How to create a vintage gallery wall
At some point last year, I decided that our awkward wall leading up to the stairway to our second floor needed a boost. In general, I've struggled with how to create an elevated and cohesive look in our living room while also tying it to the rest of our main floor. But I was determined to try something and decided that I would start with this odd shaped wall. I ordered some peel-and-stick wallpaper samples but none of the ones I got really went with the rest of the decor in the living room. A little nervous about the change, I decided to do a low cost update and stencil the wall instead. The idea was a good one, the execution was less than desirable. That's how DIY goes sometimes, you try, it may not work out, you learn, you move on.
I loved the idea of a stenciled wall but the colors and the pattern overpowered the room. It would have been a good choice for an accent wall in a bedroom but in my open concept main floor it stole the show, and not in a good way.
but in my open concept main floor it stole the show, and not in a good way.
Fast forward 8 months later and here I am again determined to update our living space and take it to the next level - for real this time. We already bought some new furniture, pieces that are the right scale for the space. For years, we've used furniture that we bought a long time ago but none of the dimensions or colors really work in our current home. With everything backordered, the couches are now scheduled to arrive in June leaving me just a few more weeks to get the space ready.
I ripped off the band-aid and painted over the stencil wall with primer. It's best to start with a blank canvas and not let the results of past projects cloud the decision making. Once the stenciled wall was no more, I felt calm. It was the right call and I was glad I made it. But where was I going from here?
Earlier this year, for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary, my mom scanned all our old family photos. Several of those were black and white from two generations ago and I remember looking through those albums as a kid and wondering who the people in the photos were and imagining what their lives must have been like. One picture showed my grandfather in a suit, drinking tea at his company event in the 50's. Another photo where my mom and her cousins posed with their newly coiffed up-dos before attending a wedding. These pictures are amazing to look at and I wanted to feature them in my home.
This led to my decision to create a vintage gallery wall on my little awkward wall. I created a mood board to test out my vision and the plan seemed like a good one. It was also the perfect location for the new modern console table that had already been delivered from our Arhaus purchase. It would be the perfect blend of vintage and modern with a touch of ethnic - the theme that can be seen throughout my home.
The gallery wall needed a crisp white backdrop and so I encountered my first stumbling block. I had already painted a couple of rooms white and had Benjamin Moore's Simply White, Swiss Coffee and Silver Satin left over. I painted little sections of each of these but none of them seemed right. Simply White a little too bright, Swiss Coffee a little too dull and Silver Satin a little too muddy. Each of these colors are phenomenal in the spaces I painted them in but here in the living room, against the white of the wainscoting they didn't seem right. I then ordered four samples - Super White, Distant Gray, Chantilly Lace and Decorator's White. After little deliberation I ordered a gallon of Distant Gray. It did not clash with the existing white trim and did not seem cool at all on the stairway wall that basks in direct south-eastern sunlight
Satisfied with the paint color, the next step was to create this dreamy vintage gallery wall. Many of the influencers I follow on Instagram use their amazing thrifted finds in their decor and because I was going for that old and vintage look I went to my local Goodwill to see what frames I could find. I came home with at least 17 of them and had spent under $30. Why was I not trying to thrift everything!? On my hunt for frames, I also found a great lamp which I made over to look vintage and would be perfect for styling my console table while illuminating this little area. In addition to the thrifted frames, I also added a few new ones with intricate details that I found at the Michaels Store.
That is what it's all about - creating moments in your home that are beautiful, awe inspiring and thought provoking.
Getting the layout of a gallery wall right can be tricky and it took me a couple of tries. Once I printed all the pictures and put them in their respective frames, I decided to create the layout directly on the wall. Our doorbell and thermostat are on this wall and I treated them as part of the gallery wall layout. Doing this layout without planning was not terrible but it was not great either. Some areas were perfect while the spacing in other spots were less than desirable. I had to do it over. I used a mix of nails and 3M picture hanging strips and taking all the frames down and starting again meant patching a few nail holes. C'est la vie. I already lived with a stencil wall I didn't love, I wasn't about to settle for a non-optimal gallery wall layout.
I needed to step away from this project for a day but when I resumed, I was determined to get this right. I laid all the frames on brown paper (I had a roll of paper from the paint store for protecting floors) and cutout rectangles to match the shape of each frame. I then used painter's tape to fix them to the wall and manipulated the layout until I was happy with it. I should have done this the first time around. Once I knew where each frame was going to go, I started replacing the brown paper rectangle with the real deal again using a mix of nails or 3M picture hanging strips depending on the type of frame. The end result makes my heart happy. I worked around the lamp and vase on the console ensuring they did not cover any pictures and treated the doorbell and thermostat as elements of the gallery wall. The final look feels put together and well thought out and just works.
Now whenever anyone walks by this wall, they pause, they look at the photos and take it all in and it's piqued my kids' curiosity about the generations before them. That is what it's all about - creating moments in your home that are beautiful, awe inspiring and thought provoking.
The next phase of the living room will build on elements prevalent in this vignette - a little classic, a little modern and a whole lot of pretty!