Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Collage Wall: Take 3

I finally came up with an easy way to design the layout of a collage wall.  Since it only took me about three and a half years to come up with it, I thought I'd share with you guys, and save y'all the time.

But before we get to all that, we gotta take a trip down disaster memory lane. 

When we first moved into our house I was beyond excited to get started on decorating and I was impatient.  In my haste, I made several design mistakes.  Now that I'm older and wiser, I've learned to take more time with my design decisions, and I am slowly but surely making my way through our home, rectifying those mistakes one at a time.   Here is the story of my first (and second) amateur attempts to create a collage wall. 

From about the time we moved in (2011) until January 2014, the gallery wall looked like this:  There are so many things wrong with it in this state, its hard to know where to start.

For more pictures, visit the original post.
Also, talk about #photographyskillz 

I knew from day one that I wasn't in love with it.  It bugged me pretty much from the moment I finished hanging everything up, but I just left it alone (for over two years) because I figured I had bigger fish to fry.  

That should have been a red flag right there.  If you don't love something in your home, change it.  Simple as that.  Forget the rules of design, what is trendy or not.  It is your home, and first and foremost it should speak to you.

Ok, so what specifically bothered me about it?  Let's break it down:

1.  See the big blue window looking thing in the middle?  It was hung way too close to the stairs. It really needed to be scooted down and to the right a couple of inches, but that would have entailed scooting all the other things over a couple of inches, and ain't nobody got time for that.  This is one of the things I recognized right away as an issue. 

2.  Overall, it was too dark.  I've been going for a light and airy color scheme in our house since day one.  Obviously I haven't always understood how to achieve that. 

3.  The white branch art in the bottom right hand corner?  This was an impulse buy.  I picked it out solely to fill the space in my collage wall, and not because I loved it.  It's never really been my style.  Too modern. 

4.  It lacked cohesion/symmetry.  I've got square things, rectangular things, round things, asymmetrical things.  I've got shelves, I've got wall decals, and I've got an arched window.  I've got big, I've got small.  There's dark, light, and every color in between.  There was just too much going on, and not enough symmetry to tie it all together.   

5.  Too many small items.  All the 8x10 frames started to look a little puny, and I really felt like something larger would look more like real art, rather than frames from Goodwill that I had painted. (Which is exactly what they were). I bought them because they were cheap, not because they were pretty.  I have since learned that it is possible to get both pretty and cheap, not just one or the other.

6.  The shelf.  It didn't bother me for a long time, but for the past six months or so, it's been really bugging me.  The curved line of the shelf is just too country cottage for my evolving style, and I really wanted cleaner lines.  

So, in January of last year, I finally decided it was time for some changes.  I whipped out my handy dandy paint brush, and went to town. So now, it looked like this:
Here is a side by side comparison of before and after my painting spree:
Click here for the full post.

The lighter, fresher color scheme made it better, and for a few weeks I was happy.  But it wasn't long before it started to nag at me.  I knew it still needed some help, but at that point I still wasn't exactly sure what it was about it that bugged me.  

So I did something unprecedented.  I consciously made the decision to give it some time.  Not like what I did from 2011-2014, where I basically denied my feelings.  This time around, I acknowledged that I didn't love it, but since I didn't know why, I intentionally chose to wait to make any changes until I could figure it out.  So, for the past year or so, I've slowly come up with my list of things that bothered me.  Now, armed with my newfound understanding, I began designing my new collage wall.

I came up with this:

It wasn't until this very moment when I uploaded this photo that I truly realized how much better it looks now compared to the olden days. 

It's got everything that the original design lacked.  It's lighter in color, and has so much more symmetry.  I replaced most of the smaller frames with larger ones, and I got rid of a lot of the odd shaped items (liked the arched window). I removed the items I didn't love, and replaced them with things I had either created or purchased because they truly spoke to me. 
Now, on to the fun part!  What is this simple trick for designing the layout that I used, you ask?   Drum roll please...

I taped off the area of the collage wall with painters tape.  First I applied the tape to the wall itself, so that I'd have the correct dimensions.  Then, I just removed the tape from the walls and transferred it onto the floor.  Now I've got a ready made template of my wall, but it is horizontal instead of vertical, so I can move things around so much easier. Like so:

Also, please ignore all the dust on the floor. That was underneath my couch, which I had to move out of the way to do this.

Now all I had to do was play around with the arrangement of my stuff to come up with something I liked. 

I'm going to show you all the different arrangements I tried.  Hopefully this will help you see my thought process behind choosing what I did:

Also, note that in order for me to be able to visualize it properly, I had to stand on the stairs. I had an excellent view, but I ran up and down the stairs every minute for probably an hour.  I broke a sweat. For real. 

 My thoughts: Hmm... maybe a little boring? 

My thoughts:  Hmm... maybe a little too messy?
SIDE NOTE: Ruby's head is in the top of this picture. I provided an arrow, just so you don't miss it. 

My thoughts:  Okay scooting that little frame over to the right by an inch doesn't really make that big of a difference.  Also, I'm really not digging that white branch art.  It's still too modern. 

My thoughts:  It's looking a little crowded over on the right hand side.

My thoughts:  Better... but maybe a little boring? Also, the arched window is really throwing me off?  It's too... round?

My thoughts: OMG! I just remembered I bought an antique wash board last weekend!  

My thoughts:  SO much better without the arched window, and modern branch art.  This is exactly what I envisioned!

It was super easy to hang out too, since my template was a direct mirror image of my wall.  It also didn't hurt that I had a camera full of pictures to refer back to. 

One little tip, that I find very helpful.  If you are hanging something where the nails are going to show (like when I hung my little bike), color the nail head with a sharpie, so it blends in. 
Don't worry, I dusted this off after taking these pictures and realizing how dirty it was!

So, here is the final product:





So, when it comes to actually choosing the layout of your wall, the painters tape template trick really came in handy.  But what about when it comes to picking out the art, frames and mirrors that will actually make up your wall contents?  What actionable tips can you take away from this post?

1.  Search for symmetry.  Almost everything on my new wall is rectangular or square.  
2.  Don't fill up the wall with too many tiny things.  Larger scale items tend to look more expensive.
3.  Cohension in colors.   Pretty much everything in my new wall is netural, with some subtle blues and greens thrown in for interest.  Don't overdo it on the color front. 
4.  Fill your collage with items your really love, not just items that are easily available. 
5.  Take the time to come up with the perfect layout, rather than just sticking things up at random. 

So... what do you think?  Do you think my collage wall has come as far as I do?  It's fresher, brighter, cleaner, and all around prettier :) 

Thanks for taking the time to stop by!  I hope this will help you when it comes to time to design your own collage wall. Be sure to come back tomorrow.  I'll be sharing a tutorial on how I made this gold leaf art out of thrift store finds:

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  1. This is so cool and I love that you showed all of the options. Such a great process.

    1. Thanks Michelle! :) Glad you stopped by!

  2. Jesse! You have really transformed this space! It looks so much brighter. Love the gallery wall and love the stairs!!!

    1. Thank you!! I can't believe how dated it was before! I'm sooo glad its done haha :) Thanks for the comments!

  3. This is such a great idea and so simple to visualize your wall before you put it up! Pinned and stumbled :)


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