I know I haven’t posted here in a while (hello there, mom of two and new house), but I thought I’d wake up my sleepy blog to share some details of the gallery wall we just finished in our new home. Since we were building a new house we knew we had to make an effort with the interior design, because let’s face it: newly builts tend to be boring and grossly lacking character. So there’s lots of color on our walls, from our funky toilet (details coming soon) to our pink stairs: we went all out with paint.
Especially our living room, which is VERY bright with a total of 20 meters in width of floor to ceiling windows, needed some work to get an intimate and cosy vibe. One of the first things we decided was to go for a bold but warm color on the largest wall (Ashes of Roses by Little Greene), and a soft warm light beige (China Clay Deep by Little Greene) on the rest of the walls. It completely transformed the atmosphere in this big and bright space, and the dark(er) wall became the perfect canvas for a gallery wall.
Now you’d think it’s just a matter of hanging some frames on the wall, right? Wrong. If you want to create a cohesive gallery wall, it’s important to think this through. Wether it’s on choosing the frames, the sizes, the colors, the layout, and of course, the specific pieces of art you want to put up. Just give it a little extra thought before yanking some hooks in your wall. My number one tip is: avoid generic art like it’s the damn plague.
Say No To Generic Art
Now, what is generic art? I hope I’m not offending anyone (although in this case it’s absolutely justified), but think big Ikea print with New York cabs on it, and you’ll get the idea. A big NO NO. Or you know, prints of old masterpieces like Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Huge facepalm. And although I love Audrey Hepburn, I don’t love seeing Holly Golightly on a wall. Fine, maybe if you have a fancy powder room or something like that. Maybe. Style guru Emily Henderson has a great post on generic art, read it here.
I’m not saying that creating a gallery wall has to cost you an arm and a leg. On the contrary. The best way to find affordable original art is to go thrift shopping. Either in your grandma’s attic, or in actual thrift stores. And if you have kids, let them go to town with some paint or crayons, et voila: you’ll have a one of a kind masterpiece from an artist that you yourself created (is this inception, or what?!).
Affordable Non Generic Art prints
Another place to find affordable non generic art is to buy prints from artists online, through Etsy for example. You can also check Anthropologie for art prints, and even Madewell does the occasional artist collaboration. I found the Isabelle Feliu prints (one hangs in our toilet) on Society6.com. An online art store where you can buy prints from a huge variety of artists. You can use their filters to narrow your search, and I also used “find similar art” a lot, which is really helpful once you’ve find something within your style. I then looked them up on Instagram and use the “suggested for you” tool to find other artists. I think that’s how I ended up buying the “Lovers” print from Kit Agar.
I bought the Tess Guinery print “Surrenders Song” in one of her limited edition sales through her own Instagram account. We were in Australia at the time, and for us it represents the early sunrise walks to the beach right in front of our Byron house. I got that beautiful gold moon face from Amber de Vreng by buying it directly from her via Instagram. That reminds me, always try to buy directly from the artist, or through their preferred channel. Google their name, or check their Instagram bio for the correct link.
I can also highly recommend Wildflower Illustration Co, where I have a subscription to their monthly paper club. They sell prints of their very cute drawings on their website, and the paper club usually also has a lovely limited edition print in them. I’ll probably hang a few of those in the guest room. Another print that’s going up on the wall of our guest room, is one from Fine Little Day that I really love but it just wasn’t a good match with the other pieces of our gallery wall.
Then there’s the category of personalized artwork. Which is a great way to have some non generic art on your walls, and it also adds a little bit of “you” to the gallery. To avoid that whole overly styled look (hello there, Desenio). And it doesn’t have to be super expensive. There’s lots of (small) artists that do personalized work on commission. The line drawing of my husband holding Luc (bottom right) is made by Amber de Vreng, based on a photograph of the two of them on our last day in Australia. My next commissioned piece will be a family portrait by Tijana Lukovic, who makes the most adorable drawings.
Last, but definitely not least, are actual one of a kind original paintings. Of course, this highly depends on your budget, but we decided to invest in two pieces of art by two extremely talented Dutch artists who’s work we saw at their exhibition at The Hoxton in Amsterdam. Hotels are usually also a great place to find original art.
The single line piece “Woman and Bird” by Anne Mei Poppe immediately appealed to me because for some reason it made me think of myself (big hair, big mouth, big eyes?). The fact that she is portrayed with a bird was icing on the cake because it’s no secret that birds scare the shit out of me. We both thought a painting of me with a bird on it was simply perfect for our home. It makes me smile every time I look at it.
And then there is Cate Adriana… I fell in love with her work a few years ago when I saw one of her paintings in someone’s home on Instagram. The lines and shapes are so soft and beautiful, almost mystical. They often represent motherhood, and the female body in general. And given the fact that my body has been growing and nurturing two beautiful little humans (I have been either pregnant and/or breastfeeding since January 2017) Cate’s work really hits home. I fell in love with this piece, “Storm Sister”, because of the colors, the natural lines, the soft curves, ánd the title, because it reminds me of my stormy transition into the sisterhood of motherhood.
The Hanging Part
Once we got all the pieces for our gallery wall, it was time to start thinking about the layout. Except for the original paintings the art didn’t come with frames, so when picking out frames I already thought about how I wanted the gallery to look. I used wooden frames in different shades (mostly oak, and white painted wood), and some of them have a mount (passe-partout) in them, while others don’t. They differ in size, but not too much. It doesn’t really matter what you decide on; just give it some thought. Even if you’re going for an eclectic mismatched look, it helps to take a step back and roughly have a plan in mind before you start drilling holes in your (perfectly painted) wall.
If you want, you can go all out with a perfect layout plan and cut out pieces of paper according to the frames’ sizes and swap them around on your wall, but that was a little too time-consuming for this mom of two. We simply put the frames on the floor and started with the layout puzzle. Just shuffle around your pieces until it looks good to you, or follow some gallery wall “rules” (check Genevea Vanderzeil’s post on layouts). Pro tip: when you find something you like, take a picture! We forgot to do this the first time around, and by the time we actually wanted to put the art up on the wall (again: two kids), we had no idea what we came up with earlier.
When we were happy with our layout, we started by hanging the largest piece (bottom left), and worked our way to the right from there. We tried to keep the spaces between the frames somewhat consistent, but to give it that DIY feel, we mainly just followed a “let’s wing it” approach. If you’re more of a perfection kinda person, simply use a tape measurer.
I really love how our gallery wall turned out, not only in terms of it being visually appealing, but also because each piece of art was carefully curated by us. And even though it wasn’t planned, I love that it’s a wall of all female artists. My feminist mother will be proud. Now I only have to find my inner Emily Henderson to style that dresser…
Top row, left to right
Isabelle Feliu “Les Silhouettes Bleues”
Amber de Vreng “Maantje”
Cate Adriana “Storm Sister No. 3”
Tess Guinery “Surrenders Song”
Bottom row, left to right
Anne Mei Poppe “Woman and Bird”
Kit Agar “Lovers”
Amber de Vreng (commissioned work)