up the artwork left to right on top of the dresser so that I could determine which order I wanted the art to present. Originally I thought I wanted the tall pieces in the middle so that they tapered down to shorter pieces at the left and right, but the scale of my pieces didn’t seem right for that, so I scattered them a little bit and found that I liked the balance much more.
- Found my center on the wall (not the center above the dressers – I knew I could inch the furniture left and right by a few inches if I needed to make it more centered).
- Measured the width of the framed artwork itself, and included 1.5″ spaces between each frame to obtain the measurement for my total gallery wall length.
- Determined where the center of my total gallery wall length hit relative to the center of the actual wall – note that I didn’t hang a frame smack in the center of the wall. Since the frames are all different widths (and there’s an even number) no single frame is actually hitting the center point. Aim to have the same amount of empty space on either side of the gallery wall, and line things up from there.
- Selected a consistent spacer for the bottom, so that I could easily plan where the bottom edge of each frame would sit. I used a stack of hardcover books – works great.
- I hung the middle two frames first. Much like with any gallery wall (helpful tips on this post) once you know the center point for the frame, measure the distance from the wire/hook to the top of the picture frame. Then on the wall, measure down from where the top of the frame hits (while sitting atop the stack-o-books spacer) and put your hook in the wall right there. When you hang the frame, it should rest on the hook but exactly at the same height that it was at while the spacer books rested beneath it.
- Note: Not that my phobia is accepting of “oh shit, that’s not right” holes in the wall, but if your nailed hook is a few millimeters too high/too low/left/right, it’s easy enough to recalibrate the measurements and place the hook again… any first (incorrect) hole will be covered by the frame itself. Shh.
- Continue to install the rest of the frames, always hanging as you go so you can be certain that the frames are consistently aligned along the bottom edge.
As for our 6 frames? Left to right:
- That’s the Kaye Rachelle tea towel I posted about in 2012. Our dog, Cody, chewed the towel while it was still practically brand new, but I found new life by framing it because I really loved the screen print of the motorcycle. Now it’s a subtle memory of our buddy boy, as well a cool print.
- Pete gifted me our first original Jaime Derringer print for my 30th birthday. Jaime’s someone you might know as the CEO of popular Design Milk and related companies, but she’s also an amazing artist and we’ve both gravitated to her techniques and style for years. This mixed-media piece lived in the dining room for awhile, but I swapped it to a portrait orientation and found that it worked really well here.
- Another nod to JD–before the holidays, Jaime posted on Instagram that she was cleaning out some old original pieces, so I bought this white line drawing on black paper as a gift for Pete as we celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. Framed it in black, too. Design-wise, it’s similar to her much-covetable Crocodile 1 print for sale on sites like Minted.
- My parents gifted us a Grosbeak limited edition lithograph from the Charley Harper collection for our 1st wedding anniversary, and while it was matted and framed right away, it’s never had a good home until now.
- Pete and I took a memorable road trip to Kinston, NC a couple of years ago to eat at the famous Chef and the Farmer restaurant (as seen on PBS Create’s show ‘A Chef’s Life’). If you’re familiar, it was every bit as insanely wonderful as you might expect, and if you’re also a fan of Vivian Howard, we should be BFF. Randomly, we were at the restaurant the same day as Andrew Zimmern while he filmed Bizarre Foods for Travel Channel, and in a super weird right-place-right-time moment got photos of Pete/Andrew and me/Vivian and then left her with our menu from dinner, which arrived at our home signed with a personal message a few weeks later. Frame it? Hell yes.
- It feels good that our kids know a Charley Harper piece when they see one (my hands-down favorite artist). Julia reinterpreted and illustrated one of his cardinals for me as a Christmas gift a few years ago. Perfect in many ways.