Today’s post features the home belonging to my friend Amy Afsari. Amy hired me to help her with art and accessories, including a gallery wall. Before we get to the nitty-gritty on that, let’s talk about Amy’s style, which is very different from mine. She embraces exuberant color and wildly fun patterns and then tames them with English-style tables and chinoiserie. It’s an irresistible juxtaposition, especially here in Wisconsin where the piles of snow at the airport don’t melt until July. I walk into Amy’s sunshiny family room and can practically smell freshly cut grass, that’s how verdant the room feels.
Amy and I talked about creating a massive gallery display along the wall opposite the windows. However, that wall anchors the room’s main thoroughfare, and given that Amy has two young children, the traffic could be destructive to a floor-to-ceiling collection of art. Instead, Amy commissioned a large-scale painting for the expansive wall. And we installed a vertical collage on the smaller wall opposite.
The pieces we included reflect Amy’s love of color and pattern as well as the fun, playful vibe of her young family. Amy first selected the Gray Malin photograph of a giraffe at the Parker Hotel in Palm Springs, waggishly titled Lifeguard on Duty. Then, we scoured Minted, Etsy, and Furbish for art prints that would complement the photo. We added a portrait of her children and a candid pic of the kids running in the yard, which I edited in Photoshop, changing the color of their clothing so it matched the color palette. We used Parabo Press for printing. The jaunty line drawing of the giraffe was done by Amy’s brother, Michael Marino, and we set it off with a raffia mat and a shiny pink frame. I found the gilt sconces on One King’s Lane and love how they add a little patina and texture to an otherwise clean and bright palette.
The end result is a statement gallery wall that brings personality, character, and life to an already beautiful room. I have no doubt that her two young children are developing strong and supple imaginations playing in such a space. Think back to your own youth. What rooms do you remember? The ones that were interesting!
My tips for successfully tackling a gallery wall in your own home:
Gallery walls are intimidating and tricky. You can’t hurry them. Just like any well-curated collection, you need time to assemble the right pieces. And then when it comes to installation, it takes guts — all those nail holes! But can you think of a better way to express your personality?
Use a Range of Media
Incorporate everything and anything from original art, family photos, drawings, and prints to personal mementos from your travels. Experiment with a variety of pieces to find what works. Allow time for the right pieces to come together.
Tie the Elements Together
Something must subtly connect all the elements in a collage. A cohesive color theme, a repeating subject matter, or similar frames can tie seemingly disparate pieces together.
Amy’s collage contains two giraffes, two family photos, two pink frames, and a gilt wall sconce similar to the sconces on the opposite wall. Nothing is too matchy-matchy. But it is gently repetitive. For more on my secret symmetry, click here.
Lay Everything Out
Once you’ve selected your pieces, lay everything out on the floor and play around with the placement. Begin with a larger piece as an anchor and work your way out. If you’re going for an asymmetrical collage, trust your eye. If you want a mathematical grid, get out the ruler and measure twice! Always keep in mind that the collage may look a little different once it is on the wall.
Don’t Be Afraid of Nails
If you are the type of person who flinches every time your wall suffers a nail hole, a gallery wall is not for you. But, let’s remind ourselves that walls are meant for hanging things. They are at our service to show who we are and what we love. Please do not be so dainty with your walls. Pound away!
Of course, when you work with me, you end up procrastinating with all manner of pretty shiny things. I convinced Amy to try on this embroidered gown I’d picked up at an estate sale and doesn’t she look like — I don’t know — Grace Kelly just off the set of High Society? Another day, I brought over a vintage platter that we used in her dining room. It was the same pattern that her mother-in-law had collected in India many years ago. So, yes, working with me isn’t always a straight path but thank you Amy for letting me help you with your beautiful home!